Love & the Marathon.

Today I bore witness to the marriage of two of my loves: Matthew Olsen, and the Twin Cities Marathon.  Even though Matt said (and I quote), “I hated my life for that last hour,” that he endured the first four with a smile on his face speaks to the beauty of the mental and physical effort and strength that the human body is capable of.  I am thrilled that Matt got to experience this today- although this is what he looked like yesterday at the Expo. 
I think these two pictures show the gap in our enthusiasm levels on Saturday.  But who wouldn’t be excited about the marathon shirt from the year you were born?!

By the time we left with his race packet, I was able to coax a little smile out of him.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I should explain that I’d planned to run the TC Marathon this  year but was plagued by injuries (I walked in China…a lot), so Matt gallantly decided to pick up my discarded race ticket and see what he could do with it- with just under 6 weeks of training.
And if he was going to run it, then I was going to throw myself into being a super fan.  I elected to leapfrog Matt via bike.  I’d hoped to avoid the inch-worming traffic between mile-markers and to enjoy the beautiful weather.  So with bike in trunk and Matt in passenger-seat, here’s the view from the 5th Street exit on 94 this morning.  Cars and cars and more cars.  And the Dome- the starting line.  

After bulking up his playlist with Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, and a Phil Collins/Bone Thugs-n-Harmony remix (I am not making that up), the boy was ready.

After I dropped Matt off, I threw my bike together and headed for Mile 3, where I met Deb and Steve.  Before I found them, the first wheelchair racers were flying down the course.  Watching them is one of the most inspiring events I’ve ever witnessed firsthand.

Next came the first wave of elite runners!  Their hips are- I swear- hinged differently than most of the population’s. Their movements are fluid and fast and consistent.  I could watch them forever- but at 5 minute miles, they’re way too quick for me.  Notice tuba player Alan Page in the background.  He is a marathon institution and, as I learned today, both a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a Minnesota Supreme Court justice.  For the last three years, I have thought of him as only That Sweet Tuba Guy between Miles 2 and 3.  Thanks for enlightening me, Deb!

Just a few minutes after the first wave of men came through, the first elite women shot by us.  They looked so strong, so sculpted.  I was in awe.  The winner of the women’s division came in at 2:28.

But truly, nothing matched the excitement I felt when we first glimpsed Matt weaving through the still-thick crowd.  I was- am- so, so proud of him.

Mile 7, Lake Harriet.

Mile 11, Minnehaha Parkway.

Mile 14, Minnehaha Parkway- and the shirt comes off!  That monster face is the one he makes when he’s running marathons and needs a Power Bar.

Mile 18, West River Road- high five to Steve!

The view at Mile 21.  It’s hard to see, but the Lake Street bridge is just polluted with lines of cars trying to cross.  I zipped right by them on my bike, whoop!
Mile 21, East River Road.  He hit the wall here- hard- and refused any nourishment.  I was a little worried.  But doesn’t he look great?
I saw Matt again at Mile 23, but in my attempts to get him to eat something, I got distracted from picture-taking.  So here he is at Mile 25 with our friends- taking a little time out to pet Abita the Turbodog.

Mile 25 1/2, by the cathedral.  This is my favorite picture.

The sidewalk traffic was too congested for me to get much closer, but he’s there, to the left of those three runners in yellow.  I cried watching him cross the finish line.

Done, done, done.  And tired.  And sore.  And- even at this early post-race stage- starting to be a little happy that he tried this in the first place.

The well-deserved beer (and double ice packs) at the end of a very long and very satisfying morning.
I knew several runners who participated in today’s events and cheered on many more whom I’ve never met, and I feel so happy to live in a city that can draw 30,000 runners together to celebrate what our bodies can do.  I feel a hearty pride for all of your accomplishments- in training and in today’s race.  And to you, I dedicate this woman’s sign, which I saw at Mile 23 1/2 and which speaks to that nagging voice that every runner hears in her own mind at some point:
Because yes, you can.

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