Virtual Spectating

Whew! Except for eight hours of sleep, I was basically online non-stop from Saturday afternoon until past noon Sunday, watching athletes cross several finish lines on what was a busy weekend in the running/triathlon community. Let me tell you, as blogger Luau can attest, it was exhausting!

Saturday was the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. In the world of triathlon, this is the ultimate race of all races. There are a few lottery spots, but almost everyone has to qualify in another triathlon in order to get to Kona. Once there, they have to reach certain points at certain times or else they’re pulled from the course. The heat and humidity are intense, and the bike and run are done on black asphalt past black lava rock on a course that has no shade. I’ve been along the whole course many times and have NO desire to attempt such a thing! Did I mention that it involves a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run? It was broadcast live online, and it was so fun to watch people in a place I know pretty well. The announcers did a great job and had some impressive details about many of the athletes. I also knew of a few of them, so that was fun.

I was up and at my computer with a cup of coffee a little after 8 a.m. this morning. The Chicago Marathon, with 45,000 registered runners, had gotten started a couple hours earlier. I ran this race last year, and I’ve been to Chicago several times, so of course I was looking forward to seeing how this one shaped up. It’s also one of the things that first got me into Twitter — last year I found some people on there who were also running Chicago, and I’ve kept in touch with most of them. My Twitter running network has since greatly expanded, so this year I knew a lot of people running it. The weather was quite warm, but everyone I was following made it across the finish line.

Meanwhile, the Portland Marathon, which I was supposed to run, also went down this morning. They had a record-high 13,000 people running the full marathon in steady rain. I was also following a bunch of people in that race. Some are Twitter friends, and some I met in person when I was in Portland last month.

Between all the Twitter people and more running buddies I’ve met through blogs and websites, I had a lot of stuff going on. Both marathons had live tracking, and Twitter was a steady, unending stream of updates from runners’ support crew, and even from a couple runners who tweeted along the way. Meanwhile, all of us virtual spectators were comparing notes and updating one another. At one point, I apologized to my non-running Twitter followers because they were probably overwhelmed, but I didn’t hear any complaints. I think most of them know I’m fairly obsessed with running, anyway.

So many racers had so many incredible stories. From the heartbreaking disappointment in Kona, to the Boston Qualifying run with two seconds to spare, to the birthday bash in Portland, every person out there had a unique story. A local woman ran Chicago in 2:45:09 to qualify for the Olympic Trials, while another woman battled illness through 6 hours and 28 minutes of rain. Another one spent many hours in the scorching Chicago heat, contemplated giving up, but knew she couldn’t let down all of her Twitter supporters — and she did cross the finish line.

There are so many incredible stories from this weekend and I’m afraid of linking to some and missing others (though I’ve already decided that one of them will be this week’s Friday Friend feature). So I have a new goal: When I get down in the dumps about something running-related, I’m going to also tell one of those runners’ stories and link to their site/blog/Twitter page. It will give both me and you readers some perspective, and it will give a tiny bit of credit to those determined runners.

3 Responses to Virtual Spectating

  1. Reading this right before getting ready to hit the treadmill for a scheduled 5 miler. Prepping for New York in 4 weeks and today’s races were more mentally exhausting to me than actually running last week’s Smuttynose Marathon. I wanna go to bed, but in honor of that person who was going to quit but didn’t, I will do these 5 miles!

  2. Layla! You are always full of the sweetest works and boat loads of encouragement. Thank you so much for being such great support!