Race Director Linda Maxwell shares her thoughts on the importance of spectators
Every August, my family members and I participate in a small trail race with 2-mile and 15K (9.3-mile) distance options. My children do the shorter distance, and I opt for the 15K, on a beautiful trail around a lake and through the woods.
It’s a small race and there are very few spectators, so it can get pretty lonely. In fact, I spent much of this year’s race thinking about why spectators — both those I know and those I don’t — are important to me.
The answer is threefold:
• To offer encouragement and help me keep going
• To let my friends and family fully participate in these special experiences; and
• To show those friends and family members — especially my children — how I am able to persevere.
The first reason is obvious. I love to look at the people along the course and read their funny or inspiring signs. I love high-fiving the kids. Maybe I’m just not tough enough, but I appreciate this distraction from my heavy breathing or tired legs. Pretty simple.
As for reason No. 2, well, after months of leaving my family in favor of long training runs, it is nice to share the race day experience with them. We share the planning of where and when they will be along the course and what I might need from them at different spots. I give them hints on what they shouldn’t say (such as “you’re almost there” when you have several miles to go). I look forward to the spots I know they’ll be and do my best to keep my planned pace so they don’t worry.
The third (and maybe not so obvious) reason I like to have my children come to these events is so I can be a good role model. Completing the run at all is part of this, but having them witness my struggle is a fantastic opportunity to model perseverance. By seeing me all sweaty-red faced and possibly limping slightly during the race, they have a better understanding of what it takes for me to get across that finish line. I am proud to show them that I pushed through, and I hope this inspires them to persevere in all aspects of their lives.
My hope for our participants is that they can have friends and family to share in their experience at the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon — and more than ever this year, we will provide some great opportunities for them to do so. If your family and friends can’t make it, enjoy the inevitable cheers of strangers as you run or walk our beautiful, spectator-friendly course.
Back to my recent race: I had instructed my youngest son to travel backwards on the 15K course after he finished his 2-mile race so he could be there for me for my last mile. I wasn’t feeling well at about 7 miles, but knowing he would be waiting for me kept me going. I saw him in the distance, waving at me. A rush of love overcame me and gave me the will to pick up my pace. As we ran together he prattled on a bit about his race, interspersing some encouraging words about how I was almost done and how I looked good. As we ran the last 200 meters, he uttered words he had heard me say so many times, “just drive your arms and lift your knees; finish strong.”
I tell you, it’s hard to run and fight back tears at the same time.