When I am an old lady, I have all kinds of plans. Plans for a cute car like a PT cruiser or a bug convertible. Plans for a standard poodle with painted toenails and a bow. Plans for blue (or pink) frosted hair and clothes with floral prints, topped off with my pearls. Brunch with the girls, gardening in the mornings, volunteering at the library, wearing large jeweled rings.
And one thing I’m going to do every weekend is find a race and cheer for all participating. I may work an aid station or help with registration too, but the main goal will be wearing a large sunhat with my floral print and pearls, and standing on the side of the road to cheer, cheer, cheer!
Why, you ask? Because athletes need it and I believe it helps.
This past weekend Jason and I went to McMinnville, TN so that he could participate in the McMinnville triathlon. This would be his first triathlon since…way back in the day and he was unsure of how it would go. It was a small one consisting of a 200 meter swim, an 11.5 bike, and a 2 mile run. I was there with my bright red camera in hand, ready to capture every moment I could.
The swim began. It took Jason 3.5 minutes and then he was out heading to his bike. I ran from the pool exit to the bike exit and then around the parking lot to where the bikes would enter and the runners would exit. Since the ride would take a little longer, I had time to position myself just where I wanted to be, and that was in a grassy section between the road where the cyclists were riding into the transition area, and the path where the runners were just beginning their two mile run. It was the perfect spot.
I got there before the first cyclist made it through, so I got to see them all. The first guy was amazing. More so because his transition seemed to take .1 seconds than anything else. I just watched, silently, because I figured these guys up front needed to focus.
But then I thought about my own races. I thought about all those times I run passed people standing along the course waiting on their mom or their brother or their best friend to come by. They’d stand silently until they saw the person they were there to support, and I would always think to myself, you could cheer for the rest of us while you stand there and wait. We could use it!
Remembering that, I began to clap for the cyclists coming in and the runners going out, and it wasn’t long before my clapping was accompanied by, “Way to go!” or “Good job!” While some runners and cyclists didn’t react, some did. Some looked at me and smiled or nodded. Some looked at me as if they weren’t sure they were doing a good job and that is when I said, “You’ve got this!” Some managed to get out a thank you as they passed and I knew I had made the right choice in cheering them on.
As the minutes passed, my clapping became constant, and I sent words of encouragement in both directions. One runner had a cramp in his foot and had to stop and massage it out. One lady realized her number wasn’t attached and turned back, but another runner told her to run on anyway, that she had her chip. Some runners looked tired as they began their 2 mile run, and I was sure after 11.5 miles on a bike, their legs were still adjusting to the new activity.
Then I saw my man in green and I yelled, clapped and snapped away. I stayed where I was and in a minute, he came running out of the shoot, strong and fast. At this point, it was time for me to head to the finish line, but I was reluctant to leave my post. I clapped for a few more runners as I walked back around the transition area to the finish line on the other side. I stood with a volunteer and clapped for all the finishing runners as I waited for Jason.
In no time (quite literally) there he was, racing up the hill to the finish line. He finished in 53 minutes and he was excited by how good he felt for his first event of this sort. He had a blast and as I walked outside of the transition area where he would collect his things, I told him I wanted a bike. The triathlon looked like a ton of fun and I wanted to give it a try myself.
On our way home, we stopped at Madison Cycles and I was fitted for a bike. I got a call later that afternoon that it was built and ready for me to pick up on Tuesday.
Soon I will be joining Jason in these events and hopefully having a blast doing it. This means less cheering for me, but as I said, I have plans.
The conclusion, however, is this. When you happen along an event of this sort, or you stand on the side of the road waiting for your son or your aunt or your sister or your dad, cheer on ALL the runners passing you by. It helps, whether they know you or not. And as I experienced Saturday, it feels great to see that your words of encouragement did what they were intended to do.