Wednesday, December 9, 2009

4 days

Taper Topic of the Day: Marathon Spectators

Die hard sporting fans are typically associated with particular athletic endeavors such as hockey, basketball, football, etc. These folks often adorn themselves in their team's colors, pay astronomical amounts of money for game tickets, and scream and yell at every little trial or triumph their team experiences during a game. I find it interesting to note that I've never heard of any marathon spectators referred to as die hard fans, although I would argue that the truely dedicated marathon spectator is more deserving of accolades than any other sporting fan.

Cheering for a marathoner is no easy task. You don't have the option of setting up your lawn chair, cracking open your favorite cool beverage and watching all of the event drama unfold before your eyes. As a marathon spectator, you spend most of your time (HOURS of it, keep in mind) doing one of two things: running to the next possible course point of catching your marathoner, or waiting patiently at that point- wondering if maybe they already passed by, or if they collapsed a mile earlier and will never be making it your way.

Marathon spectators are an integral part of a successful finish for any marathoner. Be they friends or strangers, you have no idea what it means to a marathoner to get that shout out of encouragement when you are certain you can't go a step further. Those that carry signs with witty (and even not-so-witty) slogans of truth or encouragement are equally comforting, giving a runner a brief opportunity to smile and take their mind off the task at hand. Even better are those who hand out food and treats of any sort. :)

The family and friends who took all of the time and effort in their day to come cheer me on at my first marathon in Arizona encompass all of my most cherished memories of that event. The medal, the finish line experience, the bands, the free t-shirt are all good, but an expected part of your race experience that go along with your entry fee. To feel tired, lost and alone out in the middle of a 26.2 mile course and then spot a fan who gave up their entire day just to watch you pass by for a few seconds, means more to that runner than you could possibly know.

I have received an incredible amount of support from many people (many of you mile sponsors) in the process of preparing for the Texas Marathon, and I'm hoping to catch many of you out there cheering or volunteering on the course or running the race. I have no idea who I can expect to see, but every familiar face will be a welcome sight.

I particularly want to give a public word of thanks to my mile 20 sponsor, Debbie Van Winkle, who thanks to an early summer kickball injury was cheated out of racing herself this Sunday, but wasn't about to let that stop her from supporting her fellow running mates. Debbie has dedicated herself to be stationed at the mile 10 and then mile 20 markers to cheer on her friends and provide any type of support they might need (including my much anticipated mile 20 chocolate cupcake)! :-) Just knowing Deb will be at those points is making a huge difference in my mental preparations for this race. I don't feel overwhelmed at the thought of running 26.2 miles in just 4 days. I'm focused on running 10 miles to see Debbie, then another 10 to see Debbie again and attain that much sought after cupcake. Then, there is a vague realization that I'm required to run a few more miles beyond that as well, but I'll worry about that when I get there. :)

Thank you Debbie, and thank you to all of you who will be out cheering, volunteering, or in any way supporting the race this Sunday. We couldn't do it without you!!

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