One of my favorite things about running in a marathon is watching all the other people participating. As you run down the street, you know that the people by your side are as serious about running as you are, and it builds a strong feeling of camaraderie. There are young and old, male and female, tall and short, slender and stocky, but I have the same feeling of respect for each and every one of them because they all have the courage to take part in something so challenging!
With that said, let me explain that there were four different races being run at the same time, and we all started together. First there was a 10K (6 mile) race. These participants split off the group around mile 2 and headed back using a different route. Then there were the half marathon (13.1 mile) runners: They split off at the edge of town before returning. At this point, which appeared to be the Bismarck city limits, most of the group had either already left or was in the process of turning around. The rest of us turned right, and headed out into the country along a two lane highway, into the rising sun. We were the marathon runners, and we were only getting started!
Of course there were still two types of competitors remaining at this point; regular runners and relay teams. It has become popular to run this long race as a relay so that people who aren’t able to run 26.2 by themselves can still participate in the exciting full marathon. Teams consist of four members, and each runs about 6.5 miles. The runners are bussed out to the exchange areas, where they wait for their team member to arrive before they switch ankle bands and head off on their own leg. It is fun to run by these large clusters of people waiting for their teammates as there is a high level of energy and anticipation. It isn’t as much fun, however, to be running mile 21 of your own marathon, and getting passed by a member of a relay team who is fresh, and only on the first mile of their leg! As I was getting passed down the stretch, I always looked down at their ankles, and if they wore a relay band, I didn’t feel so bad: It had taken four of them to catch me in 26 miles!
There were also people dressed in costumes for their races. I started out at the starting line next to Elvis. There were four VERY impressive looking Vikings that passed me early on. They had fur lined boots, full length bear skins, horned hats, beards and weapons. I also saw some type of female super hero wearing rainbow knee high stockings and a cape.
There were all types of shirts with things written on them. My shirt had our Red River Runners motto on the back. It’s a Bill Bowerman quote: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.” A few people complemented me on the thought after we started the race at freezing temperatures! The two shirts that I enjoyed the most would have also been appropriate on my back; “I run so I can eat!” and “I’m a beer drinker with a running problem!” I may need to get my own moisture wicking shirt custom made that combines the three. It would have to say “I run in bad weather so I can drink beer!