The Best Way to Watch a Race

While I cannot claim to know all the vantage points and prime locations of all race courses in general, I’m pretty positive that when it comes to the best viewing area…there’s nothing like the finish line.

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit selfish throughout my running career as I am typically the one crossing the finish line, as opposed to seeing others cross. And as a runner, I l-o-v-e the finish line, as I’m sure others can attest. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and it’s a happy place I can go to when I need motivation.

But I discovered something this weekend: while the finish line might be a place of triumph and celebration for the runner, it is almost as equally inspiring and exciting for the spectator. 

As I mentioned last Friday, I had the opportunity along with Nicole and Becky to volunteer at the Tacoma City Marathon by giving out medals to the finishers. (WordPress won’t let me hyperlink your names, grrr).

Half medals for the half marathon

Half medals for the half marathon.

I don’t have a ton of volunteer experience, but I’m fairly certain this is the best job you can have. You get to congratulate all the runners and give them their hard-earned prize, while simultaneously watching people achieve something incredible.

It was so inspiring to see people cross that line. It was obvious some were finishing their first half or full, which was my favorite. There was joy, pain, happiness, and determination, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in a while. Highly recommended if you ever need a source of inspiration, or you just want to help congratulate people on their big day.

We also discovered that there is no one correct way to give someone a medal…which I didn’t realize beforehand.

The way I have always been given my medal was by the volunteer draping it over my neck. And I love that! I feel like their honoring me with my hard-earned prize (not unlike being “knighted”), and I always feel a certain kinship with the particular volunteer who gives me my medal. It’s something like, “Hello! I’ve been running forever and now I get to stop and you’re the first person I’m seeing and you’re giving me something shiny! I love you forever!”

Imagine my shock, then, when I discovered that several people DO NOT want you to drape them. Nope, they want you to just hand them their medal and they’re out. No deep gazing into eyes, no silent run-love connection, just a grab-and-go situation. I couldn’t believe it!

Becky agreed with this method herself, as she said that’s how she always prefers it. And sure enough, there were folks who were very obviously not okay with my eagerness to drape them. I learned that the hard way more than once. There were also people especially eager for me to bestow their medal upon them, particularly one gentleman who asked for a kiss along with it. I somehow managed to chuckle my way out of that one…

So that was fascinating. BUT, not matter how the runners preferred their delivery, it didn’t change the fact that I left that race feeling ridiculously inspired by the racers and by the sport in general. It reminded me so much of the Kathrine Switzer quote:

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go watch a marathon.”

And it’s absolutely true. I love that this quote is meant for the perspective of the spectator, and not so much for the runner. There is something incredibly human and magical about celebrating the success of others; watching a running race full of people in all different walks of life is one of the simplest and purest ways to experience this.

Nicole, me, and Becky, excited to start!

Nicole, me, and Becky, excited to start!

Clearly, I had a fantastic time doing this. When can we do it again?

Now I have to ask…how do you prefer to get your medal?

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