12 January, 2014

WDW Marathon Weekend Recap #1: Spectating

Ever since I started training for my first race, I have been humbled by the support I continue to receive from friends, family, and even strangers.  Stranger support is a crazy thing, and it's mostly apparent on race day.  There are tons of random people standing on the sidelines of the racecourse, yelling and cheering, holding funny signs, telling you that you're awesome, and all sorts of other nonsense.

To a beginner runner, it's invaluable.  And it means so much to me at every race I run.

So this weekend I decided to pay it forward during the WDW Marathon Weekend.  I wanted to volunteer for the full marathon, but by the time I signed up there were only standby spots available. Since that was out of the question, I focused on cheering instead.

not a huge crowd cheering for the 10K!
My marathon weekend started on Friday morning at 5am when I got to the Yacht Club to cheer for the 10K participants.  The race started at 5:30, but I was worried it might be crowded, since this was the only place to watch the race (not including the start/finish) that was accessible to spectators.  I was WRONG.  At first I was the only person cheering for as far as I could see on either direction.  A little after runners starting passing me, two women came out where I was and we all clapped and cheered.  We were just past mile 5, so we yelled a whole lot of "1.2 to go," "you're doing great," and "you're awesome"s.

I knew three people running the 10K, but I quickly realized it's really difficult to spot three in a field of 10,000.  I only saw one of my people, and even only then because he yelled and waved at me.  Flaky and unobservant?  Yes...yes I am!

My two new friends and I (one of whom ran the full marathon today) cheered until the very last racer trudged past us.  Those past few were so inspiring.  They were crumbling but not broken.  In short, they were awesome.  I was also really impressed by the RunDisney Cast Members biking along with the back of the pack.  They referred to the racers by name, encouraged us to keep yelling, and were incredibly professional.  I think this was my first contact with non-volunteers, and it was apparent that they love their jobs.

When I got to work Friday morning, my throat was sore, my fingers tingled from clapping for so long, and I was absolutely electrified by all the positive energy.  I couldn't wait to do it all again Sunday for the full marathon!

...and so, after a long and busy day on Saturday (more to come in part 2) (ooh, foreshadowing!), I found myself a coloring spot on my bedroom floor and made a poster to hold for the full marathon (inspired by this kid):
I need thicker markers...and a ruler.  But for a first-ever race poster, I was quite pleased!

I decided at the advice of another supportive stranger to hang out at the corner of Osceola Parkway and Victory way, where the runners would pass me around mile 16.5 heading into the Sports Complex and then again heading out of the Sports Complex after mile 20.  I had four friends running, and wanted to catch them all, so I had NO plans to hop from location to location.  Besides, I really like cheering for strangers!

I got to my spot around 8:00, expecting my fastest runner to be in that area a little after that time.  I pulled out my sign and smiled and occasionally whistled or whooped for someone going by.  I gave an extra smile or wave to people wearing some sort of "Incredibles" garb (and there were lots!).  As the hours passed, I was whistling non-stop, except when I was yelling.  Runners were yelling to me, and I came up with a list of things I could yell back at them.  My favorites were the ones who yelled "YOU are incredible," and I'd yell back "you're incredible-er!"  One guy yelled that I was incredible-er-est...and then he yelled it to me again almost an hour later when he passed me again.  I posed for pictures by myself, posed while one runner took a picture with me and another runner, and even got in 2 selfies!  Oh, and one sweaty Incredibles guy even hugged me!


I *did* end up seeing three of my four runners, and even managed to get unflattering pictures of two of them.  More than anything, I was there to support them.  Two were running their first full marathons, and I've been following along with their progress for months.  And since I've had a friend or loved one there to cheer for me at almost all of my races, I knew I wanted to do the same for these girls.

(I also wanted to watch them closely to see how awful running more than 13.1 miles truly is)

I also met two people I only know from online.  One was waiting for her brother to run past, and another recognized me and got my attention.  That was like the icing on the day.

By the time the last 5,000 runners were going past, I was punchy.  I was dancing along with the loud music (on rotation: three songs I'll be hearing in my dreams because I heard each one at least 50 times), coming up with ridiculous things to yell - my personal favorite was "virgin margaritas at the next water stop!", and yelling my throat raw.

If you've ever run - or even walked - a race, you know how awesome volunteers and spectators are.  But unless you've ever volunteered or spectated, you might not appreciate how wonderful runners are.  I lost count of the number of people who took a few seconds out of THEIR BIG DAY to say thank you to me for standing there with a silly poster.  Just like Friday morning, only on a much larger scale, I am energized by the positivity aimed at my by strangers.  My attempt to pay it forward kind of backfired, because I think I got more from the runners than they possibly got from me.

Really, truly: if you EVER have the opportunity to cheer for a race, DO IT.  You'll be encouraging countless people in the home stretch of pursuing their dreams, and you'll be glad you did.

On to Part Two!

No comments: