Lots of runners have aspirations of running a long race. A 10k, a half marathon, or the big sha-banger - 26.2 baby. But what about just going to a race to see the finish line? I didn't set out as this for my goal, but lucky circumstances and wanting to see a friend led me to the finish line of the Brooklyn half marathon.
The entire atmosphere of a race is electric. Before a race you see faces trying to be relaxed while stretching. But are so obviously fierce with anticipation of the word, "GO!" Music loud. Watches set, reset, then tested again. Bibs checked, calculations made. Everyone waiting for "go." But after a race, at the finish line, there is where the story is told.
I recommend going to the finish line after the top finishers have already crossed the line. Like an hour after. It's these finishers that have the best stories. Of course they don't personally tell you with words. But some stories are written on faces. Expressions, smiles, near tears, raised hands. You can imagine you're own stories and reasons how these finishers made it to the finish line. These finishers weren't the fastest. The elite runners finished over an hour ahead of them. But these runners didn't set out to be the fastest. They set out to just finish. The lady who wasn't exactly the perfect specimen of fitness sprints by me, finding some adrenaline left in the tank to finish strong. The two friends who probably ran side by side the entire race and held hands the last 100 yards, grinning, smiling. They accomplished something great - together. The older man (I mean I've seen men his age bed ridden and arthritic and in wheel chairs) who waves back at the cheering spectators. I can't remember where I've seen more genuine grins all in one place.
I love the spontaneous applause of race spectators. They don't know the names of the runners they are cheering for, but cheer anyway. And it's sincere. "Good job Purple!" (Lady in purple top.) "Way to go 1290!" (Yelling out the runners bib number.) "Good job runners!" One tired lady tripped and fell with 50 yards to go. Everyone around her, including me, waited quietly until she got up. There is a time to cheer and a time for giving the runner quietude. It's amazing how everyone watching her knew what to do. Then when she got to her feet, she received thunderous cheers, telling her good job, you're almost there, way to go, keep going. Dozens and dozens of finish line spectators lined up on either side shouting encouragement to strangers. Of course there is the occasional watcher who actually knows one of the finishers. "JANA! JANA! Way to go honey! I'm so proud of you! YOU DID IT! YOU'RE ALMOST THERE! WHOOOO!" And Jana smiles, puts her hands up to her face when she crosses her 13 mile goal.
I defy you to to stand at the finish line of a long line and feel no emotion watching the runners come down the home stretch. I loved it. There were thousands and thousands of runners. Each one with more than one supporter, cheering them on, pats on the back, hearty embraces of congratulations. Between the runner's high of thousands of runners and their proud friends and family, I was surrounded by a wonderful atmosphere, aura, ambiance, (something!) of exhilaration on the boardwalk at Coney Island. It was a great way to spend a Saturday.
My beautiful friend Erin, and her looks too young to be her mom (along with several other of her running rock star friends I met after the race) cranked out the 13.1 miles that day. It was great to see you girl! Way to go on your 2ND! halfer!