Last Saturday morning, 156 runners ran 7 hilly miles. I was not one of them. Since I am slowly rebuilding my strength and distance, I decided to sit this one out and even wore jeans to ensure I wouldn't try to jump in at "Go!".
As the mass of runners pounded pavement on that gray, cool morning, I flipped through a magazine in my van. The energy at the start was so palpable, I found it hard to focus on reading as my legs ached to join in. I had at least 35 minutes before the first finisher ran by, my cue to find a spot to cheer on Mike, Erin and Scott as they pushed towards the end.
All previous races I've attended, I've participated in. I knew there were many fast runners, but I never saw them from my location at the back 1/3 of the pack. I saw them sweating and walking around afterwards and I scrolled past their incredible finish times when I searched for mine online, but seeing those runners near the end of a race was going to be a new view.
At about 35 minutes, a guy ran past my van. He was alone. I thought he was just a runner out for his morning run, but then I noticed his race number. He was the lead runner and he was going to finish in just over 37 minutes. That's less 5:30 per mile! I set my magazine down, got out of the van and watched him round the corner to the finish line. I looked down the road to the direction he had come from and no one else was in sight. No one was even close. He was running so fast I couldn't have even kept up with him for the final 1/4 mile.
I joined another spectator to watch for other finishers. The next couple of runners, sweaty and focused, passed almost four minutes later. These were elite runners and I watched wide-eyed.
We cheered, "Way to go!" "Quarter mile left!" "Great running!" "You can do it!" "Woo-Hoo!" and we clapped.
Now a steady stream of racers were passing by. All ages from teen to 60's and 70's. Men and women. I kept thinking that they were working harder than I do in a typical day. Their strong breath, pumping arms and legs. All different gaits and strides. And those old guys and ladies who were handily trouncing any pace I ever hoped to run. Imagine their strong beating hearts, that most important muscle, red, vibrant, striated. I want heart like that.
I saw Scott in the distance. He's training for Grandma's Marathon in June. "Go Scott!" I hollered as he headed down the final stretch. Then, less than a minute behind, there was Mike. He was running much faster than he had anticipated. A lot faster. I jumped up and down clapping and hooting, "Way to go, Mike! Only a quarter mile!" He smiled and waved. I suspect marathon training for him isn't far off.
After their race, Mike and Scott joined me to cheer on Erin. She beat both her last year's time and her goal time. What a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
We are runners and we support each other. I keep running because I enjoy it and I want to be fit. And I keep running because even when I'm the spectator I feel the spirit of the other runners. Especially the enduring energy of my husband and friends.
I hadn't known watching a race would be so inspiring.
Time to lace up my shoes and run out the door.