Chicago Marathon: The 5 Emotions of Spectating

Gut-turning excitement; an abundance of carbs; an 8:30 bedtime on a Saturday night (and only a glass of wine before that). By any normal standards, you’d think I spent my weekend preparing for, and participating in, the famed Chicago Marathon — or at least a race in general.

But no. I was not. Instead, I was a mere spectator, zigzagging from mile 1 to mile 3 to mile 11 to mile 22 to mile 25, without running any of those miles in between.

Even though I was destined to watch the action from the bitter-cold sidewalks of downtown Chicago, I nevertheless loved every second of race day preparation — so much so that I was happy to go through the motions despite the fact that I wouldn’t cross the finish line or utilize any porta-potties.

Instead, I’d stand from the sidelines and cheer. And I’d do so with extra energy at that, because, like I said, I was asleep by 8:30 on a Saturday night, and, in all fairness, who does that except the sick, sport-driven or senior?

This girl, that’s who. I even woke up at 5 in the morning (but only because I couldn’t fall back asleep) and squeezed in a workout in the hotel gym.

Especially after running on a lifeless treadmill in a stuffy basement gym, standing on the sidelines for 4 hours, watching hordes and hordes of runners go whizzing by, can fill you with true perspective and a ton of emotions. I narrowed them down to the 5 I couldn’t hold back no matter how hard I tried.

Pee your pants excitement. Falling asleep after Noah’s 4:45am wake-up call was simply not an option. From the moment we began packing our bags for the Midwest, I felt as though I were preparing for my very own race day, even if I’d only be watching from the sidelines.

Despite the fact that I would not be running in the Chicago Marathon, I nevertheless went into Saturday night as though it were my own race-day eve. After a simple dinner with his family, Noah and I headed back to the hotel, where, after pinning a bib onto his singlet, I wrote out his name in big, bold letters. Apparently, my stroke of smiley face genius turned out to be a huge crowd-pleaser. Mission accomplished. Everyone screamed his name.

By 5:15, while Noah had already left the hotel for his brothers, who were staying at a hotel closer to the start line, I was up and ready to break a sweat. By the time I ran it all off downstairs in the hotel fitness center (translation: small gated area with equipment and towels), and returned to my room, I could literally hear the crowds hollering, the sirens booming, and the helicopters helicoptering. Even from the 14th floor of my hotel, located a few miles away from the race, the excitement was palpable.

Shake in your booties nerves. It’s one thing to cope with personal failure; this is something we will all inevitably face at some point in our lives, whether on race day or in some other arena. The prospect of failure is often what fuels us to work and train harder; but when it affects someone else — mainly, someone you care about nearly as much as you do yourself — their nerves permeate your every bone. It’s osmosis at its finest.

My number one reason for making it to the race and standing in the bitter cold was to cheer on Noah (yea, he’s ok), after months of hard work, determination and abstaining from extra pickle-backs at the bar. On Sunday, I wanted him to succeed almost as much as I wanted an ear-flap hat while cheering.

Nail-biting paranoia. This is especially an issue when you’re looking out for 3 runners (Noah was running Chicago with his 2 brothers). Trying to spot 1 person can be difficult enough; but playing real-life Where’s Waldo over and over again can be dizzying and downright exhausting to say the least!

Is that him? No. Is that… No.

What if I missed him?

What if he’s lying on the side of the road injured?

What if… OMGISTHATHIM? Nope, just another generic runner in a white singlet.

But then…

yeaaa Noahhhwwooooo!

Ear-to-ear grinning elation. The up-side of nerves and paranoia is the elation that accompanies spotting your runners and seeing them succeed. Noah’s success (and yes, he did very much meet his goals and more) ultimately materialized into my own sense of happiness.

Just can’t help it envy. Of course, I wouldn’t be being honest if I didn’t include one of the 7 deadly sins. Because as much as I was happy to be in leggings, furry boots, 2 jackets and a scarf on that frigid Sunday morning, and although Noah said, at times, he was a bit envious of the spectators not running on the side, the excitement of the race can really light a fire in you. I wanted to be out there; I wanted to accomplish something awesome; I wanted to run — and run, and run, and run.

But of course, I won’t be running that type of distance any time soon. This week, after 3 consecutive days of running (bad blogger, bad blogger!), I’ll be focusing on short runs, strength training and perhaps a yoga sequence or two. Because as much as I’d love to go out there and knock 7 to 10 miles out of the ballpark, I also know that doing so may aggravate my shin after last week’s runapalooza and prevent me from those coveted long routes in the future.

This is where the patience that I don’t really have would come in really, really handy.

  • What emotions do you find you can’t hold back when watching a marathon or race?

11 thoughts on “Chicago Marathon: The 5 Emotions of Spectating

  1. I actually signed up to run the marathon in DC (where I live) again this year because I didn’t think I could bear to watch and not be out there myself! I totally feel ya on this! Fun spectating report 🙂 –Ericka @ The Sweet Life (

  2. I agree with your chosen five, although I’d add “guilt”. When my husband runs a race, even if I ran that morning or had a great long run the day before, I still feel like I should be out there 🙂

  3. Loved this post. I think you nailed it! I like to spectate almost as much as participate. Congrats to your hubs and to you for being a great supporter!

    • Thanks! I think after I complete a marathon at least once in my life, I’ll be an eager little spectator. Not that I’m not now, but perhaps the envy will dissipate then.

  4. I was thinking, as I was running the marathon on Sunday, how excited I am to spectate the Chicago Marathon next year! Jealousy goes both ways, as I was def jealous of the people on the sidelines, in warm coats drinking coffee and cheering their heads off!

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