Yes, you can learn a lot about a woman by the contents of her purse, but I think it’s more telling to watch the way she reacts at a finish line, and I saw the whole emotional spectrum while volunteering for DC’s inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon.
My job was simple: scan runners’ race bibs as they filed through the finish area towards some seriously glamorous swag. Between the volunteers offering water bottles and foil blankets, a squad of ROTC men in tuxedos hand-delivered Tiffany’s pendant necklaces housed in that iconic baby blue box tied with a simple white ribbon. Whenever there was a lull in the crowd, all it took was a “who wants their Tiffany’s necklace?” yell to get exhausted finishers to smile and “woohoo!”
I saw the proud. Scores of half-marathon rookies exchanged high-fives and hugs with complete strangers; they then asked me if I knew their time yet. Oh, and where are the necklaces? I saw women run to those necklaces, as if the previous 13.1 miles were the warm-up for this moment.
I saw the relieved. One woman marched right up to me, stuck her bib out, and exclaimed “scan me!” before marching on to the food and foil blankets.
I saw countless Boston shirts, hats, pins, and bracelets that I couldn’t help but feel Boston strong and Boston proud all morning.
I saw some interesting nutrition theories being tested. At the start of the race, a woman set a can of Diet Coke by my feet as the crowds inched forward. Another strapped a bag of chocolate chips to her belt. Perhaps they’re on to something.
I saw tutus. Actually, I saw a lot of tutus.
I saw more iPod headphones in that three-hour span than I have in my entire life. Finishers showed no shame when doing a little dance in the middle of the crowd as race-day playlists came to a close. How they still had the energy to dance after their race is beyond me.
The finish line may have featured high-fives from Joan Benoit Samuelson and Shalane Flanagan, but those ROTC guys were definitely the center of attention. I asked one of the dashing young gentlemen how it felt, and he said it was like the Grammy’s.
But instead of red carpets and extravagant gowns, we had pavement and all those tutus.