Every time I cross the finish line I get a rush. A buzz. A natural high.
I’ve attended one race prior to today’s events as a spectator. But this morning I took it up a notch with my first experience “running people in”.
“Running people in” means being the personal cheerleader for your teammates as they complete the final stretch of their race. You can run someone in at any distance really. When they are drained with achy legs, it is your job to provide support in any way they need it.
After run club one morning I got into a conversation with two of my favourite fellow runners Margaret and Hazel. They spoke about the struggle towards the end of their last 10k race, and I offered to help “run them in” for this one.
As the gun went off, I stood at a visible spot cheering for everyone I did know but also those who I didn’t. I held up my neon pink sign which on one side read, “I’m a stranger but I’m so proud of you”.
When I saw Margaret and Hazel make the corner, I flipped my sign and yelled as loud as I could. “Margaret and Hazel’s #1 Fan!”
They passed me in high spirits, and I then walked to the 7km mark of their 10k race. I eagerly awaited their arrival, and when we met, I felt a little nervous.
How many times should I say encouraging things and when do I stay quiet? Do I really push them or is my job to just accompany them?
In my own head during races it’s a delicate balance of self encouragement but also tough love. And since I’ve been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it’s been hard to understand when my body needs to push or if pulling back is what I need to stay strong till the end.
So I stayed as quiet as I could, but every once and a while would try to encourage them both in whatever way I could.
Way to go! Keep going! We’re almost there!
Then I would sometimes try to distract them. “Hey look at that sign” “Isn’t the fall leaves pretty?”
For part of the run I carried the sign I made for them on my back. I ran in front of them, instructing them to look at the sign or my feet.
I remembered that during a nasty run in the dead of winter, my cousin was pushing me to keep up with him. It was blizzarding and we were the only ones out on the road. He ran in front of me and said, “Just look at my feet. Match my steps, and just focus.” It carried me all the way home, so I opted to give the same advice.
Hazel was looking strong towards the end and I was running with Margaret who was not far behind. Towards the end of the race, another runner from our club named Jack came and grabbed Margaret’s hand. She grabbed mine and together we crossed the finish line.
I had never felt that kind of joy after a race. I got no medal, and I ran 3km in total for the whole day. However when I saw how happy they both were to have made such a strong finish, I was elated. They both made PB’s too!
It was that, coupled with all the thank you’s from strangers this morning, that makes me confident that I’ll be out there again…not gearing for a PB or to complete a certain distance, but to be a cheerleader.
Thank you to all those who have ever come to cheer during a race. It’s time to pay it forward and do the same. Hazel and Margaret continually thanked me after the race but really, I should be thanking them. They gave me such a positive experience and I’m grateful to have had the honour of running in two wonderful friends. I’ll never forget it!