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Spectator sports April 1, 2011

Posted by bettyjoan in Uncategorized.
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Back in 2009 when I competed in my first triathlon, I had an argument with my mom because she didn’t really seem interested in coming to watch the event.  Basically, her concerns boiled down to the fact that it was beastly hot and that she thought she wouldn’t get to see me on the course, and that she would be bored to tears with the whole thing.  She ended up coming (because she is incredibly supportive and she realized how important it was to me), and I remember her running up to me after the race was over and saying something like, “Oh my gosh, that was SO COOL to watch!”  She raved about seeing the professionals, about cheering people on, and about just being a part of the empowerment of the day.  With that experience in mind, I think, she flew all the way to Chicago to watch me compete in my first marathon last October – and I think she had a great time.

I’ve volunteered at races and I’ve competed in races, but I’ve never just WATCHED a race.  Well, when I broke my ankle and couldn’t run the 2011 Publix Half Marathon with my husband as planned, I decided it was time to take a turn as a spectator.  I had a blast!

The first plus point of spectating?  You don’t have to get up so early!  Of course, I woke up with hubby and took his “before” picture like a parent sending a kid to his first day of school, but it was certainly nice to avoid the usual alarm clock-related panic attacks.  A friend picked me up and we headed to a spot around mile 5, which was before the marathoners would split off from the half marathoners.  That way, not only could we see our spouses who were running the half, but we could also cheer on some mutual friends who had decided to tackle the full 26.2.

Spectating allows you to see the people in the front of the pack, which is a fun treat.  I always get weepy when I see the wheelchair athletes go by, and this race was no exception – they are just so incredibly inspiring.  My cyclist buddy even said that he might investigate volunteering next year, as one of the bikers who accompanies (and motivates) the wheelchair competitors throughout the race.

I had so much fun cheering on all of the “purple people” from Team In Training – even the folks I didn’t know seemed to REALLY appreciate the boost.  I know that when I was running my first marathon, the shouts of “Go Team!” made all the difference, especially during the more difficult miles.  But as awesome as it was to see my marathon and triathlon friends, there was nothing as exciting as seeing my husband come down the road toward us.  He looked GREAT!  He smiled, he waved, he didn’t threaten to kill me for getting him into this – I was so very happy to see him.

After we saw everyone at mile 5, we trekked down to the finish area.  Unfortunately, the setup was such that you had to walk a LONG way to get from one side of the chute to the other, and we entered on the side that was much farther away from the runners.  No worries, though – I saw tons of people cross the finish line, including the marathon winner.  And then I saw my favorite runner of all – my husband!  He looked tired, but still strong – and I couldn’t wait to give him a big sweaty hug.  Seriously, I don’t think I was that proud when I finished my OWN first half marathon!

After some refueling and some sleep, hubby was able to bask in the glory of what he accomplished.  And as much as I was sad and mad and frustrated that I was unable to directly share the experience with him, I realized that watching and cheering was a fun new way for me to contribute to the sport.  I don’t think I want to become a professional spectator – I go to the doctor on Monday and hope REALLY hard that he’ll tell me to get rid of the boot – but I can definitely appreciate how crowds and support make an even more positive race day for the folks out there running.

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