Although I didn’t race the St. Jude Full or Half Marathon this year, I certainly experienced it! Keith and I started our day about 5 AM. We first went to Erin’s house to drop the goodie box off for the Marathon group at Mile 18 (thanks, Erin!). I tried to put a couple of special things in there along with a note that I hoped would help them if they were starting to feel a bit rough at that time. We then went to Cleveland and hung the new sign that Keith surprised me with (thanks, Keith!) on the overpass. I really hope this brought some smiles before tackling that tough hill! Then onto the park to place our 2nd sign. I was feeling kind of weird because I wasn’t going to be racing. We saw the guys putting the big camera together in the park and it was a bittersweet moment for me. I felt a little sad to not be running with all of my friends in a race that I’ve run for years but also excited to be out there for support…it’s also been a long time since i’ve done that!
We got downtown earlier than we expected (about 6:20) and I was shocked at how much difficulty we still had parking. Not a big deal because we had our bikes and again, I wasn’t having my typical race day anxiety. We got into the stadium and started running into all the Star Runners. So fun! Everyone was in great spirits. The weather was awesome! Much more fun to stand around before the race without the chattering lips and freezing hands and feet. Group picture and off to the corrals.
I was holding it together pretty well until this point! As the bulk of the people running the Full Marathon headed to the corral, Mandy came over and gave me a huge hug with tears in her eyes. I can’t say there’s anything I love more than raw emotion. I remember all of my Half and Full’s and I think they’re all a huge deal. It’s just not something I take for granted so I really appreciate it when I see others in the same boat. Off went all the runners to their corrals and off went Keith and I to start our day.
We rode our bikes over to 4th and Madison to lock them up and headed over to the corrals. I cannot explain how proud I was to see all of our runners lined up in their corrals. Not everyone noticed us but we stopped at each corral until we were sure to spot each person (and check them off on our spreadsheet) and send them our own private vibes of good luck. We finally got to the Start. I’ve always started in corral 8 or later….geez those early corrals are way up there! It seemed like we walked forever but I think I was just anxious because I was afraid I would miss the start.
I was lucky enough to know someone working with the camera guy at the Start (thanks, Lisa!) so i got a primo spot. I literally could not contain my emotion or excitement. All of the sad feelings I had for not racing were absolutely gone. I have never been so ready for the start of a race!
Minutes after securing our spots, the race began!! I felt like I knew everyone in the race. We screamed our hearts out from corral 1 to 13 and it was a ball to know people in every single corral, whether they’re in the group or not. Of course, I had a spreadsheet with each of our runners and what corral they were supposed to be starting in (i only saw 2 who didn’t do this!) so as each corral started, Keith stood on the side and wrote down everyone’s start time. This would come in super handy as the day went on. After all of our runners (up to the last corral) went through the start, our day really began!
We raced from the start to where our bikes were. This was hilarious. We kind of ended up in the 5K for a bit and people were definitely wondering why we were loaded down with backpacks and dressed like it was winter (it’s much colder on the bike!) but we were having a blast. By the time we got to our bikes, we had to laugh because we were already exhausted. On the bikes and off we went. We knew we could get to St. Jude and hopefully catch everyone entering campus. Our marker was the 3:40 pacer stick- we needed to get to each spot before they passed and let me tell ya, that’s not easy! We were actually hoping to get everywhere for the 3:05 pacer because we know him (Feb- he’s a total bad ass!) but they’re too freaking fast for us to catch up to.
We got to the entrance of St. Jude campus and immediately saw the 3:30 pacer so we knew we were in time to see all of our runners. We hung by the band and were just bubbling over with excitement. It’s so hard to spot everyone, especially when the big waves of people come through but we got most everyone and those we missed, seemed to spot us. We saw tons of our non-running group friends running and got a ton of “Thanks Star Runners” shout outs from people who noticed our shirts. As soon as all of runners came through we realized we needed to go straight to mile 12 to catch our first runner come through (this is how the spreadsheets came in handy!). On the bikes again and off we went. We literally went as fast as we could and as soon as we got there, we saw the 3:30 pacers again. Minutes later, here came our first runner! I kind of wish we had been closer to the split to really root people on but we both know how tough Manassas can be for those doing the Half so we decided to stay there. I made a quick (kind of) pit stop in a gas station on Manassas to buy tampons for one of our runners (you know who you are and i’m so sorry i never got them to you! i had a backpack full after this point 🙂 ) where I had the pleasure of playing charades with the guy behind the counter because he didn’t speak much English and didn’t understand what a tampon is. Anyway, from here we saw a few more people and could really see struggle in their eyes. Racing a Half Marathon is no joke. By Mile 12, you definitely feel like you are having an out of body experience and we could see this. So much fun being here because we could literally see our runners gain a small boost of energy when they saw us. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long because we knew we had runners crossing the Finish Line in the stadium and we wanted to be there. Back on the bikes and racing to the stadium.
Our plan was to hang in the stadium until all of our Half Marathoners crossed the Finish Line. We couldn’t get to section 110 which, of course, started to bring out the OCD in me but quickly, our runners started to spot us. Tears, lots of tears. I saw Karen see her husband and baby and her eyes completely filled with tears. She was beaming with pride. I saw people hugging and high fiving. No matter how hard a race may be, as soon as you’ve crossed that finish line, it always seems worth it.
After a few minutes I got word that one of our runners was in distress on the field. I made my way as quickly as possible to the field to be quickly rejected. I tried to explain to the “lady” that I am the coach for this person and the emergency contact and she was entirely too busy screaming “get back, turn around” in my face to hear my pleas. A person in the stands gave me her medal to put on to see if that would work. Nope. I finally climbed my way to the wall and spotted lots of our runners on the field. While looking for the one in distress, I see 2 others and one looked like she was about to faint. As I am again trying to have an intelligent discussion with the people at the stairs as to why I need to be on the field, they were busy just yelling and putting their hands in my face. During all of this, I see one of our runners being wheeled away on a stretcher.
I finally just jumped over onto the field and ran to Medical. I was kind of freaking out but only on the inside 😉 The Field was mass chaos (not in a bad way, just in a way for me being in a hurry!) but thankfully, Medical was not. Oh, by the way, I had seen and checked on our first distressed runner by now and texted Keith to let him know they were headed his way. Medical ended up being pretty funny once I knew everyone was ok (we spent more time taking pictures than acting too sick). After some time in there, I headed back to the stands.
Although not all of the Half Marathoners had crossed the Finish Line, Keith and I knew we needed to get out on the course and check on those in the Full group who were getting into the really tough miles. We were especially concerned about those that we thought were overdressed so we headed out with extra shorts (weird, right?!), salt tabs, and gels. We were so torn about leaving the stands but there were so many people there, we hoped that would also be the case as each person finished! I knew it would be tough being everywhere at once but, wow, it was like a non-stop game of leapfrog!
We started backwards from the finish and by the time we got to about 25, we spotted Adam in the distance. We watched him pass the 3:30 pacer who was having a rough day and had resorted to walking and this information seemed to be enough of a boost to keep him going. Our plan was to ride to the awful hill at 26, cheer for him, and head out on the course again but that changed when we saw him top the hill. Here he was, our first Marathoner of the day to cross the Finish Line. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Keith saw that I just couldn’t stand not being at the finish so he told me to run. I threw my bike down and ran as fast as I could into the stadium and down the stairs. Luckily I got down there just as Adam was making his way up the first steps to Brandy. After a few minutes Keith made his way in too. We shared some hugs and tears, made a new game plan, and headed out. We had yet to see Courtney all day so we knew we needed to get back to the big miles and find her.
Keith was convinced she was spending the day at Sleep Out’s but we spotted her around mile 25! She looked good and was on time for a new PR. I was in contact with Adam and Brandy and knew they were waiting at the finish so next we knew we needed to find Steve. Off we went and as we rounded the campus, we saw Steve. Then Mike, Chris, Josh, Emily, Sarah. We couldn’t get over how great everyone was looking! Don’t get me wrong. They were all struggling and suffering but they looked incredible. We saw so many people during these miles that were really struggling to put one foot in front of the other. We just kept heading down N. Parkway. Keith gave salt pills to plenty of random people, we tried our best to provide that support that we know we have needed in tough races. Lots more tears headed our way, those both happy and sad!
We eventually saw all but 3 of our Marathoners. We got concerned that there wouldn’t be anyone at the Finish for everyone so we headed back to the stadium. We missed a few of the finishes but that was of a few we had just seen on the course so we knew they were ok. We, fortunately, were able to see everyone else cross the finish line. It is so fun to watch the emotion overcome everyone as they cross the finish line. It’s nearly impossible not to break down.
Keith and I are thrilled to have shared this moment with so many people. We loved being on the course and being in the stands. I loved watching the Half Marathoners bound up the steps and the Full Marathoners crawl up the steps. I loved getting hugs from emotional and appreciative runners. I spend a lot of hours getting people ready for a race and I take things entirely too personally at times. Sometimes I get the “you need to set limits, you shouldn’t work so much” talk from Keith but come race day, all of that goes away…for both of us. Race day is the cherry on top for us too, not just the runners. All of those medals just serve as more proof that I need to keep doing what I’m doing. Let’s do it again next year….and in the meantime I will start working on clones for me and Keith!