Thoughts About Run­ning

By Madeleine Cum­mings The Art of Spec­tat­ing

Canadian Running - - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2017 -

It’s a ques­tion ev­ery run­ner faces of­ten: “So, you’re a run­ner? Have you run a marathon?” I give the same answer ev­ery time: “No, but I’d like to some­day.” Most of the rea­sons why I’m not ready to run 42.2 kilo­me­tres in­volve fear. There’s the fear my in­jury-prone body might break down, the fear of not run­ning fast enough, fear of “the wall,” poor race con­di­tions and pain. Un­til I face these fears, I know there’s a huge part of the sport I’m not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. At­tend­ing a marathon as a spec­ta­tor is a great way to get a taste of what it takes to run the dis­tance, but in the past I have al­ways done so with a few friends in mind. I stake out a spot on the course, cheer for a minute or two, and then bike to the fin­ish line. It’s the lazi­est form of cheer­ing – one step above watch­ing a livestream and scrolling through Twit­ter in bed. If you go to any ma­jor marathon, you’ll find peo­ple who cheer for run­ners for six or seven hours. Some are vol­un­teers at aid sta­tions, but oth­ers have no af­fil­i­a­tion with race or­ga­niz­ers. They cheer be­cause they love the en­ergy at marathons and they care about ev­ery­one who crosses the line. Back in March, I read about a 70-year-old woman named Ros­alie Ann Vigil, who has been en­cour­ag­ing run­ners at a 10k in Colorado from the same street cor­ner since 1979. Vigil, who is known by lo­cals as “Ms. Tutu,” waves signs, dances and cheers us­ing a mega­phone. She used to be a run­ner, but said she has never laced up for this par­tic­u­lar race be­cause she’s too busy en­ter­tain­ing.

Cana­dian races have their own home­town he­roes who go out of their way to cheer ev­ery­one on.

Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race has “Tim the Grim,” a man in a Grim Reaper cos­tume who haunts a spot near a ceme­tery to­wards the end of the race. Many run­ners stop to take pho­tos with him and for some, see­ing him on the course is a high­light of the race.

“I can hon­estly say that find­ing you there was even bet­ter than cross­ing the fin­ish line,” wrote one run­ner on his Face­book page.

Toronto’s Mike Ko­latschek, 44, started spec­tat­ing se­ri­ously at Around the Bay in 2010, when he dressed up as Su­per­man and sta­tioned him­self at the top of the Val­ley Inn Hill. “Mike the Sign Guy” is best known for cheer­ing run­ners near the Princes’ Gates dur­ing the Sco­tia­bank Toronto Water­front Marathon. He once dressed as a beer bot­tle with a big sign that read, “Ready for me yet?” Though he used to have a pas­sion for run­ning road races, he prefers to be on the side­lines now and says he feeds off the en­ergy of the run­ners who pass him. Ko­latschek ar­rives 45 min­utes be­fore the gun time and stays un­til the very end of the race. He’ll stay even if it’s pour­ing rain and his signs have dis­in­te­grated. At 6'4", Ko­latschek is hard to miss, and run­ners go out of their way to give him a high-five. Some run­ners have even thrown them­selves into his arms. “There’s no mag­i­cal recipe to be­ing a good spec­ta­tor,” he in­sists. “It’s just the will to share an ex­pe­ri­ence and it’s show­ing your sup­port for those who are run­ning.” If a marathon isn’t in the cards for me this year, I’ve com­mit­ted to work on my spec­ta­tor game. We can all learn a lot from peo­ple on the side­lines.

Madeleine Cum­mings is an Ed­mon­ton-based jour­nal­ist. This fall, she’ll put her writ­ing skills to good use by com­ing up with some clever signs for lo­cal races.

LEFT Hy­dra­tion fol­lowed by en­cour­age­ment at the Ot­tawa Marathon

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