Sunday, September 28, 2008

Observing a marathon finish

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of watching the Clarence DeMar marathon finish in Keene, New Hampshire. It's only about an hour away from my humble abode in Concord and most importantly, THE ShirleyPerly was running it, so I got a chance to meet her in person.

I got there around 10 AM, 2 hours into the marathon. I had expected to see a bustle of activity with people running around trying to take care of any last minute fires. That couldn't have been further from the truth. People were just hanging out and it was very quiet.

The first runner finally came in at 2:40 and the crowd (about 20 people) cheered. Then another and another. There was a small group that came in just before 3 hours. And then people started to filter in as the time went from 3 to 4 hours.

This is the first time I've witnessed a marathon finish purely as a spectator. And let me tell you, it's something all of you should do at some point. I saw a lot of stuff that will stay with me for a while. Specifically? Well fine, since you asked.
  1. I was struck at how emotional the scene was and how much it reminded me of my marathon. I was beyond elated and very emotional as I crossed the finish line. Even re-reading my race report today still takes me back to the emotion I felt. Standing at the finish line is just one of those amazing experiences that you wouldn't really understand unless you've been there.
  2. I stood next to a family that was waiting for their dad/husband to come in. They had raced from another part of the course to see him at the finish. The Boston Qualifying (BQ) time was 3:20:59 for his age group. They were getting more and more nervous. They saw 3:20 come and go and they were heartbroken. To see him round the corner only a minute later to finish at 3:22:20 was just heartbreaking. So much training to just miss BQ.
  3. I watched a woman finish around 3:50 when she had absolutely nothing left. As she came around the corner in the last .2 miles to the finish, her legs started to buckle and she could barely stand up. Another runner had her arm around her shoulder to keep her upright. Her body had clearly given up but she wasn't willing to sacrifice her good time for the sake of her body. Thankfully there was medical staff there to help.
And then came Shirley at 4:08:25. It was such a thrill to finally see her and meet her because she's been a tremendous inspiration to me and many others. We chatted for a little while about my upcoming race and training, travel, etc. That alone was easily worth the quick drive.A very non-busy finish line at 2:15. The first runner wouldn't come in for another 30 minutes.

THE ShirleyPerly as she was finishing. Apparently my shutter speed was too slow to catch her lightning fast speed at the end.


Susan said...

I'm so jealous that you got to meet Shirley!

ShirleyPerly said...

Greg, what a treat it was to meet you! Thank you again for coming out to the race. Certainly my finish was not very dramatic compared to some of those you witnessed but it's pretty typical for someone who runs marathons close together. We'd better be having fun and feeling good when we finish because we're doing it again real soon :-)