Nothing is more inspiring than seeing hundreds and thousands of people running through the streets of Chicago.
This morning I went downtown to watch Matt and Kelly run Chicago's Rock-and-Roll Half Marathon. A friend told me that it's harder to spot a runner than it is for a runner to spot a spectator when they know where to look, so I decided ahead of time to be at the 7 mile mark. I picked that spot because it's about half way through (when I thought a cheerleader might be a welcome distraction for a moment) and, selfishly, because it was the closest spot to the Red Line train, so it would be easiest for me to come (and go).
I was at a perfect spot - a bit past the 7 mile mark, directly between a water break and a line of rest rooms. I got downtown a little earlier than I anticipated, and watched runner after runner after runner race past me. All ages, all body types, men, women, grandmas and grandpas, teenagers, even several people in wheelchairs. It was really inspiring.
I knew Kelly was wearing a hot pink tank top, so I banked on that and scanned the crowd over and over hoping to spot them... and then I did and I don't know if I've ever screamed louder. I was about a half mile past where I had told them I'd be, and because of that they thought they'd missed me so it was especially exciting. After a quick high-five, they were on their way to the remaining six miles.
I was planning to leave after that (remember I had picked my spot based on easy in, easy out) but I was so inspired seeing them that I wanted to be a little more of a cheerleader. I borrowed someone's race map and found another spot nearby where they'd be running past about 5 miles later. The race course zigzags through downtown Chicago, so it was a very quick couple block walk and I was in position around mile 12.5.
The view from this spot was pretty sweet - it was overlooking Soldier Field.
As I mentioned, this spot was a little after mile 12.5, so at this point a lot of the runners were t-i-r-e-d. One woman was running alone when she staggered a little bit and almost looked like she was going to stop or fall over. A woman behind her (they didn't seem to know each other) slowed her pace and grabbed her arm and said "You can do this - see the finish line up there? You're almost done! C'mon, let's do it together" and they took off running together. It was really, really cool.
I wasn't sure if I'd be able to spot Matt & Kelly again (especially because this time they didn't know to look for me), but a short time later (shockingly short actually considering they were RUNNING SIX MILES during this) they appeared again! YEAH!
They kept on running, and FINISHED the half marathon.
Congratulations to my favorite half marathoners!