Runners exalt the marathon as a public test of private will, when months or years of solitary training, early mornings, lost weekends, rain and pain mature into triumph or surrender. That’s one reason the race-day crowds matter, the friends who come to cheer and stomp and flap their signs and push the runners on.
As I completed a half marathon a few weeks ago, I was reminded of the need for us to have advocates and cheerleaders. Crowds on the route were calling out and gave me the impetus to chase down the final straight.
I ran a half marathon last year and was in real trouble at one point. At 11 miles, having just run my best 10-mile time I was running the next mile uphill, in the sun, with no shade or water and a mile to the next water station. My music had stopped because the playlist hadn’t worked properly and I saw someone who appeared to have passed out, at the side of the road, being attended to by a paramedic. To suggest doubt washed over me was an understatement. There were two people at the side of the road – a mother and a small child. The little girl, aged about 7 just shouted: “keep going, you’re doing brilliant”.
As part of my self-improvement and development of my fitness, I’ve published updates about my weight loss and fitness through this blog. It’s intended to be open and honest about my efforts and to hold me accountable for the results. It’s a form of ‘working out loud’ and has helped me strengthen connections with people who I didn’t know ran and who have provided me with positive energy and useful advice.
Through running I’ve developed an entire support network of runners. Through Parkrun I have coaches and enthusiastic running buddies who provide me with face to face advice. Online, with the running app Strava, I have online relationships with virtual buddies and people who I don’t see face to face who can track my activity.
I realised there was a side effect which came from publishing these updates and that was the number of cheerleaders who are out there to give encouragement and remind me of the reasons I was doing this. They also helped me raise that I’d achieved something.
When I needed it, a 7-year-old gave me the impetus to defeat my negative self-talk. Who cheers for the people you work with when they’re struggling? And if not you, who would?