Just got back from Duluth, where we cheered on Jean and Donna in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. What an awesome weekend! Joel and I rolled into Duluth around 8pm and met up with Jean, Donna, Deena, and Tim at the "finish-grounds" for the races. (Jean and I play volleyball in Apple Valley with Donna and Deena.) Our runners had to wake up at 4AM to get showered and ready, and the rest of us couldn't get back to sleep. So, hopped up on Hostess Donuts and hotel coffee, we set out to do some serious cheering.
It was an unbelievably gorgeous morning. I rode my bike out to about mile 8 of the half-marathon -- as it turns out, I was parked right in front of some historic old mansion where some grisly murders occurred awhile back (I found this out later). I started cheering for the first male runners and found it completely impossible to stop. I didn't expect any of the runners (apart form Jean and Donna) to care whether or not I jumped up and down and hollered and shook my gigantic pom-pon at them, but they did! It was so cool to get a smile, a thumbs-up, or a "thank you" from people; I felt terrible having to get on my bike to go back into town, like I was letting the rest of the pack down... those slower runners, who needed me! :) Not like there weren't thousands of other fans out there, though. I caught up with Joel, Tim, and Deena at about mile 11 (which was right across the street from our hotel); once Jean and Donna passed us, we booked it toward the finish line and got to see the gals run past us again, about three blocks from the finish line. We got to see the female marathon winner at the finish line (as well as many other marathon finishers). The whole thing was such an awesome experience. I think about the very personal, individual struggle that every single runner out there has to go through to finish his or her race, and it is so incredibly moving. The injuries, the setbacks, and whatever it is that motivated each person to take up the crazy quest of long-distance running in the first place: what a a testament to the human spirit!
Since our hotel was on the race route, we got to see many, many of the late marathon stragglers, hitting mile 24 at the five- and six-hour mark. Joel (who finished Grandma's Marathon 1997 in about six hours) went out to watch some of them by himself for a while, while Jean and I took naps (since we share a brain, I also felt like I'd run 13.1 miles).
Thanks Donna and Jean for giving us something to cheer for -- thanks Tim and Deena for being the coolest roommates/co-cheerleaders/one-uppers on the planet -- and thanks to Duluth for your beauty and hospitality.
And Oh! Some photos!