Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spectating the Rockford Marathon

This past Sunday, May 20th, was the Rockford Marathon. I had a friend, Susan, that I met through my Frankfort/New Lenox Run Group that was running it as her first marathon. On a whim after the Palos half marathon a few weeks earlier, I mentioned to her that I would like to go up and help support her in her first marathon. After working out some logistics, it was decided I would go. I was super excited to be able to help her because I know what a challenging experience a first marathon (or second marathon for that matter) can be and I wanted to “spread the love”. I’ve helped others in marathons and others have helped me. It’s one of the best feelings to feel you have support in something that is so challenging and you’ve worked so hard for. Come marathon day, you never know what to expect and nothing ever goes as planned.

Susan and I drove up to Rockford on Saturday afternoon. We were staying at her brother’s house near the marathon. Let me say something about Susan’s brother, Tony. He ran his first marathon last year (and actually ran 3 marathons all last year). He has qualified for Boston all 3 times, with his best marathon time being around 3:05. Amazing! He, however, has no desire to go to Boston.

Susan’s brother Tony, sister-in-law Chrissy, her friend Katrina, and myself were all going to be helping Susan run the marathon at different points. As the day approached, the weather was looking like it was going to be a pretty hot day for a marathon. I think that is what was freaking Susan out the most. She didn’t want them to cancel it with all the training she invested in the marathon.

Saturday after arriving at Tony’s house, we went over some marathon day stuff and then went to pick up her packet, which included coupons for cigarettes and other such items, and headed to dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was an unusual place and we had a lot of fun there.

Me, Susan and Katrina at Lino's
Back at the house, there was some more discussions over marathon day stuff. We went over who was dropping in to run with Susan at what points and Susan was trying to figure out exactly what to wear. Tony’s son who was four took a liking to me and wanted me to play with him. I finally caved in and we played with some legos before he had to go to bed. I thought it was especially cute when he asked me before he went to bed, "Want to go up and lay in my bed and just talk for a little while??"  He's learning young, huh??  Haha!  I was actually sleeping in his bed that night and he was sleeping with his parents.

The bed I got to sleep in, fit for a 4 year old (or a 33 year old)

Playing Legos

As bedtime for us neared, we did some stretching and rolling on various items. We weren’t foam rolling but Susan had a weird looking ball that you use similarly to a foam roller and Katrina had some other weird hand held contraption and I wanted to try all of these strange items! Wow! I really felt it too. It hurt (but that good hurt way). I have to get myself some new “toys”. Then it was time to hit the sack.

New Toy
Me rolling on the new toy

Susan and I showing off the toys...added bonus, the cowboy hat. Not sure how she talked me into that one.
Marathon morning felt nice. There was a cool breeze and if the whole marathon was like that, it wouldn’t be bad. But this was only 5:30 am. It was going to be hot that day with highs getting near 90 degrees!

Susan and I before we left the house

Tony, Susan, Katrina and I headed down to the marathon. Katrina was running the 10k and then was going to help Susan with the later miles in the marathon. I was scheduled for miles 4-8.5. I actually wasn’t too thrilled with my designated spot only because Susan is a faster runner than I am by about 30 seconds per mile average. We were going to try to keep Susan from starting too fast due to the heat anyway (about 9:50-10:00 min miles) and I thought I might be able to push through those 4.5 miles. 7:00 am came and Susan was off.

Susan and Katrina

Susan and her brother Tony

Susan starting by the 10:00 min mile pace area
Tony and I drove to the 4 mile mark. I used the bathroom and then we stood on the corner to wait for Susan. We saw the first and second place people come through. Then Tony noticed that the mile 4 water station was not set up and manned! It was already pretty hot out and Tony and I decided to set up some water as best we could until we had to leave. It was kind of ironic because Tony had mentioned in the car on the way to the marathon that maybe one day he should work a race instead of just criticize. Now was his chance! We tried setting up water cups and two girls waiting for their friends came over to help. It was a disaster! People started flying past us. They were expecting water and Gatorade. We just filled up water cups because we needed something out there for the runners! The girls were handing water as Tony and I were pouring it.  We couldn't keep up! A race organizer came and told us this was the only water station that the people didn’t show up to and he was trying to get some people from another station here to help. He appreciated our help. I felt really bad for the runners coming past and we couldn’t keep up with the demand. I heard a few people say they had hoped there was Gatorade at this station (as there was supposed to be). I did the best I could and at least some people got water because we helped out. It was close to the time that Susan may pass so I set out to wait for her.

Tony helping at the water station after I stopped to wait for Susan
 As I saw Susan come around the corner, I let Tony know (who was still helping at the water station) that I was leaving. That way he knew he needed to head out to and meet us at mile 8.5 where his wife Chrissy was going to jump in. As I started running with Susan, I found out if she needed anything and what she would need at mile 8.5 where our car was. She was holding a good pace at about 9:55. She seemed to be doing well. I, on the other hand, started to struggle. I was having a hard time keeping that pace in that heat! When I was running, it was along a highway with no shade and full sun! I’m not sure of the temps but I would say it had to be upper 70’s at least. I tried to keep up with Susan as best I could. I didn’t want to drop back from her. I was supposed to be helping her. She was running a marathon! I only had 4.5 miles! Do it, Amanda! Do it!

I’d ask Susan if she was ok and she said she was fine. Sometimes she would ask if I was ok and even though I wasn’t really, I wasn’t going to tell her that! So I simply said, “Yup! I’m fine!” Inside I was saying, “Hang in there Amanda! Hang in there!” After a few miles, I didn’t think I could keep up. I didn’t want to hold her back if she was feeling good. I waited a little longer and after about 2.5 miles, I decided to fess up and tell Susan that I could hang at her pace and I was going to have to drop back. She said it was fine and thanked me for running. I asked if there was anything I could make sure Tony had at the car at mile 8 and she told me a few things. I wished her luck and dropped back.

I felt like such a marathon supporter failure! I was definitely disappointed in myself but the heat was getting to me. I walked and called Tony to tell him what to prepare for Susan at 8.5. I was about 6.5 and we decided the best thing for me to do was to keep running to the car. So I still had to finish my run! Lol. I just slowed my pace and continued to run with the marathoners. I actually passed Tony’s car and didn’t see him and ran to mile 9. I knew that was wrong so I called him and he said he was not really looking because he was trying to get all the kids situated. I had to run back to the car in the reverse direction (I wonder what the other runners thought of me going the wrong way). So that time, I ran 5 total miles, although only 2.5 with Susan). Also, at mile 6, there was supposed to be a GU station, and there was but there was no GU left! Seriously marathon organizers! Get it together! We weren’t even at the back of the pack and there weren’t things!

We drove over to mile 13-ish to wait for Susan. Her brother Tony was going to jump in at that point. Katrina had signs and we were holding them cheering on the marathoners. It was hot, some were struggling. There weren’t many spectators and I think some appreciated our efforts. Soon enough we saw Susan and Tony jumped in. Susan looked strong and seemed to be doing ok.

Susan after her brother jumped in, around mile 13
Next we drove to about mile 18.5. We were in a residential area but on a larger street (not in the neighborhood). We waited on the corner and again Katrina and I were cheering on the runners. The runners passing us were probably ones that would finish (normally) in the 3 hour range. And many of them were walking. They were hot and tired. Some were amused by Katrina’s signs of Zombies chasing them or “Don’t poop out”. Others gave a faint smile and a “thanks”. One race personnel on a bike asked if we had access to any of the hoses at the houses, which we didn’t. Katrina started walking around to the houses and asking if anyone would turn on their hoses to spray off the runners but we couldn’t find anyone that would. We felt awful for these runners. Again, there was no shade and the sun was beating down on us. It was most definitely in the 80’s and boiling hot!

Susan came around with Tony and he was going to keep running for another mile or so. I decided to jump back in (to redeem my previous failure of a supporter) and off the 3 of us went. Susan was at a run/walk pace at this point. She was tired and the heat was getting to her. I gave her some pretzels and along we went. I think she was starting to get frustrated because physically her legs felt fine, she just couldn’t go faster due to the heat and she wanted to make it to the end. At about mile 20, Tony dropped out and Katrina jumped in (and later Chrissy jumped in with us too). I decided to stay a little longer but only until 21 or 22. Katrina was going to run to the end with her.

Chrissy, Susan and Katrina - Mile 20
Susan kept saying sorry to us after having to stop and walk. We kept telling her there is nothing to be sorry about! I know how she felt because at my last marathon when Kelly was helping me, I was a run/walk pace after mile 16 and I kept apologizing to her too! I think I jumped out about mile 21.5 and wished Susan luck on the rest of the marathon.

Chrissy was going to jump back in around 24 and so Tony and I were waiting around 24.2. Chrissy was going to call us when she saw her. Chrissy called but it was to tell us there was a woman walking the opposite way of the runners with her shirt over her boobs and her boobs were just hanging out. Um…and apparently they were rather large and it was completely shocking and gave some marathoners a thrill. Lol. We think the woman lived near there and was possibly on something as she didn’t seem to be in her right mind (from what I was told). But it probably gave all the runners something else to focus on besides the horrible conditions of the marathon. (By the way, as Susan passed me she yelled to me..."I have something really good for your blog!!",,,referring to the boob woman).  I think Susan mentioned my blog about 4 times during the marathon!  Haha!  Thanks for the blog help!  Anyway, at 24.2 Susan passed at looked determined! There was only 2 miles left to go and I know she wanted to be done with it.

Running through the Ghetto (where the poor kids play) at mile 24.2
 The "where the poor kids play in the caption above was a joke from the night before.  Tony took us around to various spots to show us the course and this was one of them.  I'm sure this is not politically correct, but he mentioned this area was "the other side of the tracks where the poor kids play" and "ghetto and industrial".  It made us laugh and Susan said she got a laugh as she ran past it.
Tony and I drove to the finish line and waited for Susan. At some point, we saw a woman running super fast! It was a major spint towards the finish! We were wondering who that was. We didn’t think it was Susan but we commented on the speed with which this woman was coming in! We were impressed. And pretty much too late, we realized it was Susan! Too late, I got no picture! Tony said he got one almost too late, but I don’t have access to that photo.

Susan got her medal and took her finishing photo. Then started giving us all hugs and just started sobbing (hope you don’t mind me throwing that in there Susan!). She was crying and saying that that was so hard! It was the hardest thing she’s done. She kept saying that it was so hard, over and over again! We congratulated her and told her she was a marathoner!!

After Susan got her well deserved marathon medal!

Susan and I after - excuse my horrid fatness in this picture, it's not about me, it's about Susan!

Her running support group - Me, Katrina, Susan, Tony and Chrissy

Group shot of the entire family/support group

 I can never imagine what it would be like to run a marathon in that heat and sun (especially for your first one). My first marathon ended in the mid-70’s with full sun and that was warm enough (3rd warmest Chicago marathon). Susan’s marathon ended with temps near 90 degrees and full sun (the high for the day was 93 degrees). Her time was slower than she wanted by probably 25 mins but she still beat BOTH of my marathon times! I think she did an awesome job! The heat was a lot and I’m sure many runners (if not all) did a slower time than they wanted.

As I said before, you can’t predict what will happen on race day. Nothing is ever perfect no matter how much you plan. But finishing 26.2 miles under those conditions is truly amazing! Great job Susan! And I’ll be running with you in the Chicago Marathon this year (where we will both do awesome!!).

*Side note, I asked Susan if she would like to write a guest post about her marathon day experience. She said she may be up for that and I told her possibly next week. She does not have a blog but I know I’m interested in hearing about her experience while running. I was there for parts of it but I don’t know what she was thinking at various points, so look for it next week.


  1. Congrats to Susan!! Balls of steel that woman must have. I could use a few pages out of her book :)

    1. You rocked it out too! I mean seriously? You collapsed and STILL kept going! True Rockstar status!!

  2. Awesome that you went up to help out. You totally rock!