Sunday, October 2, 2011

The most beautiful urban marathon

Oh, what a day.  I am so proud of so many people!

Because I volunteer on one of the race committees, I spent the morning at the finish line. There was a rare quiet moment relatively early in the day around 2:55 clock time, before big clusters of runners charged down John Ireland Boulevard in their push to cross the mats under the three hour mark.  Here was my view:

After my work was done, I trotted up the hill to watch more runners come in.  Look up the course: you see the cathedral, which is just before the 26 mile marker. 

When you are running this marathon, getting to the cathedral is one of the best darn moments of the whole race because you know you really did it - you're really going to finish after all.  All you can see is the capitol building and the bright red finish line banner, a few hundred yards down a gradual hill. I loved the woman in the orange singlet in the picture below because I saw that realization dawn on her face as she passed me, and she was so excited that she started hooting and hollering, presumably for the rest of the race.

Spending several hours at the finish line is an emotional, visceral, unedited look at what running a marathon looks like. Yes, you can imagine some of the downside of what that means: disappointment, exhaustion, legs locking up as soon as the running stops.  But I also always see wonderful, beautiful tiny moments.  So much what happens doesn't require words, either: people screaming in elation as they cross the line under their goal time, people looking to the sky when they cross, friends and couples crossing the line hand in hand.  Sometimes you can tell who missed their goals and who made them based on body language. You see people triumphantly raising their hands as they cross the finish line, whether they were first place, 600th or 6,000th. Today I saw a man cross the line, find someone in the crowd with his eyes within seconds and gesture a non-verbal "I love you."

It's an intensely personal moment, but also one in which a lot of runners today were thinking about who in their lives helped them get there, too.

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