Buffaloguy and I joined the legions of other Marathon Watchers today. We set out for Moorhead and the Concordia campus early, arriving about 8:45 at the bell tower in the center of Concordia’s buildings and grounds. It was cold! There was an aid station at the bell tower and many of the workers were wearing winter jackets. We weren’t, so we sought shelter from the wind in a corner of the Yvilisaker library building. A fellow from Saskatchewan joined us. He was wearing shorts and a light shirt and was really feeling the cold by then. He was waiting to see a friend come through and it was a touching story because the friend is in remission from brain cancer and wanted to run the marathon as a celebration of that fact. Other friends were waiting at various places along the route to cheer on and encourage their running friend.
We saw the first runner come through; it was Mr. Wallin, the winner of the mens’ marathon and he had a good lead already at about 9:45. Two wheelchair marathoners came through earlier than the runners and one of them was really going strong, with his motorcyle friends running interference for him. Amazing, the strength in the arms of those guys. He was going swiftly when we saw him go through. We saw more runners go through and then decided it was time to head to the Fargodome to watch as the marathoners crossed the finish line inside the Dome. It was exciting; there was a huge crowd on hand both on the floor and in the seating sections. People lined a fence set up along the final few feet of the course, cheering wildly, ringing bells, shrieking loudly. The runners began to enter..the half-marathoners were arriving first but it was not long til the first 3 men who ran the 26K route crossed the line, looking amazingly fresh. You can certainly spot an experienced marathoner…their gait is smooth and confident and they do not seem to be winded at all. I puffed just walking around the concourse and up the steps to find a good vantage point. I was just happy that I could walk without my knee bothering me.
A few runners were clearly in distress at the end of the course. A couple of them accepted wheelchair rides to an area where they got some medical attention. Others leaned heavily on volunteers or family members after crossing the line. A few came in, clearly suffering from muscle pain. All of the finishers immediately received their medals and went through the end of the course, heading ultimately for the food (spaghetti, fresh fruit, bagels and beverages of their choice—mostly water or gatorade!) We observed some of the runners coming up into the seating section to watch the end of the race for their friends; some were moving slowly and painfully but many were sprinting up the steps, to our amazement.
The world of marathoners is a culture all its own. They live in a rarified milieu that only long distance runners understand. It is inspiring to see them do what they love. Even the inexperienced runners who had trained and trained were so joyful at the finish. They would raise their arms high as they crossed the finish line or some came in holding hands with mates, friends, or a whole team, as in the case of the relay runners.
I am really glad that we spent a good part of our Saturday being Marathon Watchers.