Today I did something that I have never done before - I went to the finishing area of a marathon just to watch. Milwaukee’s Lakefront Marathon to be specific, and, to my delight, it was a genuine joy to witness.
My primary reason for going was to show support for many of the runners and friends that supported me at my first marathon last May [The Wisconsin Marathon May 1st in Kenosha]. However, I was caught off-guard by the spirit and encouragement I suddenly bequeathed to runners unbeknown to me. Smilers, groaners, high-fivers, limpers - all pushing themselves to their limit 100 yards from the 26.2 mile goal. It’s an impressive spectacle.
We watch televised sports to see extraordinary athletes do extraordinary things, but to observe average folks exert every ounce into reaching their Herculean goal is equally interesting. I saw one woman - whose time was quite impressive in the 3:40ish range - dragged across the finish line by 2 of her friends. She must’ve ran an impressive pace, but cramps, dehydration, or fatigue finally caught up with her just yards from the finish line. I couldn’t help but get a lump in my throat watching this - what an amazing sight! Another fellow looked about the same way I did - muscle fatigue finally caught up with him and placing one foot in front of another nearly became impossible. I gave this guy my loudest, “You can do this!!” because I felt like I was yelling at myself. I know EXACTLY how he was feeling.
Then there’s the smilers, laughers, and high-fivers - this breed knows that all of their difficult training over the previous 4 months (or longer!) is about to pay off. They’re pumped. They’re the ones who are going to pass the water, orange juice, and Muscle Milk and head right to the beer stand. They have a reason to celebrate. These people inspire me. I want to be one of them.
So the next time you get the chance, whether you know anybody in the race or not, check out the finish line of a marathon. It’s inexpensive and the range of emotions you will experience will surpass the biggest blockbuster showing at your local cineplex. Heck, you can even bring your own popcorn.