I Like To Watch

Pre-Race with Ethan
Pre-Race with Ethan

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.

Anxious runners at the Start Line
Anxious runners at the Start Line

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.

Family & friends await their runners at the 3rd Aid Station
Family & friends await their runners at the 3rd Aid Station

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.

Jack at Aid Station 9
Jack at Aid Station 9

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.

So happy to see Ethan still going strong at Aid Station 9
So happy to see Ethan still going strong at Aid Station 9

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.

HE MADE IT! High-5
HE MADE IT! High-5

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.

A job-well-done pat on the butt ;) I couldn't help it!
A job-well-done pat on the butt 😉 I couldn’t help it!

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!

So proud of this guy! He's my super hero! <3
So proud of this guy! He’s my super hero! ❤

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?

xoxo, MLL

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25 thoughts on “I Like To Watch

  1. I’m going to support my friend in her triathlon on the weekend, I’m really excited about it and you are right it is a great thing to do. I love watching too 😉 especially the really good runners form and making women smile when you say “go girl”, I know I love it when I hear that ….. ps. luv the pat on the butt photo hahaha

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    1. Hey Kate! So awesome that you’re going to support your friend! It’s SO important, more important than I think people, especially non-runners, realize. And I agree, watching the elite runners form is good stuff! It reminds me how much work I have ahead of me! And hey, how could I resist patting that cute butt 😉 Thanks for stopping by for a read!

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      1. Actually once I got dizzy watching runners go past, I do prefer to be the actual runner when it comes down to it!!! Haha. I love your blog and fb page, you rock (and in Newtons too yah!!)

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  2. I totally understand what your saying about the overwhelming emotions regarding supporting a runner/athlete! And as a runner, the equally overwhelming emotions of being supported by someone who ‘gets’ it! I just shared that experience with 6(7 with our driver) other runners in a van for 24+ hours doing The Relay(Calistoga to Santa Cruz) & it was a crazy good feeling!! Thanks for sharing!! Well written!

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  3. Congratulations to Ethan! Wow! 50 miles. How was he after the race? You are truly one proud and very supportive girlfriend 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Liezl! It was a rough night post-race, it was so hot and he worked so hard all day long, his body temperature wouldn’t come down. So it was a night filled with worry. He was feeling MUCH better the following day though and he’s back out running again already! 🙂 Thanks for the support girl, it’s always appreciated! xx

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  4. I watched my best friend complete Ironman St. George last May and that was a turning point for me. It was nothing short of amazing! I was never a runner before that but in less than 4 wks from now I’ll be running my first half marathon..all thanks to him! 🙂

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  5. I love this post. I’ve been watching people compete in running races or triathlon for the last 7-8 years… In a former life (high school), I was a damn good athlete (nation team rower) but lost my way for ever a decade with really no exercise and probably more bad than good in general… 6-7 years ago I watched my brother compete in IM Canada and he made sure I went back and watched the last hour of finishers. That is when the seed was planted… There is something so amazing watching people complete something bigger than themselves… My daughter was born in 2011 and I decided I needed to make some changes in life so I started on the S/B/R path. After 7 months of real training and 45lbs lost I ran 5:17 half ironman last July and am gunning on sub 5 this year due to resolving a foot issue that slowed me down a bit last year… My wife has even joined in the training doing a sprint tri last year (could barely swim or bike before her training started) and a half marathon this year. Keep up the blog (you get to run in some amazing places so it keeps me motivated) and I hope someone who doubted themselves shoes up to a race and receives the same inspiration that you, myself and others see with each finisher…

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    1. Thanks Pete! I appreciate you stopping by for a read and I’m happy you liked my post. The flip side, is that I REALLY appreciate and enjoyed your comment. Both Ethan and I read it together and you have an amazing story and the fact that you turned things around for yourself is very inspiring! Also, way to kick ass in the half Iron, 5:17 is FAST! Nice work! Thank you again for your kind words!

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  6. Never underestimate the amazing power of the spectator in waiting. There is nothing that brings me more back to life than seeing a familiar face. It overcomes all the pain receptors, fatigue, and negative thoughts. Was so awesome to see you at the mile 42.6 aid station! I had a huge boost all the way to the finish. Now we need to return the favor for your first 50 miler:)

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    1. Thanks Jack! I love being a spectator, sometimes as much as I love being the participant. Although while being a spectator, I’m always wishing I was out there running too! It was great seeing you and again, congrats on an amazing race! And how about I do a 50k first 😉

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  7. Hi Kim. I really enjoyed reading this blog post as I am a very nervous “mamma bear” who can’t quite handle watching her “baby bear” run ultras or do triathlons. Therefore, it was so gratifying to read your perspective about watching Ethan and his friends at the Leona Divide. My son John (you know him as Jack:) was running supported by my daughter’s fiance’s parents. It was good to know he had you watching his back and receiving his engaging smile. Thank YOU! And now I must give some serious consideration to being a very nervous spectator/supporter for John at the Tahoe tri in September.

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    1. Hi Candace, thank you for stopping by to read my little blog! There is something truly special about being a spectator/support crew in big events like Ultras and triathlons. And as much as they can be stressful as a spectator, as an athlete, seeing a familiar face can really help get you through a tough race. It’s a pretty powerful thing. I hope you do go support Jack in Tahoe, he will appreciate it to no end and I think you’ll come out of it with a different appreciation too! I’m looking forward to hearing about how you cheered him through the finish line! 🙂

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  8. I love to be a spectator at races. It’s how I began my running life – watching my Mom run races. People say that running isn’t a spectator sport because it can be hard to see the people you are there to see along the course – but even if you miss your friend or family member I think it’s great to be out there cheering for all the other competitors. I love having people along the race route cheering me on – even if I don’t know them. Congrats to your boyfriend for completing a 50 mile run and to you for being out there all day! twinmomruns.blogspot.com

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  9. Wow that is amazing! After reading Eat & Run, I would be so interested in watching an ultra race and of course I’d be cheering on every single person for even attempting such a challenging race.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by for a read. It is a day that I won’t soon forget, cheering on both people I know and complete strangers as they worked their butts off for hours and hours was an amazing experience!

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