First time as a spectator

Posted: October 23, 2012 in Marathons, race, Running
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Although I was not able to run the 2012 Detroit Free Press Marathon, I wanted to go to the race to cheer on all of the runners and hopefully meet up with some friends of mine who were running. My good friend Jason was running it with his wife Dawn, and our friend Mary. This was Dawn’s first attempt at running a full marathon. Jason and Mary were both battling injuries so I really wanted to be there to show my support for them.


One month earlier, Jason and I were running the Akron Marathon and Jason would get completely pumped up whenever we ran past anyone ringing a cowbell. So, on my way to the race I stopped at a local music store to buy one. I told the clerk that I needed the biggest, loudest one they had. He set me up with a really nice (and very large) cowbell made by Pearl and some Vic Firth drumsticks. I figured even if I wasn’t able to find my friends, I would still enjoy cheering on the other runners and have some fun with my awesome new cowbell. Around 11am I arrived downtown. As I walked toward the race route, I could feel the excitement in the air. About 24,000 runners were participating in this year’s race. I weaved my way thru barricades and crowds to make it down to the Detroit River Walk near mile 23. I knew my friends were not quite there yet, so I walked the race route in reverse in hopes of finding them. A short while later, I crossed the Belle Isle Bridge to take in a great view of the city and continue my search.


As I strolled along, I rang the cowbell and cheered for the passing runners. They greeted me with smiles, high fives, and the occasional thumbs up. I was loving it. My disappointment from not being able to do the race diminished and I was full of happiness. Although I have run many races, I never attended one as a spectator. I quickly learned that being on the sidelines was a ton of fun. Two guys ran past with Indian headdresses on and one of them called out my name. It was my friend Eddie and his buddy. After shaking his hand and wishing him good luck I continued on. Not even a quarter mile later I noticed a former running buddy of mine. This was also her first attempt at a full marathon. I trained her from the ground up, so I was very proud to see her out there running strong.


Near mile 18 I finally ran into Jason, Dawn, and Mary. I was so happy to see them. Lucky for them, I had a some Blue Moon beer, pain cream, GU, and salt and vinegar potato chips. We had a beer together and then they were off. I walked back to the bridge to cross back over to the river walk. I ran into them again near mile 22 and they were at a very slow pace. Their pain was getting unbearable so I decided to tag along with them for a little bit to give them moral support and refreshments if they needed them. I was definitely not dressed to run, and I had a backpack and cooler that I was carrying, but none of that mattered. What mattered was my friends finishing this race safely.


I decided to stick with them all the way to the finish. They battled thru all of the pain and completed the race. I was so proud of all of them, but especially Dawn for completing her first full marathon. It took me back to that race the year before where I did my first 26.2. The pride and sense of accomplishment I felt after crossing that finish line was unexplainable. I could see it in Dawns eyes. She did it. And, although she was in a tremendous amount of pain, she felt that amazing feeling of victory. The marathon is something that will change your life. Somehow, everyone who finishes comes out of it a stronger, more confident person. As I drove home that day and reflected on the event, I realized that I should attend more races as a spectator. It means a lot to a runner when people encourage them and cheer for them. Even if you have never met and will probably never see each other again, you can still make a diffence by simply encouraging them. I look forward to more events in the future where I can bring out the cowbell and lift people’s spirits.

  1. Timothy, you are so awesome and supportive. I love the giant cowbell.

  2. Frank K. says:

    I’ve seen little cowbells at races, but getting a big one at a music store was truly inspired. Thanks for checking out my blog.

  3. seetinarun says:

    What a wonderful post! I’ve been on the receiving end of sideline encouragement in some tough races and it means the world. What a great supporter you are!

  4. runcolbyrun says:

    Sometimes being a spectator is just as rewarding! I will admit the Blue Moon was an awesome addition! Thanks for following our blog! Nice finding you!

  5. What a great story! I enjoy your style of writing! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to reading more from you.

  6. My last half marathon gave out cowbells as the medal. Called the urban cow half. Here’s the recap of that one.

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