The 2016 Charleston Marathon was a disappointing race for me. I left the event feeling discouraged and disillusioned with running. Strangely enough, my despondency was in no way related to my running performance that day. Actually, I didn’t run at all; I was a spectator. Having run a marathon a mere week before, I was in prime spectating condition. I felt I could be of great support to the Charleston Marathoners, particularly along the course’s toughest points: the scenic wasteland at mile 9, and the dreaded traffic circle runners would enter and reenter from miles 18-23.
My BRF Rosemary and I formulated a plan that allowed us to cheer on friends running the race. Saturday night I created marginally funny signs of support. By 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, we were positioned at mile 9, just across from Waste Services and Container Salvage Co. When the leaders started coming through around 8:45, we cheered like we were crowd support at the US Olympic Marathon Trials.
Few runners glanced our way.
No nods, no tiny waves. Nonetheless, we continued holding our ridiculous signs and cheering for every runner like he was an Olympian. I thought for sure when “slower” runners like me started coming through, they would be the ones smiling, nodding, waving, and/or shouting words of thanks. Although quite a few smiled or chuckled to themselves as they turned our corner, most avoided eye contact and looked like they were trying to pretend two weirdos weren’t out alone in the cold holding stupid signs. After our friend Paul came through, we gave up with mile 9 and moved on to mile 18. Surely at this point in the race, the marathoners would need all the support they could get.
Mile 18 looked much like mile 9, though the runners were spread further apart from each other and wore more pronounced grimaces of the pain and exhaustion. Rosemary and I, now part of a small handful of spectators, continued to cheer madly and wave signs. The runners, by and large, ignored us.
I left the race feeling confused. Were these Charleston Marathoners made of sterner stuff than I? Did they need no cheering squad? Were they such bada**es they couldn’t lift a hand to wave or make eye contact to acknowledge their supporters?
My question was answered the day of the US Marathon Trials in Los Angeles. The Trials saw athletes like Des Linden round the final corner and raise her hands to arouse even more cheers from the crowd. Meb Keflezighi rounded that same turn carrying an American flag and high fiving spectators who lined the streets. Amy Hastings Cragg, who won the women’s race, stayed close to the finish line so she could watch an exhausted Shalane Flanagan cross the finish line in third. When Shalane collapsed, Cragg (who must have been exhausted herself) was the first to catch her as she fell. Linden, Keflezighi, and Cragg are some of the fastest runners in the world, and they all took the time to thank the crowd, or show their support to those who supported them.
So runners, I challenge you to be more like Meb. In fact, I ask all of you, what are you doing to show your appreciation of those in the crowd? If the one of the fastest marathoners in the world can high five spectators at the US Marathon Trials, you can at least crack a smile or salute your fans. While spectators don’t attend a marathon expecting thanks for what they do, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it.
Meet the Bullards: Julie and her husband Justin are neither medical, nutrition, nor fitness professionals. Their only claim to expertise in the area of running is the frequency with which they run half marathons. Both members of the Half Fanatics, Julie and Justin average one half marathon per month, but have run as many as three in 30 days. Julie writes about the regularity of mistakes they make in their constant quest to run, and hopes that readers of this blog can learn from both their shortcomings and successes. You can follow them on Twitter @runbullardsrun.
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