This coming weekend is Marine Corps Marathon weekend here in D.C. and I’m sad I’m missing it (though a friend’s wedding is definitely an awesome reason). And yet, I have never run the marathon.
For MCM weekend, I typically run the 10K and then head to our designated cheer spot around mile 22. Cheering for a marathon is an amazing experience, especially if you pick a spot in the second half of the race. First, you see the fast runners come flying through. They’re amazing just for their speed. Then you see the midpack runners come through. People often have their names on their shirts and you cheer for them and watch them perk up (or sometimes watch the confused looks on their faces as they wonder how you know their name, having forgotten they wrote it on themselves). It’s often in the midpack runners that you see people in costumes. I can’t imagine running a marathon in costume.
For MCM, there are also the men and women running in their gear, often carrying packs. Last year, there was a runner wearing a gas mask. It was amazing. And inspiring.
The group I love seeing the most, however, is the back of the packers. These are the people who aren’t always sure they’re going to finish. There are a lot of first timers in this group, but also a lot of experienced runners. You see all sorts of facial expressions – joy, elation, confusion, pain, and a whole lot of determination. I always make it a point to stay at our cheer spot until the very last runner passes. When you’re a back of the pack runner, many times the crowds have dissipated by the time you come through, and I think those people deserve the cheers the most. They might be in the very back, but they’re sticking to it and they’re going to finish.
I always joke that when I watch a marathon, it makes me think “Man, I never want to do this.” But at the same time, I want that experience. I want all of those emotions.
While I participate in a lot of races, it’s great fun to be out cheering for the runners I know and the runners I don’t know. Having been out there on a tough course, it’s great to have people cheering for you, and having cheered for a few races, it’s great to be out there supporting the other athletes.