In March of last year, I ran my first 5K race in Singapore: Venus Run 2013. This women’s-only race had all of the hallmarks of a standard 5K: It was fast, flat (until a pretty serious climb into the Finish Line), and painful. One thing noticeably absent, though, was any sort of cheering. Even as I ran through the finishing chute, right among the Top 10 Finishers (I think I was 11th), no one seemed to be paying any attention, except the announcer.
I realized by then that this was quite normal for races in Singapore. The volunteers provided directions and water, but not much enthusiasm/cheering/motivation. [Note: Most race volunteers in Singapore are teenagers completing mandatory or extra-credit volunteer service. They are plentiful, but most aren't runners and don't know how/what/when to encourage runners. This isn't their fault, it's just a fact.] The spectators were few and far between. And even other runners kept to themselves after finishing the race. All of this was a far-cry from the amazing running community that I left behind in Rochester, NY (*waves furiously* HI GUYS!!!!).
So right then and there, after catching my breath, stabilizing my legs, and downing some water, I decided it was time for a change. I knew that I couldn’t just stand at the top quietly, watching so many people struggling up the slope to the finish. The field size (~2,000 participants – small, for Singapore) and the location (wide, steep slope to the finish) were perfect for what I had in mind. So I walked about halfway down the slope and started cheering, clapping, whooping, and just making a general ruckus – the way I learned in Rochester.
And it mattered – I could see a little push, an extra spring, a small smile coming from these ladies in the final meters of a race. None of these women were “my” athletes – but these are the moments that a coach lives for. This is why I coach. Why I teach. Why I learn ferociously about the body, how it works, and how to help it work better. I live for that fire, that glint, and the pride and confidence that burst out when someone tackles a challenge – and crosses the finish line: SUCCESS!
But let’s not get too poetic. The bottom line is, I stopped caring that “No one in Singapore really cheers,”* and started getting myself out there to cheer. A crazy white girl yelling non-stop encouragement on a deserted section of a half-marathon course at 6 AM (or 11 PM) certainly garners her fair share of strange looks (and apparently, a bit of gossip as well) – but I don’t care. I love watching people run, I love sharing their endorphins, and if I can make just one person’s race a little better - fantastic!
I’ve made half-hearted attempts to get other folks out to join me in the past, but nothing really stuck. But I think the time is right. I think there are other folks – mostly runners – who want to share this experience, and be a part of helping improve someone else’s race experience. So that (finally) brings me to the details:
Venus Run Cheer Squad 2014!
When: Saturday, March 8 (tomorrow) @ 4:45 PM
Where: Marina Barrage Building, at the bottom of the downslope closest to Gardens by the Bay [It's a little annoying to get there - directions are here, or if you're up for a 1.5-2K walk, you can walk from Bayfront MRT. Look for the tall white woman in the Run With Holly shirt!]
Who: Anyone & everyone. Family, friends, adults, kids, runners, non-runners…
What To Bring: Enthusiasm, Hydration (for yourself), Noisemakers (cowbell, clappers, etc.)
No experience necessary! We’ll rally up, and I’ll have some signs and a few pointers/suggestions for cheering newbies. Depending on how many people we have, we’ll divide up and spread out along the latter half of the course. The route is slightly different this year, but there are still some great cheer spots. The race is 5K, so everyone should be finished in about an hour (of course, you can leave whenever necessary!).
I hope to see some of you there! =)
[And if you're racing, feel free to come join us after you cross the Finish Line!]
Ever gone out to cheer for a race before? Any notable cheering experiences?
Have you ever witnessed really spectacular cheering (either in general at a race, or by a group/individual in particular)? Tell me about it!
*Yellow Ribbon Run and Standard Charter Marathon are two notable exceptions. I have cheered at neither, but seen – and seen evidence of – plenty of folks cheering at these two events.