This past weekend, I didn't run due to a funky schedule-partly because I tagged along with two of my friends to Huntington Beach, where they ran the half-marathon, and I watched.
I didn't race with them, because I hated my 08 Huntington marathon experience, and there was no way I was going to risk another race, in really crappy conditions!) Not surprisingly, although Saturday was pouring, and the expo tents were faulty and everything was flooding, Sunday was a PERFECT day for a run. The morning was crisp and the day, cleared beautifully. I might one day again consider Huntington "Surf City, USA".
Surprisingly, this is the first race I ever attend, as a spectator and not as a participant. I had a great time, I had no morning stress when you wake up at 4/5 am, and instead of working hard, I wandered around what was left of the expo and then headed to the finish line where I watched the first Marathoner finish! I also, waited patiently, and used the restroom at the Hilton- instead of the ubiquitous porta potties.
There were 20,000 participants in the half-marathon, 64% of which were women. I cannot say for sure, but I am pretty certain marathons, have a higher percentage of male participants. There was a national anthem at the start, and of course, brief speeches by the Congressional rep of that district and their Mayor. (I for one, love this!)
I did observe things about runners that I have always know, but can call out or praise (because it comes from a place of self-improvement).
1. Amazing determination and drive- time and time again as runners passed the finish line, they did so, to achieve a goal, personally or competitively, in their own way and with their own pace, no runner decided to ditch the running with only hundreds of meters to the finish line, and amble to the goal. The heart that goes into what they do is admirable. I've never watched those few super "ambitious ones" that run past that line come despite everything else, and coming up to the line the color on their face is gone, and as soon as they pass that line they puke, and or in cases just collapse right there past the finish.
While that sounds self destructive, and it might be- can you imagine what goes on in the mind to say, no matter that I feel these symptoms, I have to finish (at a certain time). The mind really has some amazing powers over the body. Then there were the pace groups. I saw so many "influxes" of runners periodically, and I realized they were the ones that stuck with a pacer, for example right before the 2 hr mark, there were TONS of runners, and again at 2:10, 2:20 and 2:30. Clearly they had a goal and maintained their efforts the entire way.
2. Little recognition of accomplishment- One guy at some point crossed the finish line and gave a little, "oh yea!" shout. Those close by chuckled. A woman turned to me and stated, "I'm surprise more of them don't do that." And that made all the sense in the world to me. Most runners, I think have found some really valuable traits in pursuing this sport (even if just recreationally). There are goals that are set, and they are either met or not. I for one, always beat up on myself when I don't fulfill a goal, and just accept the accomplishment of a goal, but I'm thinking now, that's the wrong attitude. Finishing a race, with a strong finish, (hopefully completing a goal) is not only the end of 13 miles, it is the end of hundreds of training miles! So, an "oh yea!" is the minimum self- recognition each runner deserves. Why not?
3. No recognition of emotions- children, unlike us recognize all their emotions, they skip they have tantrums, and one girl probably around the age of 10 maybe a little older or a little younger, cried upon finishing a the race with her dad. In response her dad picked her up and he hugged her. This is beyond the recognition of acomplishment, this is the awknowledgment of full emotions. I found it interesting, as adults we no longer skip and throw tantrums, but have we entirely muted our emotions? I doubt that's the case, but it might not always be a mistake to show them.
I am midway through training for the LA marathon, after a bad training week, but a good experience as a spectator, I am re energized for the last haul. I hope that I heed some of my own advicefrom my observations as I continue these last 5.5 weeks and race day.
Being a spectator who knows the running culture was fun. The running culture is really a funny one. And once you "get it" then hearing from those on the outside is amusing. I remember, coming back from a marathon, and my grandma asking, "did you win?" I though, Yea, I didn't quit, but I was very tempted to do so, that's kind of like winning. In a conversation someone asked me yesterday, how long the Huntington marathon was...all marathons are 26.2 miles (42 Kilometers) and all 1/2 are 13.1 miles (21 kilometers)- pretty standard, anything more than 26.2 is called an ultramarathon, and those can also either be road races or trail races.
I was happy to join my buddies, and after the race we headed for the beer garden, where we had a beer to running & good friends. They both had a good race, my friend Amy came in at 3:29:03 and my friend Hafiza came in at 2:22:22 (which is exactly 1:01 minutes faster than my half PR).
My mom, who comes to any and all of my races, has often questioned the sanity of runners. because of what we do, how we train, what we eat, drink etc. We're sane, we're just a little...