I watch the marathon most years, I live close to the end point and it suits my lazy bank holiday Monday mood, to sleep late, grab a coffee and mooch (slowly), to a point close to the end of the route knowing that others have spent the morning battling around the burbs of Dublin. I love the way it shows in each participants face, the difficult conversation in each step, the choice between giving up and stepping forward; where pain and fear are forced into the passenger seat and determination drives people forward.
Occasionally it makes me misty eyed, last year I witnessed a man in late middle age huddled over the barriers anxiously watching, as his runner, (a daughter I’m guessing) approached, he sprung into enthusiastic clapping and shouting. She stumbled over exhausted and claiming defeat. She had been waiting for this moment, plodding forward to reach this point, for this point close to the end where her dad will give her permission to stop. But he doesn’t, he hugs her close, tells her how close she is, how proud he is and that she can, when she looks emptily back at him shaking her head in denial, he clambers under the barrier in his bank holiday best with shiny leather lace ups, he loops his arm around her and the two of the them hobble off down the remaining few hundred metres. It got me right in the feels.
I know a good many people running the marathon this year, for charity; for self knowledge; for exercise; for headspace; to prove a point; whether it’s the first, the only, the third this year, the last, anyone who runs a marathon will be changed by the experience. It doesn’t matter what your reason for placing yourself in the fire you will be transmuted by the experience.
That is why I watch the marathon, to witness, to see the pain, the battle, the persisting, the gritting of teeth, the keeping on. I see it, I admire it, I learn and am inspired by it. So for all of you, GOOD LUCK. And for us spectators below are a few handy hints to maximise your experience
Know the route – where are you going to go, who are you hoping to catch, the front runners are generally clumped in small groups, occasional single runners but for me the joy is the pack. But if you are going to support someone in particular, make sure you have worked out what time they should land at your chosen spot.
Dress appropriately- you may be standing for a while so comfortable shoes and knowing the Irish weather prepare for all eventualities.
Bring some jellies- both for those who are running and for your self. Nothing like chomping on a few snakes while watching others struggle. And for that matter hot drinks are generally welcome for spectators (but not for participants- could get messy and litigious).
Hand cream – the palms do get a bit sore and chapped from all the sideline encouragement!
Tissues- it can get emotional.
Leave your dignity at home- shout loud and for all.