Why supporting at races is good for you
Running a race feels great – you get the sense of achievement, you get the feel good factor of endorphins from exercise, and you get the cheers and encouragement of all the random strangers by the side of the road along the route. Oh and the bling and after run beers aren’t exactly bad either!
Those random strangers at the side of the road are there to support their family member or friend. Primarily, yes. But they don’t just stay quiet until they come past them. They clap and cheer, offer jelly babies and support everyone running. They try and motivate you by shouting “Well done”, and “you’re doing well,” etc.. As a runner it’s a good feeling to hear that support as you zoom by, roar past, fly by, steadily glide by, plod past, walk by, or shuffle past.
But what is it like the other side of the kerbstone, or roadside barrier? I’ve supported at quite a few events now and it’s quite an amazing feeling when you get into the spirit of the event and share in contributing to the experience of the participants.
Once when I spectated at the Virgin Money London Marathon, we were stood at mile 23, with ‘just’ 3.2 miles left to go in their momentous achievement we found our support rejuvenated so many runners. People who had pulled up or started to walk or lean against the barriers, we became their jump leads, we helped provide them with that extra momentum and push that they needed to go on.
Seeing the names on people’s shirts as they ran past and cheering them on and seeing the effect it had on them was amazing. The smiles, grins, nods of appreciation, the attempts to say “thank you” informing us that it was valued and welcomed and was helping them along.
I’ve supported a few times at the Run for All Leeds Half Marathon where my running friends were out in force on the notoriously hilly course. Not that that description has anything to do with why I wasn’t running it! 😉 I’d cycled up to one of the large hills at mile 3. Being a familiar face to cheer friends on is something I enjoy, if I’m not running myself. Seeing the lift it gives to random stranger runners is ace, seeing it for people you know is even better. Together it is a great combination. Especially when you are supporting a field of runners that spreads outs between so many different paces and speeds. There are runners that need every motivation possible, there are runners that appreciate the support, there are those that are glad to see a familiar face.
I then cycled down to the 12 miles marker in time for the field to pass by again. Wow, the appreciation levels stepped up another level. Being there to be able to pass on the news that there is just over a mile to go is ace and a privilege to see the excellent performances that everyone is putting in. Being there to help encourage and cheer them along the way, warms you inside and is a great way to spend a morning.
Recently I went along to Pontefract parkrun on a week when I wasn’t running. Seeing everyone run past the top end of the lake was a great sight to see. From the leader to the back marker in under three minutes, many saying “good morning” and greeting me and chatting among themselves as they do their weekly run round the course. After they’d passed, I moved down the hill to the eastern side of the racecourse to clap the runners up the long hill just over 1km to go. The field were more spread out now and was a good chance to cheer on people name by name as they rocketed, plodded, flew or shuffled up the hill.
Every one of them doing so well and all contributing to the event in so many ways. After a while, I returned to the top of the lake to cheer in the last third of the field, encouraging them that they’re nearly at the finish and seeing the extra spurt of determination and keenness and even relief. The smiles from those runners was a fantastic thing, and to be part of that happiness was worth loads.
When you support at an event, when you connect with the participants, when you become part of their experience, it becomes more than watching people running. It becomes you sharing what they are going through, and you are also sharing yourself to them too. Your enthusiasm and support connects to them. Your humour lifts them, their humour lifts you. Your smiles are reciprocated in them.
I have a saying ‘smiles through the miles’, and it is based around enjoying running and making the most of the great opportunity we have been given. You can have many smiles through other people’s miles too. You can enjoy the good experiences of other people, and that is a great feeling to have. If you get chance to go and support at a race or at a parkrun somewhere, please do, it’s greatly recommended, vastly appreciated and is an amazing personal experience as well as a truly enjoyable time.