Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Detroit Free Press Marathon spectator report

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!

30 comments:

  1. You should try volunteering next! Its like spectating in that you get to cheer and stuff, but you also have an actual role and feel more a part of the whole race experience.

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    1. Volunteering is next on my list! :) There is a race next month that I'm hoping to volunteer for.

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  2. i'm glad your husband cheered even louder when that lady was very obviously talking about him... i mean, come on, what are you supposed to do while watching a race??? especially a long one! even at the 5k's i've done, the cheering is nice.. makes me motivated to run because they cheer even louder!

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  3. I spectated (for a very short time) at The SoJo Marathon (South Jordan, UT) finish line yesterday as it was about 2/3 the way through my run. I was impressed how man finishers walked back and started cheering for others. Runners are a great group!

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  4. What's the international half marathon?

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    1. There are two half-marathons: the international, which goes from the U.S. into Canada and back; and the domestic, which stays inside of the U.S. It's a cool race!

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  5. You make me so emotional when I read your blog. You Rock! And SCREW the ppl that thought Jerry was to loud. Too loud while cheering on marathoners?? really? Is there such a thing as too loud??????

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  6. I love that you guys stayed for the last people. So awesome.

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  7. i have been reading your blog on and off for years... and i saw you and your sign today at the marathon (my first full) and didnt realize it was you! wish i could have said hi and said thanks for the cowbells. ... to be honest, i like the fact that some spectators are quiet and some are loud -- i like smiling at the silent ones or waving because it makes them perk up and cheer the people behind you on.

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  8. You guys are so awesome - I love that you stayed for the last people. And screw the passive aggressive a-holes, the whole point of spectating is to CHEER and ENCOURAGE, and I'm glad Jerry just got louder! I planning to run a race in the next few months, and I only hope there are people like you there!

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  9. If you have someone complaining about you cheering too loud at a HALF MARATHON you are doing it right! :D

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  10. I've debated either volunteering or cheering for a marathon going on here in December and I think you just convinced me to do it. =)

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  11. I want to cheer on runners now!
    Where does one buy a cow bell?

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    1. I got mine at Hobby Lobby, but they were cheap (crappy) ones. They probably have better ones at a sporting goods store!

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  12. This is awesome! I just did a half yesterday and my friend and I were talking about wanting to volunteer and be spectators too! Also, good for Jerry for cheering louder!

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  13. The people who thought Jerry was too loud cheering were ridiculous! So glad he didn't let it change his behavior. I love crowd support during a race! It's awesome that you two went and cheered when you weren't running this time. I need to do the same!

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  14. I can sure identify with you being upset at the people who were annoyed at Jerry for yelling so loudly. We went to a Husker (Nebraska) Volleyball game Saturday night. I am a yeller. I'm really a quiet person, shy and introverted. But when I go to a sporting event, I yell loudly. I think I started doing that when I went to high school sports as a member of the Pep Club. I never grew out of it, and I YELL when I go to any game. There was a group of two young daughters with their moms who sat right in front of us. When the game started, I started yelling encouragement at my beloved Cornhuskers and immediately both little girls turned around and STARED at me. I whispered to Du (husband), "I YELL, better get used to it!" It's not as if nobody else was yelling, although I might have been the only person in our immediate area who was yelling, but like you.....I was offering encouragement and support as well as expressing my joy and love for the sport! Turns out the little girls were incredibly distracting all evening, they switched seats the entire two hour match, with each other, with their moms, argued over sharing a cookie and pop they had bought, were up and down, sometimes the shortest girl stood on the seat in front of her, entirely blocking my view even when I stood up. Towards the end, they headed to the top of the arena and played in the open area up there. They had absolutely no interest in the game. I know lots of people don't love Cornhusker Volleyball as much as I do (although the Nebraska arena sells out every game, over 8,000 fans---much more than other collegiate volleyball programs), but why come to the game if you're not going to watch? Even their mothers weren't too interested in the action, preferring to chat with each other and play on their phones most of the time.

    I think you were wonderful to cheer everybody on at the race, not just friends, and not just front-runners. Those people who were slow needed more encouragement than the leaders!!! Way to go Katie & Jerry!!! You guys are the best--and I loved your sign, "Remember When You Thought You Couldn't Do This?"

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  15. In each race I have ran there has been a sign similar to the "remember when you thought you couldn't do this?" and I cry very time I see it! In fact I teared up a little just reading your post <3

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  16. Thank you for coming and cheering yesterday! It was my first half marathon and I so so so appreciated all the enthusiastic spectators. I think I saw your sign, but by mile 8 things were getting a bit foggy, that tunnel killed me haha.

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  17. That's so great that you guys went out to cheer! I live in a pretty small town, where there are mostly just little baby 5ks...and usually we're lucky if there are half a dozen people at the finish to cheer! I would love to go to a bigger race venue someday (and longer distance...someday!), and have the rush from the crowds! :)

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  18. I think it is wonderful that you stayed to cheer on the last runners. I run with my mother but she is a lot slower due to the fact she is older and has extra weight. Once I finish the race, I run back and find her and I run with her to the end. It is sad to me because the crowds are gone and most of the post race fuel is gone. I think these runners need the most encouragement.

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  19. Looks like a great time! I love the energy of races, but it does make me want to sign up for all the races.

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  20. Those people who wanted you guys to be quiet suck. I looooove enthusiastic people and high fiving and all that. That's like half the fun of a race.

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  21. The lady next to you would have had a hard time at the Chicago Marathon! That had to be the loudest marathon I've ever run in! It never let up, cheering, screaming, yelling, cowbell ringing people were lining the entire course. Wait, you know this; you were there!!

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  22. I loved seeing the athletes coming in to the finish at our local triathlete. Just as many different shapes, sizes and ages at a run-only race! SO inspiring!

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  23. Thank you for staying and cheering on those in the back of the pack. I wasn't at that race... but I'm always at the back of the pack walking my half marathons. I'm used to aid stations running out of water (or closing before I get there) and never get to see cheerleaders on the course. I do the races for me, but knowing that someone was out there intentionally making sure that every runner coming out of that tunnel had a cheer warms my heart so much. On behalf of Back of the Pack runners and walkers everywhere, thank you so much.

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    1. Wow, that's awful that aid stations run out of water or close before you get there; I've heard of that happening before, but I assumed it wasn't normally like that. I'm glad we stayed to cheer on the back of the pack, because they were the funnest people!

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  24. Hubby and I cheered on the last people at the Tokyo Marathon. What an incredible experience, and I think it's something all runners should do. We weren't even planning to stay that long, but we made fun signs (mine said "one more mile!" and his was an arrow pointing to me saying "bad at math, we stood at the halfway point) and the energy was great. Glad you had fun!

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  25. You are SO right that people love the loud spectators, who are cheering EVERYONE on! There were a few times when just those people saying, "Good job, Elizabeth!" or giving me a high five, kept me going when I was tired. It's so great you guys went and did that. Those people complaining about Jerry sound lame! You're supposed to be loud and encouraging to the people running. You're not at a library! :)

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  26. I'm catching up on your blog today, as I haven't been doing the internet thing much lately, hence why I'm commenting on a week old entry.

    We never have races in my hometown, too small, otherwise I would absolutely go cheer people on. It's great that you and Jerry did that for this race! I'm really hoping to make it up to cheer you and your team on while you're here in SoCal (you are still coming for that in April, right?); I always thought it would be so cool if you ever came out here, even if it's just so I can yell "Go Katie!" at you, lol. You absolutely inspire me. I've been reading you since you were on OD, and I don't comment much but I read regularly. Our high and goal weights are close, and so many other people I read/have read either quit trying or they glamorize it, only talking about their losses and not about the setbacks. I love how you write about the struggles and everything you still have, because it really makes me feel like even though it won't be easy and I'll have to be "on guard" with my lifestyle to keep the weight off, I WILL be able to get it off and keep it off.

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)