Monday, October 15, 2012

Spectating a Marathon

When the wife and I were walking back to the bus yesterday after watching the Giants loss to the Cards, we were talking about another sporting event that took place in San Francisco during the day.  Not the 49er's loss but rather the Nike Women's Marathon.

She said to me that is nice that I get so excited to watch other regular Joes (or in this case mostly Janes) run for 4+ hours for no good reason.  I said to her, I know the pain these people have chosen to inflict upon themselves and the joy they have created for themselves. I get it. I like ringing my cowbell and showing off my inappropriate signs.  It is fun. And I know it helps.

While I didn't race yesterday, I feel like I spent nearly as long as I will on the course next month, so here is my spectating recap.

1. Getting to the race was pretty easy, but it would have been nicer if MUNI ran more regularly. 
I am public transit user, but for the last few weekends, I have been really bummed about the schedules.  Not owning a car and running super early far away from your house means cabs or hitching a ride. The public transit in this town shuts down at night and apparently, 6:00am on Saturday is still the night. It also doesn't adjust for any event even if the politicos at town hall encourage people to take the public transit.  That said, getting to Ocean Beach was pretty easy. And there were lots of excited parents and partners on the bus buzzing with spectator excitement. 

Funky logo, crappy service

2. I couldn't find the club because they got some mixed message about where they could set up.
That was too bad but I hear they had some fun with funny, yet appropriate signs.

Gen and Jen with signage and Karen post run...
I would have loved to hangout with my chums but it was ok.  They were sent a bit further into the park but I didn't want to go I didn't.

3. I need to learn to take pictures during the races.
This race is dominated by Team In Training runners.  I have mixed feelings on this program but one thing I will say without any hesitation is that they come to party.  They dress up. They have cool outfits.  They wear a lot of tutus.  But they weren't alone.  I would say about 40% of the racers were wearing something fun.  This would have been a great place for lots of pictures of these people but it I don't have any.

4. Olympians are really cool to watch run. 
I stood near the turn off for the full and half marathons and noticed this very quick, yet all-too-easy group of runners stride by on the way to the half-marathon finish.  I saw bobbing head of blond hair and said, out loud, "wow that looks just like Shalane Flanagan. OH IT IS SHALANE FLANAGAN!"

And the very supportive but totally oblivious people (read: not running geeks) around me were not as giddy as I was about this news, but were impressed once I explained to them she was in the Olympics.  But then I heard Kara Goucher was also in that pack along with Joan Benoit Samuelson.  That was really cool.  It looked effortless and smooth.  That was one of the highlights of the day (foreshadowing...)

5. Don't worry I am not writing 26.2 of these.
I totally could but I won't.

6. The volunteers had a hard job to do and they did an awful job at doing it.
This might not be a fair way to put it but the volunteers I saw near the end were just horrible.  They couldn't keep people off the course and when they did they were down right mean about it.  Chinh, one of my running chums, was pacing people in to the finish,which is fine according to the rules, came over to me to talk.  There were no runners on the full course at this point.  We were talking about other friends and how they were doing.  Specifically, he said he saw Jenni, who ran R2R2R last weekend and was doing the full, and that she looked strong. We agreed she is crazy.  A volunteer then came up to him and said, "Get your ass off the course, please."   Now, the please seems out of place for sure...but did he need to do that? No he could have said, you need to move or get of the course. But he didn't.

About 50 yards into the park people were crossing the street into the traffic of runners and they crowed the cone line without any rebuke from this jack-ass volunteer or any of the others.  The volunteers at the finish line looked pissed off to be standing there and they were absolutely in the way of the runners.  I can't speak for water stops or anything else but the people at the end were terrible.  Also, Nike, perhaps grey isn't the best shirt color to make volunteers easy to find. Just saying.

7. I sort-of know the woman who won.
When I go to track work outs on Tuesday nights, we often share the Kezar Stadium Track with the ladies of the Impalas Racing Team. They are stupid fast. One of the team members is always wearing a similar, matching outfit, that I learned today is a brand of sports wear she owns. She is really fast.  Two weeks ago as I slogged through my last Yasso 800 she was literally running backwards during her cool down at about 3/4 the pace of my full speed run for that lap, and said that I looked smooth and even.  I said, through gasps, that I was happy I was at least moving a little faster than her as she RAN BACKWARDS during her cool down. Her name is Verity Breen and she won yesterday. That is totally neat.

Breen in her Thirty Birds' racing gear just about to take the lead.

8. I cried when people were finishing as hard as they could.
I played it off as if the wind made my eyes water, but I love seeing people in such unbearable pain push to crack their PR or simply to cross that finish line.  I saw one woman crying hard as she kicked it into gear for the last 300 yards and it was fantastic. I love it. The raw emotion is more than powerful to those of us that know it...and it is inspirational for those of us who don't.  I believe the personal dedication and satisfaction of finishing these things through the pain is the number one reason distance running is such a fast growing sport among Americans.


Yeah. That is right.
 That was the best part of the race for me. 

(By the way,  can you tell that the taper is already making me a bit jumpy?)

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