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Thursday, September 10, 2009

TIART: Spectators and More About Me

This week, I am the host of Take it and Run Thursday, so "hello" to everyone who is popping over here from Runner's Lounge! I want to first talk a little about myself, my training group and my history of running, and then I'll talk about the question that I asked.

My Running Story
I was not always a runner. I started running in 2005 at the age of 26, having never run a full mile without walking, and having no memory of run/walking a mile faster than a 14 minute pace. As a child, I had taken dance classes instead of sports, and I'd quit dancing after the fifth grade. In middle school, I didn't take PE at all.

In college, at age 20, I joined Weight Watchers and lost 50 pounds in 2 years with no exercise whatsoever. A week after reaching my Weight Watchers goal weight, I got married, and while I made it to becoming a Weight Watchers Lifetime Member, I immediately gained back 30 pounds of the 50 I'd lost. I struggled to lose that weight for another 3 years, and it wasn't until I abandoned Weight Watchers and began a regular exercise program - step aerobics and weight training videos - that I had success at getting back to my goal weight.

Me after my first race in 2005:

After about a year and a half of exercising 6 days/week with exercise videos, I branched out and gave running a try. I had always been very "anti-running," even using "I don't run" as a motto. However, I wanted a chance to exercise outside during the summer, and I wanted to do something that seemed to make more sense to other people, since videos certainly did not. I wanted something to brag about, so races appealed to me, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money up front on equipment. I signed up for a 5K and started the Couch to 5K training plan at During the training, I was nearly in tears once when I had to run 5 minutes at a stretch without walking. I had a lot of trouble converting over to becoming a runner, but on June 26, 2005, I ran my first race, the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K. At packet pickup, I was encouraged to sign up for the Pikesville 5K two weeks later, and I soon was on a roll, completing five 5Ks by October 2005.

In the fall of 2005, I started running with Fleet Feet Baltimore, who train following the Galloway Program of walk/run. This made it a whole lot easier for me to run, and I ended up deciding to take the big step of starting a marathon training program in the spring of 2006. During this period, my marriage was in shambles, and the day I ran my first marathon training run was also the day that I separated from my husband of 6 years. That first year of marathon training was a way to keep my mind from my troubles, and it seemed as though each run was my longest run ever! This is when Todd and I started dating. He runs also, and we supported each other through that first year of marathons. I ran my first Marathon - the 31st Marine Corps Marathon - on October 29, 2006 with a time of 6:23. I went on to run the Walt Disney World Marathon in January, 2007 with a time of 6:24.

Showing off my medal at Marine Corps 2006

In 2007, I did another full marathon season, reprising the exact same race schedule as in 2006. I ran Marine Corps 2007 with a time of 6:25, and then failed to keep up my training through January and barely finished the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2008 with a time of 6:42.

After that last difficult marathon, I decided to take a year off and run half marathons, and I've completed four of them now. This year, I am again training for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2010, with a goal of completing the race in under 6 hours. My next race is the Philadelphia Distance Run on September 20.

After the Frederick Half Marathon 2008

In the end, while weight loss is what led me to run, running itself is what keeps me running.

My Training Group and Running in Baltimore
When I started running, I never figured that I would meet as many friends as I have, and now my main reason to keep running is to keep up with my friends. Our training group is tight-knit, and we often help each other improve. I became a group leader for the 2008 Galloway Training Season, and I'm a group leader again this year. We walk/run intervals, and my group trains with 1:30 running, followed by a minute of walking.

My training group at the end of the year party 2008

We rarely run in the city of Baltimore, but spend the majority of our time on the Northern Central Rail (NCR) Trail. This runs from Timonium, Maryland (just north of Baltimore) to the Pennsylvania line. Our hill training is either at Loch Raven Reservoir, or at our home running store, Fleet Feet Baltimore.

Along the NCR Trail in Northern Baltimore County

Local races are often hilly, but can be a lot of fun. My favorite 5K is the Oriole Advocates 5K, which ends on the warning track at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. My favorite race is the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, which takes runners through a hot and hilly course in historic downtown Annapolis (my hometown!). We have a number of marathons and half marathons in the spring and fall, at places such as the B&A Trail, Frederick, Baltimore and on the NCR Trail. We are also close to the Marine Corps Marathon and many of our runners run that race each year.

Some of my fellow runners at Loch Raven Reservoir

Take It and Run Thursday
My question is: Now that we're heading into the fall and winter marathon seasons, and we've talked a lot about how to prepare for races, let's talk about spectators. What do you like and dislike from spectators out on a course? Are cowbells good or bad? Do you prefer to have someone waiting with food or gatorade? What tips can you give for people who are just out to watch the race and not participate?

I've been all over the place on this subject. Definitely for my first few marathons, I've needed a lot of fan support. I so appreciated my friends and family coming out to cheer me on. However, as time goes by, I'm finding that I need the support less and less. There are times when I'm trying to set a time goal or PR and feel guilty if I don't stop and say hello. I understand how frustrating it can be to wait and wait for your runner, just have them come and gone in a few seconds. I've been there. So, I always feel an obligation to stop and chat, and by doing so I'm sometimes risking losing my pace.

It is easiest to have spectators who are runners themselves, so that they understand your needs and the necessity to keep moving during a race. Todd rarely spectates, but will run beside me at my pace for races where he's offering his support - he ran both of my Disney Marathons with me at my pace, which is significantly slower than his.

The final stretch of the Disney Marathon 2007. Todd is clearly running slower than his usual pace.

As far as your average joe specator goes, there are just certain thing spectators shouldn't say. For example, spectators should never, no matter how well meaning it seems, yell lies to the runners. If this is not the last hill, don't yell that it is. If there remains more than 25% of the race, don't yell "almost there!" If there's no beer at the finish line, don't yell that there is beer there. What should you yell? A simple "go runners!" is always sufficient, and even though you may have said it 1,000 times before I see you, it's the first time I've heard you say it.

Most of all, don't mock the slower runners. I CANNOT STAND IT when someone tells me not to walk, even though I walk throughout the whole race, and I plan to do so. There is never time to explain this to a spectator, so I just say "I'll run again in a minute," and move on (while they probably think I'm lazy?). At the Annapolis Ten Mile Run a couple weeks ago, around mile 7, there were four people sitting in beach chairs at the bottom of an out and back hill - so you ran down, then the course turned around and you ran back up again towards mile marker 7. As I passed by, I heard one person say, "Hey, don't let anyone pass you!" and another responded "I don't think anyone back here is passing anyone." In other words, the back of the pack people never pass others towards the end of a race? Nonsense! Bad spectators!

My friends at the Marine Corps Marathon 2006

Most spectators, though, are good. I'm glad they're there and I always appreciate some support from folks who have come out to cheer runners on. I know it's not the most exciting thing in the world, but we're glad you're there.

More Responses


lindsay said...

thanks for sharing your running story! it's always fun to learn where someone has "come from" and to hear about their running journey.

great tiart topic! i *hope* to get a post up later today. i laughed at your comment about wanting to stop to talk to friends at races. i feel the same way! i feel bad that they come watch to see me for .2 seconds and that the rest of the time must be boring - at least in a half or full marathon where they are there for hours. they try to assure me it's not boring... haha.

Erika said...

Great story! You're awesome, Kim!! :)

Laura said...

Great post. I did my first TIaRT post today on this. I have never had anyone tell me not to walk before...good walk breaks are every 10 min!

Lacey Nicole said...

what a great host post!!!! :) hehe. i love your running story. it's so unlike almost every other "about me" i've read. being anti-running "i don't run" and then making the transition. congrats on the weight loss, too!

soooo exciting about the disney world marathon! this january! woo woo!

and i totally agree about meeting so many people through running. who knew?!?! the community has expanded exponentially and i love it. i really try to be one of the people who encourages others because sometimes that is all it takes to get someone involved or on a path they never thought they'd travel :) races are such feel good events i wish that experience on everyone!

Jenny said...

It was fun coming out to cheer you on at MCM 2006. It was like a game to see where we could catch you at different places. And there were several of us together to chat and keep each other company while we waited. Kim was also good about trying to let us know about when and where to catch her so we could see her a couple of times.

I think being a spectator is only boring if you forget why you're going. In my opinion, the reason you're going is to cheer on and support your friend or family member who is doing this amazing athletic event. If you can get them to smile and give them a bit of encouragement, then you've done what you've set out to do. If you expect them to chit chat, call them on the phone later.

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