I didn't run....but I worked hard this weekend. I have a new appreciation for everyone who makes a race possible, and not only possible, but fun.
Saturday was freaking BEAUTIFUL weather. So I hopped on my bike and went downtown for my shift at the Girls on the Run booth at the expo. As it turns out, biking makes navigating downtown SO much easier. I hate going downtown because I hate traffic and having to search for a parking spot and paying to park. Oh, how I love my bike for cutting two of those things out of the equation entirely and making the other one easier to deal with.
I got there early enough to freshen up and reapply deodorant and all that fun stuff before walking around the expo. Waaay too crowded in spots for my taste, and I'm proud to say I got out of there without buying ANYTHING. I talked myself out of buying any running clothing until I can actually run again. I found out that I look ridiculous in a bondi band (although I will probably order some chica bands when money is more expendable!) What I nearly bought was a pair of orthaheel sandals. I got to walk around in a pair. Holy arch support. They made my leg feel super good, but $50+ for a pair of shoes is just not doable right now if they do anything short of curing me entirely.
At the Girls on the Run booth, I answered questions about the program, hopefully without sounding like a total doof, and ran the tiara making station. The tiara is a staple of GOTR, and for a dollar donation, kids (and a few adults) were able to make their own. By the time I got there, some of the more popular letters were out, so I became the expert on making E's out of F's and A's out of W's and H's and V's. I was impressed by some of the parents that let their little boys make and wear pink tiaras because they really wanted to. Defeating rigid gender roles, one tiara at a time.
Rode my bike back home.....how the heck did I end up riding against the wind both ways?? Had Don Pablos with some friends and ate like a horse after over 25 miles of biking and relatively small amounts of food.
Bright and early Sunday morning....I'd considered biking to the meetup point, but I was feeling a bit sore, it was supposed to rain, and I didn't want to (a) leave my bike out in the rain, and (b) end up having to ride home soaking wet. I heard thunder, and that confirmed my decision. At the meeting spot, I was assigned to a spot near mile marker 15 with my partner, who turned out to be pretty cool. And we had a great spot in the race, because it was where the course does kind of an out-and-back - out down one side of Murray, a few turns at the easternmost point, and back down the other side of Murray, where the same people would pass us at mile 16.5 or so. The disappointing thing was that we didn't seem to have much of a job except to make sure that people were going the right way and weren't dying, and we had a race director with us who told us he usually pretty much handles that on his own.
But we did end up being needed - a little. My partner and I ended up back-to-back so we could monitor the different parts of the course. And I ended up with plenty to do, not because the course needed to be monitored, but....
....because I had had an idea. I wanted Running Buddy to be able to spot me on the sidelines, so I figured I should hold a sign or something, but I couldn't come up with anything. Then I heard about a course monitor who was considering giving out cookies. No way was I baking that many cookies....but what do runners need in the middle of a tough race? What did I need during my half? I needed a freaking HUG.
So "FREE HUGS" it was. And it worked!! It was a while before I gave out my first hug, but I figured the faster people wouldn't be willing to stop. Then a guy I recognized as one of the speedier members of the training group offered a high-five. Then, a little while later, a tough-looking guy came running toward me with his arms out.
I didn't count, but I probably hugged about a hundred people. Some of the faster ones were still running and I had to brace myself to stay upright and take a few steps with them. I got way more exercise hugging than I realized I would - when someone is running towards you with their arms out, it's pretty much impossible not to run toward them as well. Nobody seemed to care that I kept running out onto the course. A few people told me I was too far out of their way - I was on the outside of a corner - so I ran to them. I had to do some quick footwork to get from one to another. Some people actually waited their turn for a hug. One guy doubled back for one. Another person yelled to me when they passed again because they wanted another one. Some said that they were too sweaty and they were sure I didn't want a hug. I guess they didn't realize I was already covered in runner sweat! I gave people words of encouragement with each one - if I caught their name on their bib, I'd call them by name, tell them they were awesome, that they were doing great. I heard a lot of "I needed that". One guy told me not to tell his wife. I got one kiss on the cheek, from a girl. It seemed to be providing some entertainment for the police officers standing near me and some of the spectators. None of the cops wanted a hug, though! A lot of people seemed too ultra-focused to see anything around them, and a lot of people smiled at the sign but didn't stop. I get that - sometimes you get to the point where if you stop, it's impossible to start again. Making people smile while they're running is good, too.
I also hugged one bike monitor, and two little girls who were spectating and came up to me, but were too shy to ask. After the race, when traffic was back on the road but was moving slowly, one girl got out of a car and wordlessly gave me a hug.
Between hugs, I was yelling my head off. If someone had their name on their shirt, I called them by name. I got lots of smiles in return. It was fun to have a chance to see all the runners - from the lead guy who came flying by with nobody behind him for a good three minutes, to watching for the lead female, to some of the more interesting runners:
-two guys running together; one's shirt said "BOO" and the other's said "YAH"
-a couple whose shirts said "Getting married in 5 days"
-a guy who ran the whole thing barefoot. I don't mean Vibrams barefoot, I mean nothing between his feet and the pavement. HOLY CRAP.
-a guy whose shirt said "Running sucks"
-a few people who, instead of getting their names on their bibs, had nicknames. The first one I saw was a kinda larger, hairy middle-aged guy who had "Sexy Beast" on his. He got a hug.
-costumes including a shark, a tube of toothpaste holding a big toothbrush, Mr. Incredible and Wonder Woman, and of course lots of pig-themed costumes.
Of course, in there I was looking for people I knew. I got a text when RB had hit 13.1 (in 2:01!) and I started jumping up and down. I tried to keep an eye out for her and at one point I was afraid I missed her, but my timing was off and I realized it had only been 13 minutes. The 4:00 pace group passed and I was a little worried about her, but then I saw the only Yankees hat I had seen during the whole race and knew it was her. Lots of yelling and jumping up and down - NO, I'm not supposed to be jumping, but there's only so much I can help!! She looked a little tired (I was also positioned just after a steepish hill) but great. A little while later, I saw Erin, the director of GOTR Cincinnati, flying toward me in her own tiara. She got a big hug too.
Toward the end, more people wanted hugs. I felt truly awful for the people who were out there struggling, because I know how that feels. One girl looked like she had never been in so much pain in her life. Some were limping, although they all told me they were ok. Some of the walkers toward the end told me they were really hurting. They got big hugs. I was really worried about one walker, a guy with lots of tattoos who told me he was in bad shape and headed for the medical tent before he moved on. It seemed to take him forever to come back around and I was worried about him. I made sure to watch for him and give him a second hug. I wish I would've remembered his number so I can see if he finished. His bib said "Tank". I hugged a whole family that was walking together, and they made sure I hugged grandma, who was old enough for walking a marathon to be very, very impressive. I was really impressed by the people at the tail end, who were walking right in front of the sweeps bus that picks people up who can't maintain the required 16:00 pace. That's gotta be a rough spot - knowing you're last and that bus is on your tail - but they were still going, laughing and having a good time. A lot of spectators left, a lot of volunteers left, they shut down the water station, but I made sure to stick around until the last people had moved on.
In the end, I'm really glad I did it. Support means everything out there, and all the hugging was therapeutic for me, too. I didn't even smell nearly as bad afterward as you'd think! Oh, and the rain? It let up before long at all. I'm still glad I didn't bike, though. My leg was hurting after all that standing/jumping/running myself, not to mention the bike-riding yesterday AND we went bowling last night too. I went home, ice-massaged it, and decided to steer clear of any other exercise today, with the exception of some light yoga later.
Do I feel great about not being out there myself? Nah. That's not possible. There's no way NOT to wish that I was out there, too. I thought I would feel more mentally ok once the pig was over. Nope, I'm still a bit of a mess. I'm not gonna lie, I held in a lot of tears while I was out there and let them out when I got home.This past week, I've pretty much wanted to run and hide from everyone and everything. This injury thing is still a special kind of mental agony. The only thing that's going to cure that is being able to run again.
In the meantime, though, I give really good hugs, and if I couldn't be out there, that was probably the most fun I could possibly have had.
Oh yeah, of course I wore my GOTR tiara. I'll take a picture of it later - it's in my car and I'm too tired to go out there. :)