Race Recaps · Running

Race Recap: Grand Rapids Marathon 2016

This is my first recap about a race that I didn’t actually run. I was looking forward to this race almost as much as races I have run, to be honest, because it was a big day for a lot of my friends. Not to mention it was a fun get away with my friends where all I had to worry about was being a good cheerleader, supporter, helper and friend.

I met up with Matt and Paula the day before the race to drive with them to Grand Rapids. The 2+ hour drive seemed to fly by with good conversation, music and laughs. We arrived at the expo to pick up race packets. It brought me back to a week before when I had stood in line under the “MARATHON” sign to pick up my packet at the Detroit expo. I asked Paula if it felt even more real and she said it did. We bumped into a couple of guys from my local running group at packet pick up who were excited that I would be there to cheer them on. We perused the swag, I bought a couple of new GU flavors to try, and then we met up with Katie, another group member who was running her first marathon the next day. The four of us headed to the hotel where we were staying to get ready to meet up with everyone for dinner.

Dinner was a whole other story. It was great company and a fun time spent with fellow running friends, but the dining experience was a disaster. I was extremely disappointed because I was one of the people who had recommended the restaurant. I had really enjoyed it before the River Bank Run 5k earlier this year… but this time the service was slow, management was extremely rude, and our food was cold. I felt so bad for the runners – especially Katie, who had her meal heated up three times and it STILL wasn’t hot, because it was her first marathon! To top it off, we ended up spending a ridiculous amount on parking because I couldn’t figure out where to go.

We headed back to the hotel and I was texting my friends Brittany and Crissy because I was supposed to be sharing a room with them. They kept asking where I was staying and I kept telling them I was staying with them! I was getting a little bit nervous! We were hanging out in Matt and Paula’s room and heard jumping upstairs. Oh man, I thought, that better stop so these guys can go to sleep! Not long after I got a message from Crissy saying they heard pounding above them, and I responded, OMG yeah us too! We must be on the same floor! Next thing I know they are at the door laughing because they were the culprits who were jumping on the floor above us. I headed back to our room, saying good night to Matt, Paula and Jon. The two girls and I stayed up for a while longer, laughing and joking, taking funny snap chats and just having a good time. It was really great to have a little girl’s getaway!

I woke up bright and early, even though I didn’t have to. The race excitement had gotten to me, even as a non-runner! I got dressed and gathered up my supporter supplies – pretzels, Doritos, Oreos and water. I headed down to Matt, Paula and Jon’s room and we started loading up the car. It was pitch black dark outside and quite chilly as we headed towards downtown Grand Rapids. We all gathered up in the YMCA to stay warm before the race started. I was dubbed “race mom” and collected everyone’s stuff to hang onto while they were running. At 8am the runners were off, and luckily I had one of our group member’s boyfriends with me to keep me company while we waited. It wasn’t long until another supporter arrived – Anna – and not long after that we were back out at the finish line as the first half marathoners started crossing.

Once our first member crossed the finish line, it seemed like constant cheering. We were watching the live race check points to see how our friends were doing. Some people were absolutely killing it and a few were struggling. We kept sending our marathoners pictures and messages to encouraged them to keep it up! I went to go meet Crissy when I knew she was close to finishing. That poor girl had a horrible cold and I knew by her split times that she was struggling. I found her about a quarter mile from the finish line and helped run her in. Our group had found a little area to gather in on one of the corners and that’s where we stood, cheering for our friends as they came in one by one. I didn’t even see Matt until the last minute, and he was killing it! He ended up with a major PR, and I ran to the finish line after him in time to catch a couple of pictures of him seeing his mom at the end.

Matt joined the rest of us on our little corner, and we all chatted, ate Roulette Doritos (WHY DID I KEEP GETTING THE SPICY ONES!?) and checking in on the runners that hadn’t finished. Paula had a live GPS tracker so I was able to see where she was, plus she messaged me with updates from time to time. Matt and I sent her a picture and told her to keep it up! She was going to be a MARATHONER! Matt, Anna and I went to meet her around mile 24 to help her make that final couple of miles… those last couple of miles that you swear are the hardest miles of your life. As we reached the straight away towards the finish we saw the rest of our group, cheering Paula on and taking pictures (super awkward struggle bus pictures of me, by the way!) Paula picked up her pace with her goal in sight! A group of people were forming a human tunnel that she ran through as she finished, and the race director gave her a hug at the end. She was surprised to see that her parents had come to see her finish her first marathon, too, and I was trying not to be a blubbering mess as she hugged them and all of us. Not long after she finished, we heard that Katie was coming in hot to finish up her first ever marathon too. We congratulated her and then a small group of us went off for post-race food and drink at The Knickerbocker Brewpub & Distillery.

It was so awesome to be a part of this event and to support so many runners. I got to know people from our group that I hadn’t met before, and spent time with those that I do know well that have quickly become some of my best friends. I was dubbed the “race mom” and I think I will forever be associated with Doritos and Oreos. Well, I will take it – and this race mom was super proud of her amazing “children” that ran so well at the Grand Rapids Marathon!

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