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Who won?

That was my question to a number of people after I crossed the finish line last year at Boston. The responses ranged from blank stares to “I think the guy who’s won it a bunch of times!”.

None of the answers were correct, and I didn’t find out who really won until I got home that afternoon.

***

6 months later I watched the most exciting finish to a marathon I have every seen. Granted it was on the small screen on my computer, but Sammy Wanjiru’s finish at the Chicago Marathon last year was absolutely breathtaking!

I was exhausted by the end.

***

My father and I were chatting about marathons the other night. Like me, he can pop on marathon coverage on the TV and enjoy it from beginning to end. For a lot of people, this sounds like torture – you’re just sitting there watching people run! But if you have ever run a race (my pop actually held the county record in the 880 yard dash back in the day), whether in High School, College or as an adult, you get it. It doesn’t matter if you were competitive enough to win, as long as you were competitive enough to want to beat the guy who was running next to you.

There is a thrill to watching people compete in this second oldest of competitions – I imagine that the oldest competition is the fist fight. Whether it is watching Sammy Wanjiru turn it on after being broken three times or reading about my good friend Mike’s battle it out with the Cat in the Hat, competition is compelling. I get to experience the thrill without putting in the effort, and that can be appealing.

And so, with a competitive field toeing the line in Hopkinton this year, with Ryan Hall once again attempting to bring home a win by an American at Boston, there is part of me that wishes I could be a spectator again.

My barber, who ran a 2:28 Boston back in the day, said to me yesterday that he won’t even go to the marathon, preferring to watch it on TV so he can watch every moment.

So, do I really want to be a spectator instead of a participant in this year’s Boston Marathon? No. Frakkin’. Way.

Boston IS the goal.

Boston IS the race.

Boston IS Mecca.

There is a part of me that wants to see those moments, to watch the elites, to encourage each and every runner, but there is no place that I’d rather be on April 18th than sharing the road with my fellow 27,000 marathoners.

Now, to find out who really won last year, click —>HERE<—.

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Why do you run?

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Don’t be a spectator. Don’t let life pass you by.

-Lou Holtz

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In every race that I have run, I have always been grateful for the people who come to cheer the runners on. Whether coming for a friend or family member, these people end up cheering everybody on. It is a great energy booster for me as a runner when random strangers cheer me on and even a bigger one when it’s from my family and friends.

Last Sunday was the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon. I had no plans of running it, but I had two friends who were. Had I not been nursing this knee, I probably would have shown up last-minute to run, however, I did the right thing and staked out a spot late in the race to cheer on my buddies (Josh – @bostoncardiovet and Alett – @petfxr…I’d find out later that Alett had suffered a minor injury and was not running). I got to my spot maybe 20 -30 minutes early. I asked a cop what mile marker we were at (just shy of 11) and then asked the spectators already there how many people had already gone by (maybe 10 at most). I looked at my watch. 90 minutes, shy of mile 11, 10 runners. I did the math. Damn! I wish I was running this. Given healthy conditions, I could have had a shot at being one of those top 10. As the runners began to trickle by, I cheered each and every one of them on. Some said thank you, others were in a zone and kept on running. I envied each and every one of them.

This was the first race I had been to where I wasn’t a participant, and I’ve got to tell you, it was hard. I’m not talking “oh geez, I wish I were running too” hard.  No, I’m talking “pang in my heart, itch in my legs, must resist the urge” kind of hard!   I was never a huge racing fan before I started running, and even after I started running, I didn’t get into races until I ran my first one. As great as it was to cheer on complete strangers, all I wanted to do was run.

When Josh came running by about 20 minutes later I kicked off my flip-flops, put my coffee down and began running with him. Yes, I know. I’m rehabbing and I’m not supposed to be running! But I promise I was forced to run lightly since I was completely barefoot. It felt great.   Just being out there with the other runners felt absolutely awesome.  After taking Josh up a particularly steep hill, I bid him good luck and jogged back to my spot, cheering each runner I passed.

So, what did I learn?

I learned that running a mile barefoot isn’t so bad. It actually got me thinking that maybe one of these days I’ll try a 10K or half-marathon completely bare.

But the biggest thing I learned on Sunday was that I don’t like being a spectator.  I will continue to support friends who run local races, but I have a feeling that if I’m healthy, I’m a lot more likely to be joining them at the starting line instead of cheering them on.  I think that I can apply this to other parts of my life as well.  How many of us have spent a good chunk of our adult years as a spectators or watchers?  While I try to figure out what that means, I’ll just have to start with a half marathon next week (anybody else running the Boston Run to Remember?) and some 5K’s over the summer.

I can’t wait to get back on the road.

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