I’ve been at this running thing for awhile, and not once have I stood along the race course and cheered for my fellow runners.
That all changed today at the 41st Marine Corps Marathon.
Going from runner-mode to spectator-mode was a relatively easy transition. Having run in the MCM before, the empathy I felt towards the 30,000 runners slugging it out on a very warm course was unwavering. (The temperatures for the past two MCMs have started out chilly, then skyrocketed to the upper 70’s and low 80’s by race end, with plentiful sunshine. Barf.) I felt like it was my turn to give back to the running community in this role, and I had my right-hand woman, Lauren, beside me the entire time. We woke up obnoxiously early and took the Metro into the city. We set up camp at mile 15.5, which was right at the entrance to the Gauntlet portion of the course. At this point, we had a clear view of the athletes coming up and turning the corner to enter the slight downhill section leading to the National Mall portion. We stayed out there from about 8AM to 12:30PM or so, then headed over to Arlington National Cemetery for the finisher’s area.
The foliage is beginning to turn in Washington D.C….finally!
During the many hours we were out there, I took note of several things that could be of importance for anyone thinking about being a spectator for a race. In no particular order, here we go…
- Be Weather Savvy: Never trust the forecast the day of the race. The MCM in particular has a nasty habit of being ultra cold in the morning and transitioning to super warm in the afternoon hours. After spending two years in those starting corrals freezing my butt off, I made sure I was prepared for spectating by dressing in layers. By the afternoon I was in my tech shirt and shorts. Remember sunglasses and sunscreen, and BUG SPRAY if it’s still optimal weather for bugs. (En route to Arlington we walked through a wall of gnats that just clung everywhere. Not pleasant.) If it’s going to be rainy, bring jackets and umbrellas. And so on.
- Spectator Training: It’s a Workout! To be blunt, I felt like I ran a marathon after I got home. Standing up for hours on end, jumping around trying to stay warm, cheering loudly, getting beaten down my the sun, general walking around in said sun, climbing hills, dealing with people…it all adds up! Spectating can be a huge energy suck if you’re not prepared. Get plenty of rest the night before, bring water and snacks, and don’t forget to stretch out every now and again during the race.
- Be Prepared With Extra Everything: water, money, phone charger, food, beer, pocket radio…whatever you need to get through the many hours you’ll be outside, bring it.
- Use Common Sense: We saw SO many people cross in front of athletes today. Unless you are legitimately paying attention and have a gap to sprint across a road, YOU NEED TO WAIT…AND DON’T CROSS WHEN THERE’S A HUGE PACK OF RUNNERS COMING RIGHT AT YOU. It’s a great way to get everyone hurt and/or very pissed off, and you will certainly be made fun of for being ignorant.
- Keep Up the Fun: It is SO much fun being able to interact with runners. I had many call out that they were listening to Hamilton, got to see it/are eventually seeing it on Broadway, said that I had the best sign on the course (and got a hug!), had pictures taken of said sign, yelled to runners, “DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR SHOT!” (Or, “You’re non-stop!”) One gentleman looked at it and said, “This is the passion I’m smashin’!” Get creative with your signs, as it will certainly keep the runners’ minds occupied during the later miles when the going starts getting tough.
- Not every runner you encounter will be pleasant…or even semi-pleasant. I had a rather unfortunate encounter with a gentleman that was running near the very front of the field. He peeled off the course and went over to his family/girlfriend/people area, and immediately started complaining that he was having a tough time. Not due to injury or exhaustion…but the fact that he was ten minutes behind his goal time, wasn’t going to “hit his time that he got at nationals” (whatever that meant), and just wanted to take his bib off and quit. I tried my very hardest to encourage him to keep going and he spat back, “Have you done any of these races before?” I snapped back, “Yes, in fact I have. It doesn’t matter what your time is. Go finish.” We had a back and forth on this (and him complaining about “just getting a participation award”) and I just left it with, “Honey, go finish.” Trust me, his snotty, elitist attitude was getting him nowhere fast. Eventually he left the area, and I personally hope he’s festering in the thoughts that will keep him awake at night.
Christina’s Real Talk:
Trust me, I’m rather disappointed that this guy just threw in the towel on this race and his subsequent attitude towards me. (I even looked up his bib number in the results just to maaaaaybe see if he changed his mind. Nope. Nothing was listed.) Truth be told, everyone has bad races from time to time. I haven’t hit my sub-3 hour half yet and I’ve been trying for two years! But I keep trying and trying again. I was swept at MCM last year, so I signed up for WDW this January and killed it. The second things go downhill, you need to tough it out the best you can and keep going. You cannot wait around for the absolute perfect conditions to accomplish anything; you’ll get absolutely nowhere in life. Also, throwing a tantrum because you didn’t get the last cookie in the cookie jar (as a grown adult, mind you) will leave a lasting impression on your character.
Now on the flip side, there can be some runners that are surprisingly pleasant and motivational to be around. I went to the expo on Saturday just for shits and giggles. I wore my 2016 WDW Marathon shirt (a trend I have started recently: any time there is a major marathon happening, the marathon gear comes out!). I was walking around near the entrance, and a BOSTON MARATHON finisher (wearing her blue and yellow Adidas shirt that I have recently come to covet along with anything else Boston-related) congratulated me for finishing and told me to have fun during Goofy Challenge in January! My heart totally exploded into confetti and happiness 🙂
WDW Half, Marathon, and Goofy Challenge medals
Overall, I had a very pleasant and exciting day of cheering on the MCM runners. Congrats to everyone who finished!