The Kansas City Marathon isn’t exactly a spectator sport.
Still, Kansas City police who patrolled the course estimated that about 10,000 onlookers came out for Saturday’s 2012 Waddell & Reed road race event.
The temperature at the 7:05 a.m. start was 44 degrees with no wind. Perfect, some said, for running the half marathon’s 13 miles or the whole 26-plus miles.
But Amanda Larigan, who came to her first marathon to cheer for her husband, Tim, found it a bit chilly for standing around several hours — with a 2-month-old baby — waiting for runners to pass by or cross the finish line. So she did her own dash, back to her car.
A lot of spectators dropped off their athletes at the starting line and then didn’t show back up again until a few hours later.
About an hour into the race, police said, spectators stood shoulder to shoulder for two blocks on both sides of Grand Boulevard, from the 26-mile marker at 20th Street to the finish line near Crown Center. Elsewhere along the course, the chill kept spectators pretty sparse.
“I think everyone out here is invested in some way in the race,” said Jessie Bauters of Overland Park, who waited near the finish for her 26-year-old husband, Fred Bauters, to run by.
She had already driven to and parked at the seven-mile marker, the nine-mile marker and the 19-mile marker to catch a glimpse of her husband and give him a shout.
“I don’t think many people come out to watch just for fun,” Jessie Bauters said. “You got to be pretty intense to do a marathon and pretty intense to chase someone who’s running all around town to root them on.”
Norm Schram of Leawood and his 21-year-old daughter, Olivia, got a feel for both sides of the event.
“We ran the 5K this morning, had breakfast and then wandered over to support the other runners,” Schram said. “Normally this isn’t a spectator sport, except in some bigger cities — New York, Boston, Chicago. A lot more people come out to watch there.”
For hours after the first runners — those running the 5K portion of the day’s event — finished, streams of competitors rounded the corner at 20th Street onto Grand Boulevard.
That’s where Kansas City lawyer Joe Jeppson and his 2-year-old son, Jojo, joined a crowd that was ringing cowbells and shouting, “You got this” and “Finish strong.”
After polishing off a doughnut, Jojo ran up and down the sidewalk ringing his bell alongside the marathoners. When he tuckered out, he climbed into his dad’s arms with the sugary remnants still clinging to his top lip.
Jeppson, a runner himself, wasn’t participating in Saturday’s race but came out to support other runners, like 26-year-old Lenexa resident Chris Hutchings, who had just finished the half marathon.
“It really helps to hear all the cheering,” Hutchings said. “It encourages you. It’s like a celebration of all your training.”
Closer to the finish line, Sally Bowerman of Blue Springs waited about an hour with her dad and two nephews before her sister, Amy Craft, and their 56-year-old mother, Fran Horning, completed the half marathon.
“The marathon in Kansas City is getting bigger every year, and I definitely think more people every year are coming out to watch,” said Bowerman, who has run three marathons, including Chicago last year.
She and her dad were heading east to run in Sunday’s marathon in St. Louis.
“It’s hard just watching because sometimes I see people cross the finish line and I’m so inspired,” Bowerman said. “But then other times I see them and I think, ‘Boy, they really look tired.’ ”
Her mother and sister approached the finish strong, however, waving at relatives who applauded, cheered and jumped up and down as if they had spotted celebrities.
Two Yoder sisters came to support their sister, Megan Wengerd of Garden City, Mo., who leaned against the metal spectators’ barrier at the finish line and looked back at the course for her husband, Brandon Wengerd. He was running his third marathon in 13 months.
Sisters Ana and Emily held a giant sign above their heads: “RUN BROTHER in-law RUN.” He’d said he hoped to finish in 3 hours and 50 minutes
“He should be crossing any time now,” Wengerd said, explaining that her husband had run his first marathon in Maui in September 2011 and another in St. Louis in April. “He started and just kept running.”