I woke up at 5:00 this morning to get ready to drive up to Detroit to spectate the Detroit Free Press Marathon. I ran the race last year, and would have loved to run the half-marathon this year, but it wouldn't have been a good idea since I just ran the Chicago Marathon a week ago. I didn't want to miss out, though, so I decided to go cheer on the runners.
I brought a couple of signs (one said, "The faster you run, the sooner you're done" and the other was my favorite sign that I saw while running in Chicago: "Remember when you thought you couldn't do this?"), as well as a couple of cowbells for Jerry and I.
We were a little late getting out the door, so we arrived in Detroit at 7:00--which is when the race started. We decided just to skip the starting line and head right to mile eight. Mile eight is just after the runners come out of the tunnel from Canada back into the U.S. We parked what ended up being kind of far from that spot, so we decided to try out the People Mover (a little train that goes overhead around the city). Neither of us had ever used it before, but it's not a complicated set of trains or anything--it's just one train a few cars long that goes in circles around one track. Foolproof, even for me.
The People Mover took us right where we needed to be. We found a spot to hang out for a while, and as soon as we got there, the wheelchair participants were coming through--perfect timing! I was absolutely freezing by that point. I had on jeans, three long-sleeved shirts, a hat, and gloves, but my feet and hands were numb. I started bouncing around, ringing the cowbells, trying to stay warm.
Maybe it's because I just got back from Chicago, but I was kind of surprised at how unenthusiastic the spectators were at that spot. It seemed they would cheer only for the runner they were there to support, but other than that, they were pretty quiet. Jerry is great in a situation like that, because he's loud. The runners seemed to love him, and a lot of people went out of their way to go high-five him for his enthusiasm. We were high-fiving the runners, and cheering for them by name, if they had their names on their shirts. It was so fun!
Jerry later told me that the people next to him were talking about him. A woman was complaining loudly to her husband that "the guy next to her" was "too loud and annoying". He told her, "I know he's loud, we can move somewhere else." Basically, a passive aggressive way of telling Jerry to shut up. Jerry just started dancing around and yelling louder. I wish I'd have heard them, because I would have spoken up in Jerry's defense.
I think I can speak for most runners when I say that we LOVE loud spectators. Running 26.2 (or 13.1) miles can be pretty boring, and we look forward to the crowds to distract us. My favorite spectators are the ones that are super loud and kind of crazy, making me laugh. If the people next to us wanted peace and quiet, they shouldn't have gone to a "spirit zone" of the marathon, where it's supposed to be loud.
Anyway, my favorite part of the day was when a reader, Kali, recognized me (she was running the international half-marathon) and came over to say hi and take a picture with me. It doesn't happen often, but I love to get to meet readers at races!
Rather than moving on to another spirit station, I decided I wanted to stay there until the last person came through. I'm really glad we stayed! There was a large family next to us who got very excited when they saw their runner coming through, and when the woman saw them, she burst into tears and ran over to see them. Naturally, I started crying at the sight of them. She seemed like she was really struggling (she was walking, and toward the back of the pack). I later searched for her by first name on the results, because I was hoping to see that she finished. I'm not 100% sure the person I found in the results was her, but if it is, she stopped somewhere between the 8-10 mile mark of the half-marathon, and didn't finish. That makes me feel bad!
The barricade next to us was open just a little, and we actually saw a few people who quit the race at that point. We were cheering for them, and they said, "Oh, thanks, but we're done doing this," and just walked out. They didn't seem like they were having a hard time or anything, so I was surprised they would just quit like that at mile eight of the half-marathon.
When it was getting close to the point of reopening the tunnel to car traffic (and therefore, kicking off the runners/walkers that weren't meeting the pace requirement), Jerry and I were the ONLY people left on the side cheering. It was pretty sad that those people in the back of the pack didn't have a single soul to cheer them on. So we made sure to cheer for every single person, and a lot of people thanked us for staying there. One woman even said to her friend, "We have cheerleaders! Nobody ever stays to cheer for us!" and they laughed.
The last-chance pacer came through, along with a couple of people next to her, and then the road was reopened. I had plans of going to mile 19 to set up for a while, but it was a 50-minute walk. By the time we'd get there, some of our friends would have been finishing the race, so we decided just to go to the finish line. We took the People Mover back to the finish line and found a spot at the 13-mile/26.1-mile mark. My throat was so sore from yelling, so I just rang the cowbells for a while. Stephanie sent me a text, and it turns out she was there, too. So I met up with her for a minute, and she took a couple of cute pics of Jerry and me.
I saw a couple of women finishing the international half-marathon, and I loved their shirts. On the front, one of them said "50 pounds down" and on the back, it said, "She inspires me", with an arrow pointing to the other woman; and on the back of the other woman's shirt, it said "She inspires me", with an arrow pointing to her friend.
The finishers' chute is a little confusing, because there are people from the marathon, the international half-marathon, the domestic half-marathon, and the marathon relay all finishing at the same time. We saw Jerry's friend, Jason, finish the marathon; I missed Dean's finish and my friend Tammy's finish of the international half-marathon, unfortunately; I saw my cousin Julie finish the marathon; and I saw Jessica finish the domestic half.
As soon as we saw Jessica finish, we decided to leave. I would have loved to stay and cheer on the last people, but we had to get home to pick up the kids. The day was so fun, though! I absolutely loved being a spectator; Jerry did, too, and asked if there's another race we can go to soon. It was really fun to see things from a different perspective.
If you want to be inspired, I highly suggest seeking out a local race, picking up a cowbell and a poster board, and go give high-fives and yell loudly to the runners/walkers. I got a lot of comments on the "Remember when you thought you couldn't do this?" sign. Some people told me they had doubts right up until the start of the race. The most inspiring part was watching some of these people cross the finish line. Now that I've been running for a while, and have crossed a lot of finish lines, I guess I forgot just what a big deal it is to cross that line for the first time! It was amazing to watch.
I also have a whole new appreciation for the people that go cheer on the runners at races. I'm more tired and sore after spectating than I get after running! My throat hurts from yelling, my hands hurt from holding the signs and cowbells, I woke up just as early as the runners, I was freezing, and I walked quite a distance (not to mention 10 flights of stairs in a parking garage). But as a runner, I know how much I appreciate the crowd support, so it was fun change it up today!