Like A Flash Mob, But Running: Tales Of The Reluctant Spectator

Race spectators

Oh my gosh, you know what cracks me up every time? When you’re running a race in a downtown/populated area and there are people there that clearly had NO idea there was a race happening.

I’ve kinda-sorta talked about this before, specifically in a runDisney context – once upon a time Elizabeth and I dashed about Walt Disney World ourselves dodging marathon and half marathon – but that was different. We were vaguely aware there were races happening, so while we were mildly inconvenienced in unexpected ways at times, it wasn’t completely out of left field.

I don’t know what it is, but something about seeing people frowning in gentle puzzlement as I run by makes me giggle. They came to get breakfast or whatever, and now the universe has lobbed them a softball they were not prepared to process.

What running does to Mickey, metaphorically

Breakfast/brunch is a very common one. When the Wilmington Marathon was still the Wrightsville Beach Marathon, we ran past the downtown area twice and caught bewildered diners staring from the road and through the windows of the eateries we passed. This happens basically anytime a race takes place in a city.

Sometimes it even happens from afar: during the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon DC, a friend of mine texted me to complain that thanks to my race she was unable to drive out of DC city limits in any direction. Oops…

I also enjoy when a course uses a portion of trail frequented by casual joggers in the area, especially when the quick-morning-run locals are going the opposite direction. They’ll wave and cheer for us without missing a step, which is nice.

Heck, during the National Capital 20 Miler, we’ve shared the course with another race entirely! If they weren’t surprised, I certainly was.

But I think my all-time favorite was during the ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon, when we ran past the courthouse and there they were: a bride and groom in suit and pretty dress, clearly there for a chill courthouse wedding. And what was suddenly in the middle of their festivities? A couple thousand sweaty runners. I hope we didn’t ruin any of their photo plans. 😂

Oh, I kid, I kid – and I do hope no one has ever had plans truly ruined by a race. In most cases I think people are briefly confused and then go do what they were planning anyway. And if it’s any consolation, sometimes I’m the inconveniencer AND the inconvenienced all at once!

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