The value of spectating races


We always try to teach our boys good values: how to be selfless individuals, the importance of hard work and how to enjoy supporting others. Recently we spectated at the annual San Francisco Marathon and continued these lessons.  It was a challenge to get the boys up and out of the house by 4:30 am to make the 2 hour drive to the City, but the night before, as with everything that we do, we talked about the early morning plans and why it was important to celebrate those running and completing a half marathon or full marathon. Hard work, dedication, perseverance and passion; all character traits we want to not only tell our boys are important, but also show them in ourselves and others. And heck, what better way then being a spectator of a race.  

The boys first experience cheering on runners of longer distances came a few months ago.  Earlier this year, our family made the trip out to the beautiful Napa Valley to cheer on my Brother-In-Law as he raced in his first full Marathon and our friend Stephanie (@ganeeban) running her second full. We made signs, packed cowbells, brought chairs and readied our cheering voices. We had so much fun cheering on runners and discovered that supporting these racers was a reward in itself.  At the finish line, the boys were beaming as they saw runner after runner cross that finish line.  They were in awe of how many miles so many people chose to run.  Even more, when runners came up to our family to thank us for supporting them and told the boys they needed those Hi-5's at mile 18, the boys could not help but smile from ear to ear.  It was a new feeling to experience the excitement and exhilaration of race, but not be racing.  

We’ve both run a marathon before and know what it’s like at certain points of the race. Traditionally, at mile 18, runners seem to hit an imaginary “wall” and struggle from that point on. It’s at these choke points of a Marathon that support from family and friends is most needed. In fact, any positive energy from spectators – at any point in the race – is well received in the marathon distance.  For the Napa Marathon, the boys noticed that mile 18 a lot of runners were stopping to walk, stopping to catch their breath or just seemed overwhelmed with the 8 miles left to go.  They used those observations to cheer harder and louder.  Although, we did have to shush one boy when he yelled the dreaded, "You're almost there!" (lol).  We explained how it might seem encouraging, but with 8 miles to go, those were probably not the right words to shout at a person who is likely starting to question if they could or even wanted to finish.  

During the San Francisco Marathon, we positioned ourselves at the 13/16 mile point on the course.  A cheer station was set up by @PavementRunner and the @werunsocial crew.  The boys enjoyed the company of others who were cheering with us. We made signs, brought them down and tried our best to be cheery, but I must admit more than half the crew were delirious with lack of sleep and couldn't focus too much on cheering for part of the time we were there.  This spectating experience was a little different than Napa. The boys observed that at mile 16, our station point, runners were beat up, lacking confidence, grimacing, etc. They also saw that our cheers, whistles, signs, music and especially our words of encouragement were brightening up those who were feeling a bit down. We reminded them about Napa and that shouting uplifting things to the runners, hyping them up, and clapping for their accomplishments was giving them a boost inside. Even with headphones on and music blaring, seeing a stranger cheer and clap for you gives you a sense of happiness and helps you forget that you have a burning calf, chafing thigh, sore back, etc.  

#WERUNSOCIAL cheer station at Mile 13/16. LtoR: @pavementrunner, @renewedme, @katietheactor

#WERUNSOCIAL cheer station at Mile 13/16. LtoR: @pavementrunner, @renewedme, @katietheactor

When we cleaned up our cheering station and walked back to our car, we asked the boys if they enjoyed cheering on runners. They all had something they wanted to share about what they enjoyed about cheering other runners on.  For Napa, they enjoyed seeing people they knew and the look of pure joy and gratitude on their face that we came to cheer them on.  For San Francisco, it was being part of a small group cheering runners on and also seeing a few runners that were "dressed up" or turned their head because their outfit was, let's say "different".  But with both races we spectated at, all the boys left feeling complete admiration for all the runners, for their hard work, their strength and motivating attitude.  Seeing runners push through what seems impossible, inspires our children and reminds them that nothing worth being proud of ever comes without hard work and passion.  Mission accomplished.  

Have you ever spectated at a race? How did it make you feel?