Sunday was epic. I don’t think I’ve ever given or received so many high five’s in one day, which begs the question, does one give, or receive, a high five? Does the answer depend on who initiates the high-five? Philosophical considerations aside, I received my first high five somewhere between miles 2 and 3 of the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon.
Besides taking in a picturesque New England fall morning, I spent most of my race focused on the spectators. I’m constantly impressed by the running community. If you aren’t a runner, I imagine it isn’t always fun to spectate a race. Even if you are a runner, it isn’t always fun; you often want to be out there running. The BAA’s half marathon course isn’t the easiest course to get to if you don’t live near it. The course isn’t right next to any T stops, rather, it’s in an area of the city that doesn’t have heavy public transportation traffic, which, in terms of planning a race, makes sense. It’s hard enough to coordinate with the city to close down roads for several hours to regular traffic, much less to interrupt public transportation. So I applaud and thank all the people who came out for Sunday’s race. The enthusiasm along the course was inspiring and gave me much needed energy boosts for the rolling hills that make up the entirety of the course.
But back to the high-fives. Kids are one of my favorite parts of races. I love spectators in general, but kids will often stand on the curb, not only clapping and shouting (granted often for the parent/uncle/aunt/etc. they are waiting to see run by) but also sticking their hands out waiting for the slap from a passing runner. It’s a win-win situation. A runner going by slapping the outstretched hand of a kid acknowledges the kid in a way that a runner going by cheering adults doesn’t or can’t. I can’t realistically thank each person I pass by. But I can give most of the kids with outstretched hands a side-five. For me, that side-five makes me feel like a bit of a star runner. It’s as though for that instant, we’re both cheering for each other in some small way.
Sunday’s half marathon was filled with spectators. As expected, some areas had more than others. I even saw a handful of runners, who I assumed had been out for a run and came across the race and decided to stop their run to cheer on ours. There was the typical spectator, bundled up and excited to see the runner(s) they knew pass, but willing to cheer on all the others as we went by. And then there were what I call the all-out spectator, complete with cow bell and sign. Below are just a few of the signs my friend and I saw:
“Smile if you aren’t wearing any underwear”
“Smile if you peed a little”
The same group of people also had a sign that was a blown up cat’s head that merely said “Run”
“You’re running 13.1 because you’re only half-crazy”
I had to consult Amy for most of the list. She told me about a sign she’d seen at a half marathon she did a few weeks ago: “Nobody is making you do this.”
Can’t argue with that. I love it. Once, I was running a half marathon in Fargo, and the race just happened to fall on one of the days that the world was supposed to end. I forget who had predicted this catastrophe, but the date was May 21, 2011. If you’re that curious, I’ll leave the Googling to you. Anyway, there was a person standing at mile 12, dressed as the Grim Reaper holding a sign that said, “The end is near.” Can’t argue with that either.
Besides spectators, there are always a handful of colorful runners dressed in all kinds of costumes. On Sunday I saw a man juggling three baseballs. We started in the same wave and he passed me. One of my friends who came out to watch and stationed herself around mile 9 said he was still juggling when she saw him. How do you train for something like that? I also saw a man run by me wearing a Captain America shirt and a Patriot’s helmet. He was also carrying a football. That’s one long run for a touchdown. There was a girl dressed as a bear, which had to be vastly uncomfortable. I was sweaty enough in a tank top and capris. By the time I saw her, she was carrying the bear head awkwardly under her arm.
No race would be complete without volunteers. Road races require hoards of them, and the often have to be at the event longer than the runners, both for set up and tear down. No race would be safe or possible without them. Sunday’s volunteers were exceptional. A big thanks to all of them. Most of them were cheering for runners in addition to completing their assigned task, whether distributing water, energy gels, or guarding intersections. To all the spectators, kids, and volunteers: THANK YOU!