My favorite race that I’ve never run? That would be the Philadelphia Marathon! I’ve cheered/volunteered for the past four years, since Vic ran her first marathon in 2010. Why so much love for a race I’ve never participated in? Well, it’s the race that made me WANT to run.
When I caught wind of Kyle’s plans to run Philly as her very first marathon, I swooped in (Eagles fans, that one was for you!) and said, “You’ll stay with me! I’ll make sure you get there and back and it’s going to be awesome and there will be signs and I’ll cheer and you’ll sleep at my house and have an amazing time.” I bossed my way right in and she, thankfully, was very receptive!
She arrived on Saturday and immediately my kids tried to talk her into roughhousing with them (she wisely declined). Instead, we went to dinner with Megan and her four year old at The Pop Shop for a little carb loading… for both of us. I mean, spectating takes a lot out of a girl and I needed to prepare!
Megan’s 4 year old daughter is gearing up to be a professional photographer!
We headed home around 8 and got Kyle all tucked in by 9, with visions of finish lines dancing in her head. Our alarms were set for the heinous hour of 3:15 (her) and 3:30 (me) – hey, that extra 15 minutes does matter.
Who has two thumbs and is ready to run a marathon? THIS GIRL!
Out the door by 4am, we made our way to the train station and were quickly underway. To entertain her, I showed her the video that Bec, Cam, Jenn and I made during Hurricane Sandy. Because hey, what takes stress away more than watching people being silly for six and a half minutes? Nothing, that’s what!
This was my last sighting of pre-marathoner Kyle.
Following the swarms of other runners and spectators, we made our way to the start line. In past years I’ve walked Victoria right up to her corral but with the heightened security following the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I was only allowed to go so far before I had to send her on her way. We parted with a big hug and off she went to the security check point and to find the orange corral.
And off I went to find a Starbucks. Which, not surprising, I did… and then sadly realized it didn’t open until 6:30. It was only 5:30. So I hung out right outside for the next hour, watching runners walking to the start (okay, fine, I was eavesdropping!) and chatting with family members and friends who were hanging out waiting for Starbucks to open as well.
Pacers heading to the start
It was right around this time that I saw a yellow Team Athletic skirt and Team Lemon shirt walking by. I’m super bad at recognizing people from picture alone. I always play the, “Is that… nooooo. Well, it might be? Maybe?” game and wind up not saying anything at all. However, there was no mistaking Malinda from Twins Run in Our Family! So much fun to see her and wish her well during the marathon!
While waiting for Starbucks to open, I also met Andrea. Andrea had run a marathon the previous day and her husband, Cooper, was doing the half before the Eagles game. Happy to have a friend, we stuck together waiting for Starbucks and then headed to our first spectating position, just in front of Love Park.
Spectating at the Philadelphia Marathon is pretty fantastic because the course is easy to navigate, even as a fan. Miles 1 and 6 are just a few blocks from each other so once fans see their runner go past mile 1 (or anywhere within that range, give or take a half mile), they can then cross the couple of blocks to see them after they’ve circled through Old City.
The chair athletes came just around the bend a little after the 7am with the Elites following behind.
So fast, they were blurs. Literally.
I knew to look for Kyle in the orange corral but Andrea wasn’t sure which corral Cooper was starting in so we just kept our eyes peeled! Everyone was looking fresh in that mile and while I completely missed seeing Kyle, I did manage to catch a shot of Cooper!
Soon after orange passed and I realized that I wasn’t going to see Kyle, we decided to hunt her down by mile 6. We crossed the couple of blocks and waited for people to clear their cheering posts so we had prime spots.
I was holding my “May the course be with you” sign, which runners really seemed to be digging! It got high fives and smiles. Andrea had her cowbell and was ringing it as we cheered!
Again we saw Cooper, looking strong!
And AGAIN, I didn’t see Kyle. Thankfully, she saw me (or maybe she saw the sign) because she HIT ME as she went by. Love hurts, folks.
After that Andrea and I made another stop at a Starbucks for their bathroom and snacks before making our way toward the start/finish area. At this point we had to say our goodbyes as she was waiting for Cooper to finish his race and I was hiking out to miles 15/25 to catch the ever elusive Kyle.
The second part of the race was much quieter than the first, as the marathoners make the long trek to South Philly, visiting Manayunk before making their way back to the finish line in front of the art museum. I wanted to be out there to lend support, not only to Kyle but to other runners as well. My throat was already sore by this point (I might have been a tad bit too enthused during the first cheer zones) and my foot injury from the week prior was rearing its ugly… foot.
The sign says “Speeding triggers red light” – I bet that was for all the speedy runners!
Got Kyle’s half split just as I was a passing mile 14 (I think; they didn’t have mile markers at every mile) and stopped walking to cheer and search the crowd for her. Yet again, she found me.
Hello, I’m a horrible friend. Pleased to meet you. Awfully embarrassed!
Really, Meridith? Really?
I continued walking along because I knew that Cyanne was just up the way a few miles and we’d planned to meet up by mile 17. However, my heel was super cranky and I knew I’d regret adding additional miles to the day (I rounded out the day at 10 miles – should have just ran the half!) (Not really.) so instead I planted myself just before mile 25 and let Cyanne know I’d see her in a few weeks at the Ugly Sweater Run.
I was going to get the money shot of Kyle during the 24th mile! I spent a couple hours (that is not an exaggeration) searching for a little blonde in a white Alaska tank and capris.
While I was scanning, I saw Malinda again and got to cheer for her out on the course! I know so many other people who were running and yet somehow missed all of them – I was cheering for all of you, I promise.
By this time, my cheering was less vocal (because ouch), more smiling and blowing my whistle. I’d brought candy to hand out but at that point, no one wanted candy, they just wanted the finish line. Totally understandable.
And then… I saw KYLE.
Is it really her?
IT REALLY IS!!! It’s almost marathoner Kyle!
I shouted! I whooped with joy! KYLE! KYLE! I KNOW HER! I asked, “How are you feeling?”
“Like I’m dying!” she said, cheerfully.
I jumped onto the course with her and ran a couple of steps. “Water’s just ahead. Then mile 25. And then you’re done! AND WE CAN EAT ALL THE FOOD!” With that, I hopped off the course, she continued on toward the finish line; I hobbled over to the path to walk the rest of the way and meet her at the family meetup area.
The next time I saw her, she was a marathoner! Absolutely incredible and such an inspiration, this girl! Kyle ran to raise money and awareness for the Joyful Heart Foundation, which is why we (the Scoot a Doot Chicks) chose that particular wording. Here’s Kyle’s recap!
So why do I go every year to watch the Philadelphia Marathon? Well, as Katherine Switzer said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” I haven’t lost my faith in human nature but watching the runners of the Philadelphia half and full marathons certainly reminds me to move into each day with a joyful heart and a grateful one.
Is there a race that you spectate at year after year? Have you ever watched a friend complete their first race, whether it be a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon? What fills your heart with joy?