When I tell people that I’m going to watch a 50k or 50 mile race I get various reactions, while most people think it’s awesome, I’ve had a few people question me, wondering why, or wondering if I’ll get bored, asking me what I’ll do for all that time. The answer to those questions is very easy, why wouldn’t I, never, and cheer my heart out! This past weekend my boyfriend, Ethan aka The Ginger Runner, ran his first 50-mile race, the Leona Divide, and without hesitation I knew I wanted to be there, for the whole damn thing. I know many of you wouldn’t consider waking up at 3:30 on a Saturday morning, driving an hour to stand in the cold, and then the extreme heat for 12 hours a fun Saturday, but this girl does! 🙂 I knew it was going to be a long, hot day, but I had NOTHING to complain about, I wasn’t the one suffering and working my ass off on those molten-hot trails! And as a runner, I know the importance of having someone at a race supporting you and I know the feeling you have when you see a familiar face during a tough sufferfest. It can mean the world and it can help push through those miles that just seem impossible.
5:45am I arrived at the start line about 15 minutes prior to the race, grabbed Ethan’s drop bag and got a sense of when he and his running buddies Billy, Dave and Eric, would be passing through the aid stations that I’d be at throughout the day. Standing at the start line, surrounded by hundreds of runners, many of whom were running their first 50k or 50 miler was intense, the energy level was high and you could literally feel the nerves and tension in the air. Before I knew it the runners were off, headed up the first of MANY hilly fire roads.
8:00am The first point that crew was able to see their runners was at the 3rd aid station, which was mile 16.4. Me and our friend, Andrew, arrived plenty early and got situated, ready to see our runners come through. Almost as soon as we arrived, we saw Dave, who placed 10th in the 50k that day, blow through the aid station making it look effortless! A little while later, Billy & Ethan, who were both running the 50-miler, came through. Being support crew for Ethan is nothing new to me, I’ve supported him in both cycling and running, and every time at check points it takes all I have to not start crying like a baby when I see him, and usually I fail. 🙂 Yes, I’m an emotional mess at races, especially at ones of these huge, unimaginable distances, I’m like his teary, badass, rock. 😉 Ethan checked in with us and at this point, it was still fairly early in the day, but the heat was creeping in, he was doing really great, feeling strong and pushing forward, I don’t even think he broke a sweat yet! He re-filled his water bottles and off he went, up the already extremely hot, trail.
11:30am Andrew and I decided we’d head on back to the start line to catch some of the top 10 finishers for the 50k. Shortly after we arrived our friend Dave crossed the finish line, closing out the top 10 males for the 50k like a champ! We found a place in the shade, because by this point in the day it was smoking hot, and watched as runners were congratulated at the finish line. Little did we know, at the 5:53 mark on the clock, we had watched the WINNER, Robert Krar, of the 50 miler race came through! It was really awesome to see him finish, but he was SO damn fast that most of the spectators assumed he was a 50k runner. BAD. ASS.
1:30pm We headed up to aid station 9, which was the 42.6 mile mark. Andrew, Dave and I found a nice shady area to hang out in, while we watched the exhausted, now very hot, very sweaty runners come through. At this point I knew that my estimation of when Ethan would come through would likely be off because it was such a large gap since I had last saw him. Just after 2pm Billy came through, feeling hot and tired but still going strong. I saw my friend Jack, a fellow FurtherFasterForever teammate, come through and was now anxiously awaiting Ethan’s arrival. As a spectator/crew member and runner myself, I know that a lot can happen between aid stations. Things can take a sudden turn, you can go from feeling like you’re on the top of the world to feeling like you’re barely hanging on and in high temps like this, I was hoping he had slowed his pace and was running smart.
It was around 3:30pm when I saw Ethan come down the trail towards the aid station, still running like a machine, I sighed a sigh of relief, gave him a big squeeze, tried to hold back my tears, grabbed his drop bag and we were off to the water/icing area. At this point he let me know that he was having a challenging day, but was still able to push forward and get the job done, the heat alone would be enough to break anyone, never mind the gruelling hills and massive distance. Ethan grabbed some food, re-filled his hydration pack and was headed back out on the trail for the final 7.4 miles.
4:00pm Finish line! I made my way back to the finish line where there were loads of people celebrating their amazing feats! I had just missed Billy and Jack come through the finish line. I met up with Ethan’s family and our other friends and began playing the anxious waiting game. I did the math and figured that if he was feeling ok, and was able to keep pushing we’d expect to see him around 5pm. I will say, that out of the entire day, this was the most exciting/anxiety-riddled/stressful part. I realize I’m only a spectator, and not the one running, but once you have someone you care about out on those trails for that long you’ll understand, trust me. I nervously paced around the finish line area, chatting with the freshly medalled runners who had completed something that I can’t even fathom.
Once it got close to when I thought Ethan would be finishing I took my place at the final corner of the race. I can’t even begin to tell you how extremely excited and proud I was to see him come around that final corner, I started jumping up and down yelling “he’s here, HE’S HERE!”. I gave a few words of encouragement and ran a few feet towards the finish line with him and watched as he crossed the finish line. I have never been so proud and relieved. To all of you who finished the Leona Divide 50k or 50 miler that day, congrats, I’m in awe of you all! Each and every one of you are amazing!
I know this is a long blog, and likely not one of my most interesting, but I really wanted to share this with you all. There’s something very special, even magical, about watching a race and supporting the runners, it’s pure inspiration and motivation. For those of you who don’t know, I got my very first race inspiration while watching my brother and his now wife, Sheena, run the Vancouver marathon a few years ago. Never before had I thought about being a runner or running 26.2 miles for fun. While I stood in the rain and wind watched my brother and his wife, along with thousands of other determined runners, cross that finish line I was extremely moved, motivated and inspired. I wanted to be out there suffering, working hard and accomplishing goals. So if you have a runner in your life, I urge you to please go out and support them, heck go out and support a race even if it’s all strangers you’re cheering on, it really does make a difference and I guarantee you that those runners will truly appreciate you being out there for them. I know it may not sound exciting, but the emotions, victories and tears that come along with some of these races is absolutely worth it.
Have you guys (runners and non-runners) gone out to support a runner? Were you wishing you were out there running too, or just happy to be there supporting someone?