Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Spectators at Scotia Toronto Marathon
We arrived at the Scotia Marathon finish area after the marathon had been in progress for a bit over an hour. The first finishers, which would certainly include the 2009 champion Mungara, were expected at around the 2:08 mark. I was looking forward to this, naturally, since I'm almost always out on the road while the first finishers shower, eat, and basically land back home in Kenya. What I didn't expect was just how intensely emotional this experience would be for me as a spectator.
I was completely blown away by the purely superhuman performance of the top four men and the top four women, all of whom blasted past the finish line faster than men and women had ever done before on Canadian soil. When you witness a historical, unparalleled performance in any field of human endeavour, it makes even the air around you feel different. It was one of those "I was there when..." moments for me, and I thought that was the highlight of the day. However, incredibly, there was a helluva lot more drama to come.
When you've run a race before and experienced the pain, glory, disappointment, joy, sorrow that come with it, watching tens of thousands of individual dramas unfold in front of you half a kilometre from the finish line is almost too much to take in. After you start cheering the runners on, after you start to will each one across the line just down the street, you no longer care that you're losing your voice and looking like a wildman. There are people limping on the arms of medics, runners who appear not to be breaking a sweat, others who look like they've reached the top of Mount Everest. Some are intensely focused on getting to the finish; others high five everyone along the route. Still others are practically dancing with the ecstasy of achievement. Tears are flowing everywhere from happiness and pain, sometimes both.
And when you see friends and they see you, it's a feeling that's hard to convey because you know what it means to you to have wild cheerleaders when you're within striking range of the finish line. The stories that have led each and every one of those runners to this point are written all over their faces; they don't run 42 kilometres for no reason at all.
So go to a marathon that you're not running in simply to cheer, and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. After watching that you'll find action thrillers and dramas positively humdrum by comparison.