Monday, July 27, 2009

Proud as punch: diary of a marathon supporter

6:11AM, Embarcadero, San Francisco, Mile 0
Hubby joins x thousand other runners for his first marathon. The first wave went off at 5:30AM; it's still dark, and everyone is lined up for the porta-potties which are woefully inadequate. As a result, we barely have time for a couple of pics before he squeezes through the fence to catch up with the back of his wave. I'm praying he's stretched properly, but have no time to lose as I must drop his gear at sweat-check and then seek out the spectator's shuttle bus in order to try to catch him at mile 4.

6:45AM, Crissy Field, Mile 4
The bus worked great and I'm in position with plenty of time to eat a breakfast snack and chat with the other supporters. We're somewhere near mile 4 so the runners look pretty fresh as they pass us. I'm half expecting him to be early, but he's right on time, which is great because it means he resisted the urge to start out too fast. Our strategic choice of bright green shirt is another plus: he's very easy to spot in the mass of white tops.

8:20AM, Golden Gate Park, Mile 13
The shuttle bus delivers me with an hour to spare. I would love to find a Starbucks but instead walk through the drizzly park to the start point for the second-half-marathon where I can be sure of finding another porta-potty. After that, I hang around mile 13 to cheer the runners. The first-half-marathoners have split off by this point, so they're running on a quiet, damp road and I figure they could use a little support. I wish I'd brought something with me to make noise; my voice can't encourage everyone. Many of the runners thank me for being there, which is super nice - others want to know the time as this is an important half-way point for them. Hubby passes, again right on his predicted time, looking just fine. You wouldn't guess he'd been running for over 2 hours and has the worst of the hills behind him. I cheer like crazy and might even have bellowed out 'love you!' to his back.

8:50AM, Golden Gate Park, Mile 15.8
I beetle through the park to our next planned cheering point, just a few hundred yards for me but nearly 3 hilly miles for him. I get a great spot on a corner where the course turns; this section is far busier because the second-half marathoners (fresh as daisies after just 2 miles) have joined the throng. Again, much more cheering and my voice is feeling it, but probably less than their quads. Hubby spots me and takes the corner wide so I can get some photos. As he passes, I realize he's likely to stop at the water point just up the hill, so I take off after him to cheer him on again. The runners give me puzzled looks as I overtake them on the hill.

9:50AM, 16th Street, Mile 22
Again, the shuttle bus worked like a dream and I had time for a snack and a drink before taking up my position on the street. This section of the course alternates to help traffic flow, so it's important to find a bit always in use. Some sensible supporters here have got noise-making gear and I regret being voice-reliant. The runners look like they can use all our help; traditionally this is the part of a marathon that's hardest, before the end is in sight. They're also coming up a slight hill which probably feels like Everest; many are walking. Hubby spots me from afar and waves for his photos. I can't believe he's still looking just fine - his planned timings have clearly worked well and he's obviously going to breeze home.
Having been so lucky with the bus all morning, I had now formulated hopes that I might be able to get to the finish line in order to cheer his triumph. Sadly, that was not to be - a crowd of us were frustrated when the only bus to show up was insistent on going back to Golden Gate Park (duh, who wants to go backwards on the course?). Our attempts to bribe the driver into a route change were unsuccessful.... at 10:25AM I was still on the bus when the text message to tell me hubby had finished came in. However, overall the shuttle buses worked great and I'd recommend them.

10:30AM, Embarcadero, Mile 26.2
After making hasty meeting arrangements 5 hours earlier, I'm thrilled that we manage to find each other. He looks great, is clearly tired, but still functioning. Hugs, photos, admiration of the marathon medal follow. With a time of 4:18, this was a respectable first marathon. Early in training, 4 hours had been talked of, but with a trail-running ankle injury at 2 months out, he was lucky to be running at all. I am insanely proud.

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