Posts Tagged ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll USA’

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Say What, Spectator?!

May 6, 2012

Course volunteers are great. They provide energy, support, and guidance during most races. Always better than a neon traffic cone, it is a welcomed sight to have a smiling face pointing you in the right direction and offering timely encouragement. There is another side to this, however. Often a well-meaning cheer can really hurt your mental game during a tough competition. Here are a few thoughts on that topic from a recent race.

I love giving people on the side of road a big smile or high five when they applaud as I run by them. Law enforcement officers always get a special call of gratitude. A common refrain by spectators is some form of “looking good!” My favorite response to this is often, “feeling terrible!” It is nice to give a chuckle to those who have given up their time as they watch (and smell) this mass of crazy people jogging past them. Problems arise when these supporters try to get overly creative or technical with their comments.

Hear the Volunteers, But Don’t Listen

At this one 5k (3.1 mile) race in particular, the course featured a generously downhill first mile and a half. According to my watch, I ran the first mile in 5:56. Needless to say that whenever an “out and back” type of course starts that way, you always wonder what hills await the return trip to the finish. And, of course, there was plenty of uphill during the second half of this journey through one northwest DC neighborhood. After cresting the top of an especially painful incline, one friendly volunteer yelled out “heartbreak hill, you did it!” There were several reasons why I wanted to knock this guy over and roll him back down the hill. First, heartbreak hill is the last of the excruciating hills of Newton during the Boston Marathon. This is a 5k, hardly an analogous situation, mentally or physically. Second, around the next corner there was another hill of a similar grade incline. Not cool. So here’s to you, overzealous-exaggerating-volunteer-guy.

Hear the Volunteers, But Don’t Trust Them

The temperature had already hit 80 degrees by 8:30 that morning, so it was hot. The second half of that race was a hearty challenge, given the weather and the elevation. Hurtling down the road toward the end, I was about ready for it to be over. At each intersection was a volunteer, more cheerful and energizing than the next. It was really energetic and motivating. One of them, though, decided to encourage the runners by shouting the remaining distance. “Half a mile,” she yelled as we passed. I knew I was going slowly, but I ran plenty more than that after passing her. It definitely messes with your head when you have a specific amount in your head and it turns out to not be true. Remember, for a runner, a quarter mile can be quite significant. So let us raise a glass to you, unknowing-distance-trickster-girl.

Volunteers Are Great, Seriously

To be clear, I do not begrudge volunteers of any of these (admittedly minor) infractions. I love all the hooting and hollering. The energy is what can help myself, and so many other runners, push through the rough patches of any race. It is just this runner’s suggestion that if you are ever watching a race, make your cheers generic. Humor is also appreciated. During the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon I remember one sign that read, “you run better than WMATA,” a funny motivator and simultaneous dig at the notoriously confounding DC metro system. At another juncture, there was a couple who decided to dress up like a ketchup and mustard bottle. One was yelling, “catch up to the next runner” while the other followed with “relish the moment.”

Positive energy helps a ton, while specific perceived strategy tips are often distracting or can fall on deaf ears. So if you keep yelling, I will keep trying to voice my appreciation. I cannot promise a funny joke, but you never know what I will say beyond a certain point of exhaustion.

Have you ever had a memorable or funny interaction with a spectator? Recall any particularly motivating or de-motivating cheers? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

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Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon (Part Two)

April 15, 2012

This is a continuation of the previous post, Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon (Part One).

The comeback

Somewhere while walking that 19th mile in Anacostia Park, I caught up to a guy who was literally dragging his right leg behind him. He told me that he heard a pop in his hamstring two weeks prior to the race, but wanted to try it anyway. The injury caught up to him faster than he could make it to the finish line. Nevertheless, he was determined to try and walk it out to the end. We chatted for a while until he decided that he needed to check out of the race at the approaching medical tent. Further on I trudged for another few hundred yards. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon (Part One)

April 6, 2012

It was the best of races, it was the worst of races. The running of the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll USA marathon took place on March, 17, 2012. The intervening time has given me some distance to really think about the totality of the race and the day as a whole. Here is my best effort at a rehash, in order to share the experience and offer suggestions so that we can all (myself included) learn from it. It may be long, but I promise it won’t take you as long to read as it does to run 26.2 miles.

The preparation

I was mentally ready for this race. Those who know me, know that I was fully in my zone for the week leading up to the day. Tons of water. Nuts about sleep. Plenty of quirks. I have run the marathon twice before, but both were longer than six years ago. The nerves quietly built up inside me as the event neared. For those whom my tense personality negatively impacted in that time, possibly given to short words or crankiness, I do apologize. My first mistake: This is a big deal. It is important. If all goes well, it is a great accomplishment. But it is still just a race. The more love that surrounds us going into it, the better we feel at the end. Read the rest of this entry ?

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