waiting beneath an arc that says "Finish"

And it usually has a very daunting countdown timer. To those actually in the race, the sight of that running digital clock may be a badge of encouragement, pride and accomplishment - a moment of "I can do it!" or "Yes, I did it!". That sight of numbers amidst semi-colons counting down would probably last a few seconds, after which focus is then diverted to stopping a the timer on the calculator-looking sportswatch on the wrist, or to the person tearing a piece of the bib whilst handing a free bottle of specialized refreshment.

But to someone who's waiting, and staring at that steadily animated thing for at least an hour (usually more), it is nerve-wracking. Even if you already know the general pace and expected finishing time of whoever it is you're waiting for, you'd usually want to be at the line a bit early (if you're not there from the start already). Of course, to get a good spot for that crossing-the-line photo. To get parking. Or to simply get to the finish line area without getting lost given all the rerouting.

Or really, as a concerned party, you really want to be early - just in case. Just to be safe. Now, since the concept of "just in case" has now been introduced into your head, the mind will naturally wander and play tricks on you. Like, what else is there to do while waiting? And even if you have a form of distraction like I don't know, an iPod or some hand-held game-thingy, it only takes a millisecond to be shot in the heart with a just-in-case-induced panic scenario.

The statement itself is pretty ambiguous. It can be positive: just in case... he finishes early. Or you see other friends who finish early. Or you see other friends who are likewise waiting. And it can be a deadly spiral of anxiety: just in case... he couldn't finish the race. But wait, he's really going to finish because that's how he is. Something bad would have to happen. Maybe he got injured. Would they call an ambulance? Would they call me if they call an ambulance? Would it necessitate a severe injury before an ambulance is called? How do they define severe? If it's not severe, will they still pick him up? Should I be the one to call for the emergency? What if he crosses the line while I'm out talking to a race marshall about the possibility of an injury and an imminent pick-up? Insert silent scream inside head.

Repeat the cycle for say, 1-2 hours. With around 15-minute zoning-out or otherwise relaxed intervals (possibly longer, if you're actually sitting somewhere). The closer you get to the pre-discussed estimated time of arrival, those intervals almost diminish (so does the concept of sitting down). It's arduously stressful, really. But it makes seeing him cross that line all the more priceless.

I think I lose weight just by waiting.


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