Marathons can be a great big pain in the neck.
For some people.
Like readers who this past week expressed annoyance about Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon via comments on Observer stories online – comments that were along the lines of:
- “This is going to once again mess up weekend traffic. Why must we have other people’s hobbies inflicted upon us?”
- “They should run on a track. Go around enough and you’ll cover 26.2 miles.”
- “We have enough stress in our lives during the holidays. Having this two weeks before Christmas is beyond stupid.”
(Ah, that wonderful Christmas spirit!)
Yes, I’m a runner, and I ran the marathon. So no, I wasn’t one of the hundreds of area motorists who were inconvenienced on Saturday.
And I’m aware of the fact that plenty of those motorists were seeing red.
But let me tell you what I saw: I saw affluent families, warm cups of coffee in their hands, screaming encouragement in Myers Park. I saw teen girls, bright signs in their hands, screaming at the top of their lungs in uptown. I saw thirty-something men, light beers in their hands, screaming at the top of their lungs in Plaza-Midwood.
I saw police officers yelling at civilians, “You’ve got this, good job!” I saw civilians literally going out of their way to say “Thank you!” to police officers.
I saw a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary by running a half-marathon together. I saw a guy doing his third marathon, but only his first since 10 years away from running made him “fat.” I saw a pair of runners lock arms with a total stranger and guide the exhausted 47-year-old woman through the final push, helping her achieve a dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon by mere seconds.
And at the finish line, I saw satisfaction, relief, redemption, pride, elation, love.
I saw things we don’t see enough of in our daily lives. I saw 26.2 miles of a city – our city – alive and aglow, awash in smiles.
So yes, I contributed to something that can be a great big pain in the neck, but in this case, I won’t apologize for it.
Note to regular readers: A recap of my Thunder Road experience will be up on Sunday. I finished in 3:42:32, a PR over New York City by nearly seven and a half minutes.