Race Recap: Nike Women’s Half Marathon

Being a Supporter and Spectator at NWHM


About 20 minutes before the final runner, groups of 5-10 at a time.

For the first time in my life, I was the spectator at a race. Last Sunday, I got up before dawn, struggled to find an open coffee shop in suburbia (thank you, Peet’s of Castro Valley for opening at 5:30), and drove to the city to set up shop at Mile 9 of the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I was there to cheer on all of my teammates, but most specifically my season-long running buddy, Marilyn.

I’ve never been on the other side of the fence, and I have to say, it was strange. Having only been in the thick of things, I really didn’t appreciate just how insanely crowded that race really is. I stood there for more than three hours and with the exception of the final 20 minutes, the crowds were literally 20 abreast coming down the street. No wonder it feels overcrowded!

I was thrilled to spot about 20 of my teammates. I ran alongside several, chatting, offering encouragement in exchange for sweaty hugs, and generally having a great time. Marilyn, Malina and Barney spotted me before I spotted them, and it was fabulous to see how relaxed and energetic they looked.

In the thick of things, shadowy bodies emerged from the fog by the hundreds, as if they were CGI creations in a sci-fi film.

In the thick of things, shadowy bodies emerged from the fog by the hundreds, as if they were CGI creations in a sci-fi film.

I clapped. I ran. I chatted with strangers. I offered high fives. It was awesome.

After my fifth-from-the-end finish in Nürnberg, I couldn’t leave until I saw the last runner go by. She was a Team in Training runner who was clearly struggling — and honestly, who isn’t struggling in the doldrums of the two-thirds mark in the race? — but she plowed ahead and appears to have finished. I know it was a rough day for her, but I hope she looks at that Tiffany necklace and is proud of sticking with it and finishing.

I have to confess that I loved being there. I’m a back-of-the-pack runner myself, and I know exactly what they’re thinking and feeling. (Not the least of which is, “Wow, you’re still out here? Thank you!”) I think this is my role as a runner: being on-course support for the back of the pack.

Who wants to make me a “coach” shirt so I can run alongside complete strangers and offer encouragement?

Have you ever offered support to random strangers in a race?

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