Sunday, March 20, 2016

A salute to the spectators at long distance running events.

If you are a long distance runner - anything over a local 10 K - and someone volunteers to come "watch you run" - please understand that that is true love!

I am not trying to take away from the AMAZING/super human feat that choosing to run anything more than 3 miles is. I think it's absolutely AMAZING and I envy your ability for sure. I am one proud runners wife - which is why I keep going to watch - even though, every time, I tell myself that next time he's on his own - I can't stop - I love seeing him - I'm proud of him and in that moment if/when you ACTUALLY get to see the person you have come to see - all the stress and frustration of getting up to that point melts away - at least for a moment.

Let me explain - if you are a runner - you follow the crowd, get checked in - run when they say and follow (hopefully) a clearly marked path. You probably listen to your favorite music and if you've picked a cool course - then you have some amazing scenery and strangers are cheering for you pretty much the whole way through. If you're social - you might even chat it up with some of the other runners before during and after.

If your are a spectator - your experience is bit different. If you have been to one long distance race as a spectator before - it was probably miserable because you were totally un prepared. You probably never saw your runner and you probably swore you would never do it again.(perhaps I'll write up my epic failure watching a first long distance run next)
But then your spouse tells you they have signed up to do it again - and as the day gets closer - no matter how much you want to skip it - you end up plotting and planning and going. If you're smart - you print out and study the race map - find a spot where you will meet your runner. (Picking a SIDE OF THE ROAD TO BE ON) which doesn't sound like a big deal - but it's kind of a deal breaker if you aren't in sync. If you are stupid enough to bring your kids with you - because of course you want them to see your spouse and vice versa and it seemed like a good idea at the time - that sweet - moment of recognition and the smiles and high gives and all that.

So - you prepare your meeting location - you pack a ridiculous amount of snacks, drinks (but hopefully not enough that they will have to pee), you wrap them up in layers if it's cold, you weight the pros and cons of a stroller for the little ones. You make cute signs to hold up, (which are impossible to transport - so end up all squished which causes tears and frustration from the little ones) You run around like a crazy person through massive crowds of people trying to keep it cool - but knowing that no matter what - there is a chance that you missed your person and this is all for naught. So you obsessively check your tracker to see where your runner is. (if there isn't a tracker - you're screwed and you guess and it's even more stressful cause you are convinced the entire time - even if you have watched from the first runner on, that you somehow missed your person)

You get to your spot - check your tracker - make sure your kids don't get lost, taken, run over by the crowds. Hand out snacks, water, hold toys. (all of which makes you take your eyes off the road - which could result in you missing your person) You answer a million questions. (one poor dad today had 3 boys attached to him and they clearly got stuck in the same crazy out of the way walking fest to find their runner - so he was stressed out and I heard him say to one of them as fake calmly as possible, that "yes, This is STILL New York city")

You stare obsessively at the road and wonder why there isn't some sort of rule that says you can't ALL WEAR BLACK on race day. You try to make sure you remember for SURE what they were wearing because you are now staring at crowds of people running about 20 - 30 people deep and it get dizzying. You tell your kids - just a few more minutes - they start asking if you missed your person and if you can leave now. You tell them you can't leave because you haven't seen them yet.

If it's a good day - you finally look up and find your person and they ACTUALLY see you too. You immediately want to punch them because they look super calm, cool, and collected despite having just run 7, 8, or 9 miles - meanwhile you look like a zombie - and have not had your coffee yet because you DO NOT want to try to have to find somewhere to PEE with kids in tow in the middle of this craziness. But then they smile, and your kids smile and it's all worth it for about 5 minutes - until you realize you either have to
A) do it all over again to try to make it to meeting point 2 or
B) realize the hours it took to get to this point have come and gone for one brief moment of smiles and that now you have to wait for your sweaty, smelly runner at the end and figure out how to go home.

So - I salute you - parents toting kids all over Manhattan today for the United Airlines Half Marathon. I felt your pain, I felt your happiness and pride and I totally don't judge you for the triple shot macchiato you got when your job was finally done and you were reunited with your runner at the finish line. I hope you got your pictures. (I'm becoming a pro- so I was READY and successful in that arena) I hope your kids didn't torture you too much. I hope your spouses realize how much you love them for doing this over and over or, even one time.

As I was standing in Times Square today with my 7 year old (who was a TOTAL ROCK STAR) - thinking about how stressed I was that I had missed my person - I started talking to the lady next to me about how stressful the whole thing was. She looked at me and said - "try doing it at age 82 - I've been looking for pink this whole time and I just found out she's wearing Black"
I feel you grandma lady - I do. To the dad in times square who almost left his sign behind while he was watching 4 little kids in the craziness waiting for mommy - Good job! I hope your wife realizes you are a rock star. To the dad I saw at the last half marathon Dave ran - who pushed his kids on the swings while he waited for his wife and then almost pushed his kid off when he realized she was coming and had to run to see her - I feel ya.

I learned a lot today and was WAY better prepared than the last race and I will be way better prepared for the next one. I know my 5 year old would have been a total disaster and ruined the whole day for us because it was a lot of running around/walking, crowds and craziness. I realized my daughter can adapt to changing situations very well without needing much encouragement and almost no complaining besides being cold. I spoke to some very nice people throughout the day and I successfully saw Dave in Times Square in one of the biggest/coolest races in the city despite the crowds, weather or craziness of unexpected obstacles.

Dave, please only sign up for races with trackers in the future - it helped with the stress at least a little bit and probably was the only thing that saved my sanity!

Happy Running/Watching people.