Today I had a really special opportunity. I’ve run plenty of races and paced a number of runners to the finish line. I crewed once for my friend who was running her first 100 miler, but she had a number of ultras under her belt. Today I got to crew for my friend Ethan as he ran his first 50K, which was his first ultra, and his first race beyond 13.1.
If you live on the East Coast, chances are you’ve been a little wet over the last few days. It’s been really, really rainy and gross all week. Friday and yesterday were especially bleak and dreary, and I was afraid it would be the weather we’d have for this race. I hit up my pastor for some prayers and, like always, things worked out. The day was gray and cool early, but by early afternoon it cleared up and the sun came out. It was really pretty good running weather.
I got up to the race to find that several friends were racing as well. I saw a few friendly faces that I got to know last year during our PA Appalachian Trail weekends: Jeremy, Gary, Matt and Jeff. I was introduced to a friend of Matt’s, who I’d been hearing about for a while. And dear Mary Lou was there too! I’m not quite sure how old she is, since it’s not polite to ask a lady her age, but according to her blog she is “solidly in the 65-69 AG”. She just took up ultra-running this year. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. I want to be like her when I grow up!! With so many faces to look for, I knew the day would be fun.
After seeing him off at the starting line, Ethan’s awesome girlfriend, his amazing dog and I piled in my RAV to drive between aid stations. Thankfully the driving was pretty minimal and easy. We had a good time hanging out with random runners’ spouses and cheering on the runners – both friends and strangers. The aid stations were all themed and everyone was happy and supportive.
Getting to see Ethan cross the finish line was awesome. He worked really hard to go from a guy who really didn’t run to an ultra runner in about 18 months. When we first went running last May he had never run outside, and we did his first 3 mile run on a trail – not the road. When he told me this spring that he signed up for the 50K, I was pretty surprised. I had to ask him if he’d been drinking! But he was serious. And he did it.
I love cheering on my friends as they race, but there is something extra special about witnessing someone do their first marathon or ultra. I paced my friend Jess through the final 6 miles of her first marathon in Philly and watched her push so danged hard through those final few miles with the roaring crowds around her. I ran 50 miles with my friend Kasey when she wanted to do her first ultra and we found out pacers weren’t allowed. She dealt with stomach problems and blisters, but overcame both to get to the finish line. Today my role was much less, well, active. I drove a bit and sat a lot. I did little more than mix a little Tailwind with some water. I clapped some. I helped him with his training, but when it came down to it, he did it all on his own. It was so freaking cool to watch him finish, and to see that look of “Holy crap I just did that!” on his face.
As we were hanging out at the finish line, Ethan turned to me and said, “When I first found out you ran 100s and stuff, I thought you were crazy. When I started running with you, I thought this wasn’t so bad. Now . . . I think you’re INSANE.”
I take that as a compliment.