This morning, a bunch of running friends lined up at the start of the Austin Marathon/Half Marathon. As the race began, I was just leaving my house with my Rogue friend G–one of the many awesome people who helped me get through the 3M half a month ago. Seeing friendly faces on the course has always made a HUGE difference for me, and I decided that since I wasn’t running Austin, I’d join G’s cheering section.
first stop first stop after Starbucks was the five-mile mark at Mary Street and South First. The race was about 45 minutes old and the crowd of runners was enormous! I’m usually a bit further back in the pack so I don’t get this perspective, and it was awesome. I saw two people from work, a current student, and quite a few Rogue friends.
From here we drove up to a tough spot on the half-marathon course (sorry full marathoners) right at the Mile 12 marker. It’s a beastly hill on a good day; at Mile 12 it sucks really really badly. Last year G cheered at the bottom of the hill and ran up with a few friends, but somehow I missed her. I fully admit to walking about half of the damn thing last year. This year, I knew I could run it because I hadn’t just run 12 other miles.
When we got there, we immediately found two other friends. G had made a Touch Here for Power! sign and I had a cowbell, so we were nice and obnoxious.
The people next to us had a sign about beer at the finish, and frequently runners would yell, “How about beer NOW?!” as they passed. Lots of runners observed that a giant hill at Mile 12 was cruel, and we agreed. I resisted the urge to shout “You’re almost there” but it was difficult. A mile to go sounds totally doable when you’ve driven from Mile 5 to Mile 12, but I’ve been at the bottom of this hill with a mile to go, and it’s anything but “almost there.”
After a while, I noticed my cowbell had caused a blister on my finger. Clearly, that’s on par with the pain the runners were feeling at Mile 12.
Every so often we’d see someone we knew and one of us would run up the hill. G was wearing these fantastic Day of the Dead tights, and once she saw another runner wearing the same ones. She jumped in and ran her up the hill. Turns out, it was her first half marathon and she was alone, tired, and tearful with no friends on the course cheering for her. Until G ran with her and got her to the top. See why I love these people??
After a while, two more friends arrived. They’d run the Paramount 5K and walked up to meet us after they finished. S had a cowbell and really got into it. “Go random stranger!” and “You are amazing!” She declared she was never running again, just cheering.
We got especially loud whenever the Marathon High kids in their orange shirts ran by. These are middle- and high school kids from economically disadvantaged areas who work with Rogue coaches to train for the the Austin half or full marathon. They are amazing! We also saw tutus (mostly on women, but one guy was rocking a Mardi Gras theme), a couple of military guys running with boots and backpacks, and a guy who shaved his chest hair to look like a bikini top. And I didn’t see it at the time, but this one won the sign contest:
When our friend P came into view, we saw that she was running with a friend who was struggling. I ran with P up the hill and A ran with her friend. Man, P had run twelve miles and she beat me to the top! Her friend had been sick, so she waited for her to make sure they finished together. My leg didn’t like the standing-standing-standing-WHOA RUN UP THE HILL! but it held up okay.
We waited for one more friend, walked with her a while, and sent her up the hill and to the finish. Our friends who had run the 5K headed off to the finish line to wait for P. I know a lot of my training group members (the ones who didn’t run the race) were out along the course supporting those who did. I don’t have any desire to run this race again, but I will definitely be out there cheering for those who do.