Are You Cheering From The Sidelines or Running In The Race?

About ten years ago, our family relocated to a small rural community. Each fall the city has a celebration called “Peach Days” in honor of the predominant crop (which is delicious, by the way).

As part of the festivities there is a 10 K race. Our oldest daughter was in cross country at the high school at the time, and decided to participate in the race. It started in the morning and after running the requisite distance around town ended roughly where it started which is along the parade route. Runners generally are finishing the race running along the parade route where spectators are gathered on blankets and chairs.

We scoped out our spot along the parade route, near the finish line and watched the parade as it progressed, but were really focusing on the runners as they came along main street towards the finish line, anxiously looking for our daughters arrival.

As runners came up the road, the parade visitors would clap for them and call out words of encouragement. Most of them looked like they needed it. (Some were losing the contents of their stomachs as they approached the finish line. What would possess anyone to do that?!).

Eventually we spotted our daughter coming up the road. She appeared to be pushing her limits, but she got across the finish line (without puking, but just barely). My wife tried to make her way through the crowd to check on her, but wasn’t able to connect with her. She was already off to join the group whose float she was riding on in the parade. (We spotted her then when the float came passing by. She looked much better by then).

Fast forward ten years. For some crazy reason my son has got me running as a form of exercise. It’s taken a while to get to where I can run more than a short distance without having to walk to catch my breath, but over about six months, I managed to get myself up to a 5 K distance. Along comes Peach Days, and this year they are having a first ever 5 K race, so what the heck? Why not run in the 5 K this year. (I’m not ready for the 10 K yet. Perhaps next year). My son didn’t need much encouragement to join me, so we signed up.

Suddenly I had a new perspective.

I made the mistake of taking off quickly in the adrenaline of my first formal race and was trying to pace myself better after the initial quarter mile or so. As I was getting passed by older men and younger women, I pressed on.

A young mother pushing a stroller with her baby passed me about half way through.

As one young lady passed me I noticed the saying on the back of her shirt; “It’s supposed to be hard. Hard is what makes it worth it.” That sounds like something a distance runner would have on their shirt.

Eventually I made it back to the final stretch along the parade route on Main Street. Then I got a different perspective.

People along the parade route would clap and call out encouragement as I went by. In the past that had been me. Now I was the one on the receiving end of their efforts to sustain my energy to the end. It was amazing how that encouragement did just that. It gave me more energy and increased my ability to continue.

From the title of this article, you might anticipate that I would extol the virtues of running over spectating. Not so. We are all runners in our own races.

True, we may not be running to our full potential, and our race probably doesn’t take us along public parade routes, but I’ll bet you’ve got people cheering you on from the crowds, clapping and calling out their encouragement as you run your race.

Always be grateful for their encouragement. Let it help to motivate you. It can give you encouragement to press on, even to pick up your pace a little longer.

And don’t forget to cheer on someone else in their race, whatever it may be. You can be the force that helps someone successfully finish their race. You could be the one that makes all the difference.

Keep cheering.

Keep running.

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