A few weeks ago I sat in the kitchen of my sorority house talking to my sorority little sister, Courtney, about the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon she would run next weekend. The Marathon started at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown and ended in downtown Easton in Scott Park, which is located at the intersection of the Lehigh and Delaware River. This is the third marathon she has run; the first last year in Bethlehem and the second in her home state of North Carolina. Last year I did not have a car on campus, so I did not attend her marathon in Bethlehem, but this year I drove to support her crossing the finish line in Easton.
I am the type of person that pants and feels winded walking up the hill to my house, so it baffled me that anyone could have the ability to run 26.2 miles. I couldn’t even fathom how to even start training for a marathon at that length. However, excited for her race I decided to invite a bunch of chapter members to support Courtney on her major accomplishment. I was then informed that the entire Lehigh Crew team was running the half mile the same day, which meant that three more chapter members were running. Some of our chapter members decided to show their support by drawing signs saying such as “Run Courtney Run” for Courtney and the crew girls in our chapter. Because I had never attended a marathon before, I decided to look at the Via Marathon website to find out more information about the event prior to attending. I was surprised to find out this event was actually two days long; the first day consisted of the walk and the 5k and the second day was the team, half, and full marathon, which is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
A group of chapter members and I drove to the marathon ready to cheer Courtney on with our encouraging signs. After about 20 minutes, we drove in downtown Easton eyeing the quaint store-fronts and packed parking lots. Because of my inexperience with marathons, I didn’t consider how difficult parking would be in an already populated area of Easton. After circling the neighborhood for about 10 minutes, we finally found a spot right outside the Crayola Factory. This was the first opportunity for me to use the MobileNow app, which allows you to pay your parking meter through your phone. After downloading and setting up the app, I typed in the meter number and paid for our meter. To avoid the chaos of finding a parking spot, it would’ve been helpful if the organizers posted locations of parking lots on the website so drivers had a better idea of where to park.
After navigating through Easton, our crew found a spot on the fence right in front of the finish line, which gave us a clear view of runners finishing the race. I looked around, feeling overdressed in my sundress, surrounded by people in athletic clothing, matching T-shirts of the runners they were supporting, but we were still excited to see the race. The announcers were excitingly sharing trivial facts about the exhausted runners who crossed the finish line. The entire time the announcers congratulated the finishing runners, the crowd was screaming encouragements and reminding them how close the finish was. A rush of motivation pulsed through my body as I took in the energy of my surroundings. The atmosphere was extremely positive and encouraging, which wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced before.
The night before the marathon, Courtney had told us that she hoped to finish around 3:45:00, which is an ambitious goal for her. When the time hit 4:00:00 we were becoming a little nervous about her, wondering if she was injured or to tired to finish. I couldn’t fathom the exhaustion she was facing or how much her body was telling her to quit. We checked the Via Marathon website and saw that she checked into the last checkpoint at 20 miles and would be crossing the finish line soon. Realizing Courtney would still run the course for a bit longer, I conveniently added more time to my parking meter via the phone app, which made the change in plans convenient. At around the 4:25:00 mark, a determined, exhausted Courtney crossed the finish line (with an awful video courtesy of Brielle Kirk). An angry facial expression developed upon her face as she panted in disbelief that she completed the marathon. A sense of pride and concern enveloped me as Courtney searched for water, desperately looking for a safe place to sit down. I was initially afraid to go over and congratulate her because I thought she was unhappy with her time. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The second she saw us, her face lit up with excitement as she saw her friends supporting her. For Courtney and most of the other runners, the time didn’t matter; the accomplishment was they had completed their goal of either running the full, half, or team marathon.
After Courtney caught her breath and proudly posed for her finish line picture, we were on the hunt to find the Lehigh Crew team tent to congratulate those runners. We weaved our way around the medical tents and finished runners getting massages and find the brown and white tent and congratulated our friends. Hearing Billy Joel songs fill the air, we turned our attention to the live band setting an uplifting mood for the runners completing this massive accomplishment. Heading toward the live band, we took in our surroundings. A line of drained runners holding beer tickets anxiously waited to reach the front of the line to purchase a refreshing Corona with a twisted lime as a celebratory drink. Tables were overflowing with fresh crimson apples, ripe bananas, and dense protein bars to refuel the bodies of the runners. After roaming the finish line festival for about 30 minutes Courtney became more exhausted, as expected, so we headed back to Bethlehem.
Overall, my experience at the finish line was essentially a celebration of the runners’ accomplishment. It is amazing how much these runners had dedicated in order to achieve the goal they set. Attending the marathon made me realize not everything has to be a competition, but rather a celebration of accomplishing a goal and a fun way to bring the community together. Seeing Courtney’s desire to complete a marathon rejuvenated my desire to accomplish my own goals. Honestly, I will never run a marathon, but there are other ways I can demonstrate my passions. I encourage everyone to attend an event in the Lehigh Valley that helps you feel more integrated in the greater community, not just Lehigh University.