Monday, May 2, 2011
Illinois Half Marathon Spectator Report
Given my recent and very persistent cold, I thought it best not to run the Illinois Marathon on Saturday. I packed all my gear, and even carbo loaded (ummm....pizza) the night before, but after spending much of the night coughing it seemed downright stupid to subject my body to 26.2 miles. I knew I would finish but I knew it would be painful and I would be disappointed with my performance. Since this particular race wasn't helping me meet any of my long-term running goals (like 50 marathons in 50 states for example- I already have Illinois), I decided to SPECTATE!
I was actually really excited about the chance to be a spectator. I've had so many great family members and friends take the time to support me in many of my races, not to mention my AMAZINGLY supportive husband who spectates at every race- in freezing rain, in snow, during vacation- you name it, he's there with a camera cheering. So it was nice for me to have a chance to return the favor at least once.
I did my best to be a super spectator the day of the race, and was generally successful, I'd say. But- full disclosure- I was a TERRIBLE pre-race supporter. You're not going to believe this but I forgot Adam's running shoes! I was in charge of bringing his bag and shoes to the car and at the last minute forgot a totally unimportant item and in grabbing that item dropped his shoes and never picked them up again!
We realized this in Kankakee, far away from Chicago already. I felt terrible. Who DOES that? Even more absurd, I had TWO pairs of my running shoes in the car (my race shoes and my spare that I always keep in the car) and I wasn't even going to run!! I'm a dope.
Thank god we found a pair at Dick's in Champaign that worked okay!
Here are my observations from being a spectator:
1. It's cold. Maybe not always, but frequently. Perfect race weather for runners is 40-60 and overcast. That's COLD if you are not moving. Once again, kudos to Adam, my parents, and my Grandma Nelson for spectating at my first marathon- the Chicago Marathon in 2006 was a cold one.
Adam at the start line:
2. Sometimes you feel silly. I was determined to be an enthusiastic supporter throughout the race, not just when I saw Adam. So as I took the short way (3 miles) to get to mile 8, I walked along the marathon course, and later the 1/2 marathon course, cheering every 5 seconds or so. I alternated b/t "Way to go, runners!", "Keep it up!" and "Looking good, runners!". I'd clap and shout, walk a few feet, clap and shout for the next bunch, walk a few feet, and clap and shout...you get the point. I did this for over an hour. I felt really silly. But then I thought about being a runner and being really grateful for the random people cheering on the side of the road. Many folks said thanks for coming out, which was really nice.
3. Seeing your runner is the highlight of the day! No matter how accurate you think you are on your timing, you inevitably end up spending quality minutes staring as hundreds of runners go past you while you play 'Where's Waldo' trying to see your runner in time to shout and get a good photo. Luckily, Adam's really easy to see- very tall with a red shirt and dark sunglasses, so I had no problem. Here he is at miles 8 and 10 looking good!
5. It is really hard to photograph runners. While the above 2 photos are pretty decent, there were many other photos that were more like this:
Adam was here at some point, just not at the same time that I took the picture:) A corollary to 'it's really hard to photograph runners' is 'blame the runner, not the photographer'- he was just too fast!
I don't have a great excuse here. Just a lousy picture:) Actually, it's a pretty good picture of the lady in pink- I just have no idea who she is:)
4. Good planning is key. I was not the best planner. I saw Adam at miles 8 and 10 as planned. Good. Then I had to somehow get the finish line in Memorial Stadium in time to see Adam finish. And Memorial Stadium was three miles away. Hmm....3.1 miles left and I have to run faster than Adam to get there?? In my jeans? Carrying a bag of stuff (water, clothes, etc)? When I looked at the map I didn't realize there wasn't a good shortcut b/t mile 10 and the finish. So, I had no choice but to run. As fast as I could. Now Adam had a killer race (more later) and he was MOVING. I really didn't think I'd make it to the finish in time.
I took off sprinting trying to find a way to carry the super-awkward bag. I never found a good way and now have a big gash where the strap was digging into my clavicle. Awesome. I considered hitchhiking. I considered giving up. Finally, I made the wise observation that the only way I was possibly going to beat him is if I ran a shorter distance than him. And the only way to do that was to cut directly across South Farms. Since this is U of I, agriculture's a big deal. The whole southern part of campus is just farms, stinky farms, and even more stinky stinky farms. I rolled up my jeans like a farmer (thought it might help me blend in) and booked it perfectly diagonally from the corner of Windor and Lincoln to Memorial Stadium that I could see in the distance. I jumped a fence, dodged some folks hitting golf balls (in my general direction) and, once I got to Memorial Stadium, blazed past the lady blocking the door who said "runners only!!". I yelled, "I am running!" over my shoulder and ran down the steps to the 50 yard line, i.e. the finish line.
5. Making it to the finish line is worth it. Cheering at the finish line is really fun! People sprinting it in, the excitement or disappointment when they see the clock. It was really awesome. And it was especially awesome to see Adam get his kick-ass PR of 1:54:14!! 12 minutes faster than his previous half-mary PR!! It was really great and I'm super proud of him. I'm really glad I chose to spectate instead of run. I'm even glad that I ended up doing a bit of running (see #4 above) because not knowing whether or not I'd make it to the finish made it all the more exciting when I did!
Congrats to Adam on a great race! And thanks again to my spectators and all the spectators out there. Races would not be the same without you!