It has been an atypical running year for me. Usually I average one race a month with a couple key races a year to which my training is focused. But this year I have raced only a handful of times due to a variety of setbacks including chronically tight hamstrings, scheduling conflicts and lack of motivation. Rather than forcing workouts or racing just to race, Tad and I agreed to call it. We cancelled any up-coming races and used the remainder of the summer to do things that we typically cannot do under the constraints of a tight workout and recovery schedule.
Taking a break has given me the opportunity to play a different role at races: the spectator. While I love the thrill and excitement of everything that encompasses running a race, there is an equally − if not more − joyful feeling watching others fight to the finish line.
There are few situations that I encounter that elicit such a ‘Mother Teresa’ effect on me than when watching a race. I feel an intense desire to assist the runners in any way possible to succeed. I want to untie mud-caked shoelaces, zip up jackets for numb hands, pick up discarded clothing and give away all of my extra calories. I want to yell ahead to the gang of stroller-pushers to clear the way and scold owners for not keeping their dogs on a leash.
Knowing and understanding what goes on behind the scenes, from all of the preparation it takes to get to the starting line healthy, to all of the miles logged, to all of the hard workouts and to dealing with the inevitable setbacks, I feel such a strong connection with the racers, even to those I have never met. The adrenaline rush I feel watching finishers come through the chute surprises me. I am equally moved by the first place finisher all the way to the last place finisher.
Spectating gives me perspective. It gets me out of my head and allows me to invest in something other than my personal pursuits. It reignites my passion for running and inspires me to push myself out of my comfort zone. Being a spectator gives me an unwavering appreciation for our sport and the community that makes it so special.
Call for comments:
What is your favorite race to be a spectator and not a racer?
What is your most inspiring memory from watching a race?