Monday, October 6, 2008

Cheerleader in Chief

This weekend, my husband and three good friends ran the Portland marathon in the pouring rain. I had wanted to run it, too. But, my right femur has this annoying little penchant for stress fractures. Since I couldn't sweat out the 26.2 miles with the other 10,000 racers, I went as an official die hard cheerleader. 

Without any sleep (our hotel room was right next to the ever so squeaky cable cars and drunk people singing Irish songs at 3am) , I cheered for Mike and our friend Jay, who ran almost the entire race together. And, I cheered for my beloved running buddies, Sheri and Liz. And, I cheered for pretty much any stranger I saw who looked like they needed their own private cheerleader.

My kids, Lisa (Jay's personal support system and significant other and the best teacher in the universe) , and I cheered from the balcony of our warm, dry hotel room as runners passed by at miles 1, 5 and 26. We made it a goal to cheer loudly enough to get them to look up at us. If a runner looked up, we got a point. If they looked up and smiled, we got double points. Our job was much harder at mile 26, by the way. Many runners had their first names emblazoned on their bibs. This made cheering just plain awesome.

Me- "OK guys, red shorts is named Martin."
Kids - "Martin, you're awesome! You can do it! You rock! Whoop-Whoooooop!
Me- "You're almost there Martin, just around the corner! You look great...kick it in, man, kick it in!"
Kids- "Yeah, kick it! Kick!"
Me - "Ok, guy with a beard is Nick."
Kids - "Go bearded guy!! You are SO awesome! We LOVE you!"

We saw Mike and Jay at miles 1 and 5 and just screamed our brains out. After they passed each time, I felt light headed and just on the verge of passing out. At miles 1 and 5, both Mike and Jay were grinning from ear to ear and keeping a steady 8:01 pace. Not bad considering neither one followed a training schedule with the kind of anal attention that usually gets me injured. After mile 5, Lisa, kiddos and I went and had breakfast. French toast, bacon, eggs, coffee, real maple syrup. Awesome.

Then, we compulsively tracked all our friends online for an hour or so. Every 30 seconds, we clicked the refresh button to see what checkpoint they had crossed. Were they injured? Were they keeping pace? Did they need us? Finally, we went to wait near the finish line. As people crossed the finish line in various states of pain, jubilation, or desperation, I found myself wondering at their stories and wondering at who was waiting for them at the finish line. Who had been compulsively checking their stats to make sure they were safe? 

Finally, we spotted Mike, just yards from the finish line. The kids and I leapt into the street, screaming and waving our arms.....Mike smiled huge and started to cry.  Then,  with arms raised in victory, screamed, "FREEDOM!!!!!"  Yes, Braveheart is his favorite movie.


Six minutes later, Jay passed us. We screamed, we cheered, we hollered...And, he ignored us. Or, so we thought.  He actually didn't hear us right away. Jay was in the zone, he was focused and he was ready to be DONE.  20 yards AFTER he passed us, he turned and smiled and waved....a delayed reaction. 

I never found Liz, in spite of my steady efforts to catch a glimpse of her. But, I knew the moment she crossed the finish line because......I was tracking her online.

I found Sheri at mile 25 and jumped in the race for a half mile to run beside her. She was smiling and chatting. I was and AM so proud of her. Seriously. 26.2 miles. I hadn't planned on jumping in the race. But, when I saw her, my heart swelled with emotion and well....

I wanted a piece of her glory.


  1. Awesome! I love the Braveheart "Freedom!". Having run 10 marathons myself (including 2 Bostons!)I totally understand how perfect that exclamation is at the end of 26.2 miles. Well done! Hope he enjoys his recovery. Hope your throat isn't too hoarse from all the cheering!

  2. I'm totally crying. I am so proud of you and Mike! Wish we could have been there to cheer him on...

  3. Wow! I like that you had a way of keeping track of cheering response and that you could tell when folks you know were drawing near!

  4. you have such positive energy. love it.

    but i'm mad at mike. he doesn't even look tired and that just ain't right...

  5. How incredible! I've been surfing around reading marathon stories and it's so inspirational. I'm training for a 10k and in complete awe of the marathoners... and the diehard cheerleading squads, too!

  6. Way to go Mike !! And way to go cheering squad. I love that the kids were such an important part of this event cheering their Dad on and cheering on complete strangers. What sweeties !! It is so good for them to see how all the training runs pay off for the big event!!

  7. i had so much fun with you and the kids. my throat was sore the next day from all our cheering/yelling!

    when we got into the car to leave, i said to jay, 'that was fun, when are you going to do it again?'

    you ... like it's THAT easy!?!



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