Sunday is the Austin Marathon, and the route comes right down our street for the second year. Just like last year, we're hosting a big marathon cheering party; we'll have at least 50 people in our front yard and on the side walk. All my running friends love having a place to watch the race that has hot coffee, food AND clean bathrooms.
When I ran my first marathon, way back in 1998, I loved running down Shoal Creek Blvd. because all the residents of the street were out in their yards cheering. It seemed like such a neat thing - being able to sit on your porch and watch a race. I always dreamed of living somewhere that I could do just that. But I always figured I'd have to move to a big street to have a race come by my house. Little did I know that they'd bring the race to me.
As the race has grown closer, the girls have gotten more and more excited about it. They've had the chance to watch all the training groups come through during their Saturday runs and to practice cheering for them. Two weeks ago, the organizers painted a blue stripe along the whole route, including down our street. And yesterday workers dropped off the baricades for our corner. I have to admit that I'm pretty geeked out about all of this.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the neighborhood is as excited as I. Last week a woman put a post on our neighborhood listserv complaining about the road closures because her husband hadn't been able to get home from the bakery a few weeks ago when the roads on the edge of our neighborhood were closed for the Half Marathon. In the e-mail, the woman asked for the name of the person at the city who approves the races.
I wavered about responding but finally decided I had to.
During the Half Marathon, I was talking to the woman who coordinated the bands along the race routes, and she said that the organizers had gotten so many complaints from residents of our area that they had to schedule an accoustic band for that section of the race. I was so embarassed that our beloved little neighborhood was getting a bad repuation with race organizers, and I apologized profusely to the woman.
So I wrote and rewrote a response to the complaint e-mail pointing out that there had been signs all along the Half Marathon route warning of road closures. I also said that the Half Marathon and Marathon are becoming known premiere races and are drawing top runners from around the world. They are an excellent chance for us to show off our city and our neighborhood. I finished my response by saying that I'll be trapped at home on race morning, so I'll be out cheering with coffee, bagels and friends and that I hoped everyone in the hood would do the same thing.
I sent the response to the listserv and prepared to be flamed. In the past, there have been some pretty hostile exchanges about races. Instead, I got a dozen e-mails, both just to me and on the listserv, thanking me for my response. One e-mail was from a man who lives in the hood and who will be running on Sunday. I felt much better about our neighborhood after getting the replies.
During our run on Wednesday, my friend JTS and I were talking about crowd support during the marathon. She said that the Houston Marathon has thousands of people who turn out to cheer even though they don't know anyone who is running. In Austin, the crowd is usually just people who have friends running, and that's embarassing. Houston, ranked as one of the fattest cities in the country, can turn out huge city-wide support for a great race. Austin, one of the fittest cities, doesn't even come close. Instead of huge crowds, we get people complaining about road closures and traffic.
So if you're reading this and you live in Austin, come on out Sunday and cheer. There are 26.2 miles worth of roads to choose from. Take a chair and drinks and bells and whistles and noisemakers and do our city proud. We'll be doing our best here at mile 19.5.