By BECKY WYLIE
So just like that the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon are over. I have another medal to add to my collection. My time was not what I wanted it to be and I never really felt like I had a good pace. As I criticize myself about how I could have finished faster, I remind myself that I finished. Enough said.
If you have never witnessed a marathon then let me entertain you. It is an amazing spectacle. It is my firm belief that when someone states on the registration form this is their first race, they should get a pamphlet titled “Marathon 101”. When I ran my first marathon I had no one to tell me what to expect or how to prepare. Boy, was I in for a surprise. I have never seen so many people all huddled together in my life.
This year’s Austin Marathon had 12,000 half marathon runners and 6,000 full marathon runners. We may all start together, but we definitely do not finish together.
So since there is no pamphlet, consider this the basics. First, prepare in advance where you will be parking. Park closer to the finish. Believe me, this year I left late and parked wherever I could find parking. This happened to be about eight blocks away from the finish line. Not fun.
Next, when they say “go,” don’t worry about beginning to run. It can take you a couple of minutes to actually get across the starting line. Once you get across the starting line it would be wise to take your time maneuvering around the crowd. Remember, this year there was 17,999 people running with me. It may actually take a couple of miles before you can get away from the crowd.
Once you get going and get a good pace, take the time to people watch. I know it may sound funny, but there are all sorts of people running and walking with you. There are also spectators throughout the entire course that are there supporting you. It is amazing to me how many people came out of their homes and set up tables with bagels, bananas, orange juice along with other great food. Total strangers there were supporting us. The signs that some spectators had were pretty funny as well. One sign read “Run like Zombies are chasing you”, another one read “Hey Stranger I’m proud of you”. There was also a cut out of two children’s faces at mile nine that read “We are proud of you mommy, see you at the finish line”.
Now since there are people all around you running, it is easier to people watch those that are near you. Some are hard to ignore. Like the guy next to me who answered his cell phone and continued to have a conversation at mile four.
My favorite, though, was the couple who took turns running backwards while taking pictures of the other one. Of course when there are runners in front of you, you can’t help but watch. One runner in front of me had a shirt that stated “my wife is expecting, running 26 for our new little miracle” another runner had “Running for Vaughn” with a picture of a beautiful little girl.
Now, as I ran behind these guys I couldn’t help but wonder why is this guy running 26 miles for his new baby? Lots of people are expecting and they don’t go out and run a marathon. What was his story? I also wondered about that cute little girl named Vaughn and I sure hoped she was okay. Of course we passed each other and I never saw them again.
Now, there is nothing like hitting your wall and thinking you will never be able to finish, then being passed by someone who is at least 20 years older than you. Or looking ahead and seeing an endless sea of people running ahead and behind you. Then you realize that every one of them has a story and a reason why they are out running.
My reason was simple — because I can! Because I can be disciplined enough to train and motivated enough not to quit. Because when I came home the look on my children’s faces was priceless. My son told me I had won the gold medal and that I was the coolest. My daughter told all the kids in the neighborhood and had to show them my medal. That was my reason and that is my reason.
Running a half marathon or a full marathon is amazing. I know that I will never be as fast as Edward Kiptum who ran the full marathon in 2:22:50 or Shannon Bixler who finished in 3:02:28.
That’s okay, I finished and that is all that matters.
An Instructional Assistant in Physical Education at Liberty Hill Junior High School, Becky earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a specialty in Health from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She earned Personal Training Certification through the Cooper Institute in Dallas and has worked as a personal trainer and taught various fitness classes.