This weekend, the Marine Corps Marathon is here again. While I have never run the marathon and probably never will (I am a retired marathoner), this race is always on my calendar for one very important reason – Race Cheering.
I love cheering at this race. No matter the weather. It’s always a ton of fun. MCM is a bucket list race for a lot of people. It’s a race that immediately fills up and that people sometimes try for years to get into. And it’s not an easy course. It’s got a required minimum 14 minute per mile pace, and there are various cutoffs you have to make on the course.
My preferred cheer spot is just after one of those cutoffs – right after the 14th Street Bridge. This is late in the race. This year, due to the route change, the end of the bridge is around mile 20, usually it’s closer to mile 22. Having run the bridge in other races, it’s a tough part of any course. It’s over a mile long, there are no spectators allowed on the bridge (though often one or two manage to sneak on), and because the bridge ends with a downhill, you can’t see the end. It just seems to stretch on forever.
From our cheer spot, we can see the faces of people as they realize they’ve made it over the bridge. They’re into the last miles of the race and they’re past the cutoffs.
The big thing that we all insist on doing when we cheer is that we wait for the very last runner to come through. I’ve been at races where I’m late in the race and it’s a tough experience. You can tell there were spectators there cheering, but they’ve mostly cleared out by then. Just when you need that emotional push from a stranger, there’s no one there. So we make a point to be there for all of those people coming through at the end. It’s fun to see their faces when they realize that we’ve saved them snacks (because of course we hand out snacks).
It does sort of make the day anticlimactic. “Was that the last person? Yep, that was the last person. Okay, let’s go home.” But it’s a lot of fun, and I’ll have my cowbell out to cheer for each and every runner racing this weekend.