Dark and early Sunday morning Mark’s alarm went off at 4:30 so he could eat breakfast well ahead of the 6:30 race start. I crawled out from under the covers at 5:15, scooped up the Madman and dropped him off in my parent’s room, and we headed for the car.
Ready to run
A quick drop off near the starting line and I went back to the hotel where they were just setting up the breakfast. I grabbed a bagel, banana and coffee and went up to the room to watch the weather. While it wasn’t raining when I dropped Mark off the radar didn’t look good. By the time my mom brought the kids back down to my room at 6:15 there was a steady downpour outside. Yuck.
At 7:15 we gathered in the lobby with signs, noisemakers and umbrellas and all headed outside. The hotel was right on the marathon course at about mile 6 ½. There was a good size crowd already gathered and we found a spot right along the midline of the road. The leaders had already passed that point but soon we saw some of the 30,408(!) runners trudge up the hill and around the curve.
The best cheering section ever
My mom spotted him first and we all cheered and yelled as he ran by. The rain had tapered off to drizzle at this point and he seemed pretty chipper. (I had 8 different signs for cheering, the one my dad is holding above got the most smiles/laughs from runners).
Blurry but happy!
We went back to the hotel and I left the kid with my parents, threw the rest of the signs in the car and headed over to Hyde Park Square to meet up with the course at mile 11. Except I never made it there. From the hotel the only way (as far as I could tell) to get there was to cross the marathon course which, obviously, wasn’t happening. I circled around for a bit in the adjoining neighborhoods and finally parked and found the route. I got set with my camera and signs, asked a volunteer where we were – mile 10ish – and pulled out my phone to see where Mark was. According to his Facebook updates via Runmeter he was already at mile 12. Shit.
I hustled back to the car and mapped my way to the “Party Zone” at mile 21.5. I wasn’t too worried about missing Mark at 10 because my cousin and aunt were planning to cheer at miles 14 and 17 (which, for spectators, were only a few blocks apart). I got to my spot around 8:50 and checked Facebook again – he was already at mile 18 – he was flying!
A few minutes later I got a call from my cousin, Carrie. They got a little lost but, were now at mile 16 – had he gone past yet? My heart fell; according to Runmeter he was already well past that spot. And Mark hadn’t seen a familiar face for over 12 miles. I felt awful!
But if he was at 18 already I would see him shortly at 21.5. I cheered as I waited; lots of people were looking ragged. Just beat down and ready to stop. I fact one guy cramped up as he went by and I helped prop him up as another spectator massaged his calves. After 20 minutes I got worried that maybe he was injured and had to stop…he should have gone by me by now.
Then my phone rang – Carrie and my Aunt Gretchen were driving along the route to get to the finish and they saw Mark! They were able to pull over and cheer for him – what a relief! He had just passed mile 19 when they saw him….apparently the Runmeter App had gone wonky and the mileage was off.
Then around the corner he came. He looked pretty beat down, but he was still running. I yelled and rattled the cow bell and tried to take a few photos. I wanted to do everything at once; I was so excited to see him. I fact I started crying a little bit and he told me later that he did, too.
Five miles to go
I jumped back in my car and hightailed it downtown for the finish. The crowd was huge and I had to drive around several blocks before I find a parking garage with open spots. I ran down to the finish area and shimmied my way up to the barricade. I was on the wrong side- the half-marathon lane was directly in front of me – but I didn’t want to risk missing him cross the finish as I tried to get a better spot.
My cousin called and said they were on the other side, right next to the finish line. Now all we had to do was watch for him to come down the final quarter-mile. After not very long I spotted him. I screamed and yelled and waved around my sign and as he passed by he spotted me.
Mark crossed the finish at 4:21. I am just so damn proud of him.
By the time we got back to the hotel we had 15 minutes to clear out*. So we threw everything together and headed north to my cousin’s apartment. She graciously offered her place for Mark to shower and relax.
I had set up a lunch for everyone at nearby InCahoots
*. Mark was able to sit and rest for a bit and M was excited to give him the gifts we had purchased to commemorate his accomplishment.
Official Flying Pig Finisher hat and jacket
After a little more time visiting and resting at Carrie’s apartment we all hit the road for home.
My Aunt in the center (my cousin took the photo)
Notice the awesome shirts my sister got for the kids
Despite the rain and long drives it was a terrific weekend. One that I hope I never forget. Mark just started running last June. He turned 39 2 weeks ago. He trained through a Cleveland winter – rain, sleet, snow, wind, slush, and ice (even a few rogue skunk encounters) – nothing stopped him. More than once he returned from a 10+ mile run with his coat and hair covered in frost. He even bought running cleats for traction in the snow and ice. He did almost all of his runs after the kids went to bed, hitting the pavement after 8 PM, so he wouldn’t miss any time with them.
Mark is truly an inspiration to me. I love you, Mark!
*You’d think that when an entire hotel is full of runners that maybe they’d have a pretty flexible check-out time, considering the timing of the race. But no, the Spring Hill Midtown was pretty rude and we had to be out by noon, even though they told me (a Marriott Rewards member) a week prior that a late check-out “should be no problem”.
**They were fantastic about accommodating us. And the food was really good, too. I would totally recommend them if you are in the area. (I got nothing for saying this, they were just great to us).