I have no desire to ever run a marathon, but today I watched one. DIL Nicole was running in the first-ever St. Louis stop of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series. Hubby Tony and I went to support her and cheer her on.
Nicole's been working up to her first marathon since running a half-marathon back in the spring. She, Son Brian, and a friend of theirs who was also running came in town yesterday from Columbia and spent the night at our house. I cooked a pre-marathon dinner of baked chicken, spaghetti, salad, and bread. Afterwards, we relaxed and watched the Cardinals win another World Series game in decisive fashion.
The race started at 7:30 this morning. The runner's car left the house a little after 6:30, and Tony and I got on the road 20 minutes after that. When we got downtown, we parked on the south side of the race area, and got there just in time to see the impressive array of runners (which stretched for blocks) waiting for their turn to begin. Between the marathon and half marathon, there were 20,0000 entrants. They started in waves, based on the finish time they'd estimated. All the runners with similar times were assigned to a corral, and there were 23 corrals.
A sound system was broadcasting loud classic rock music. As each group of runners came up to the starting line, the masters of ceremony announced them, then sent them on their way. In the front of each group there were pace runners carrying tall signs signifying the projected finish time. The first couple of groups (which were the faster runners) looked like they were taking the race very seriously, but people further back in the crowd seemed to be having more fun. I even saw a couple with their cell phones out, taking pictures of the event.
Once all the runners had gone by we were able to find Brian, then walk back to the car to execute our plan for the day. At the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, there's a live band playing on each mile of the course. We thought we'd drive to several different spots along the route and listen to the music while we waited to watch Nicole run by, then end up at the finish line. We had studied the course map (and list of bands) ahead of time, and chosen a few that sounded interesting.
However, we'd not factored street closings into the plan. After we had to turn around a couple of times before we even got out of downtown, we revised our program. Instead of Mile 6 for our first stop, we headed towards Mile 9. As we got out of the car, I could hear the music (even though we were a block away). When we got to the main street, there were quite a few spectators cheering on the runners. We chose a spot on the sidewalk to sit. Runners flowed past us, some individually and some in groups. Every ten minutes we saw the pace banner carriers, so we used those to gauge when we might see Nicole. Ten minutes before her expected time I looked up and she was running by, in a bright shirt that was easy to see. We yelled her name and she turned her head to acknowledge us, giving us a friendly wave.
After Nicole was gone, we walked back to the car for our next stop. However, once again we ran into problems with closed streets and we didn't know if we'd be able to make it on time, so we changed our plans again and headed to Mile 19. When we got there we parked the car and again headed towards the music. While we were waiting for Nicole, I saw some people go by for a second time. There was a couple dressed in superhero outfits, a man with a bright red Mohawk, and a woman with a pink Lady Gaga wig. This time it took about a half hour for Nicole to run by. Once again she gave us a wave when she saw us, although she looked like she was getting pretty tired.
We got back in the car and headed for our last stop, the finish line. We had to drive around downtown for a while to find a parking space, but when I saw someone leaving Tony made a quick U-turn and we nabbed that space, which was only three blocks from the finish line festival area. The actual finish line was three blocks farther; we had to navigate through a big throng of already-finished runners and their supporters. We took up places along the fence and waited for Nicole. When she ran by she looked exhausted, and didn't even hear us call her name.
We met her at the end of the runner's Secure Zone. After a few minutes she decided it was time to go home. Brian was driving, so she could stretch out and relax.