Supporting KC Marathon Participants: One Cheer at a Time

IMG_1156I am a runner and a race spectator. I ran my first marathon in 2005; the Go! St. Louis Marathon.  I had never run a marathon before and didn’t know what I was doing at all. I trained too much, ran in the wrong shoes, never wore anything moisture wicking, and didn’t fuel properly. I over trained and I never stretched.

The night before the race, I bought two cotton T-shirts, one for me and one for my training buddy, Claire. I ironed the words “Go Claire” onto my shirt and “Go Cheryl” onto hers. They were our team shirts and showed our support for each other. We wore them proudly the morning of the race.

Starting the race was exciting and scary. I was not prepared for any of it: not the mental battle and definitely not the spectators. I ran past groups of people with candy to give me, people holding up signs, people offering me beer when all I wanted was water, and all of them yelling Claire’s name at me.  Once I got used to all this attention, I started taking everything I could get; every high five, every smile, and every “You can do it!” pushed me one step closer to the finish line. The strangers on the course that day were so important to my experience. No friend or family was on the course to see me run that day and my friend Claire was super fast so she took off from the start. I was alone. It was the people, the complete strangers, cheering me on along the course that helped me keep going.

Since that first race, I’ve learned a lot about racing. I now run in the right gear, I fuel properly, I put my own name on my race shirt, and I’ve become an enthusiastic race spectator.

It’s so important to every single runner on the course, whether they’re running their first or fiftieth marathon, to see a smile from a stranger or hear a word of encouragement. I know how much a funny sign or hearing my own name encourages me to keep going, if just for a moment, and I want to pass that along to someone else because those gestures matter.

Please join me on October 17 to cheer for the runners of the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon. I hope you agree that this is a great opportunity to gather your friends, family and coworkers to cheer on these athletes who work so hard throughout the year, and to build a tradition of Kansas City pride and spirit surrounding our city’s annual marathon.

Being a marathon spectator is an incredible opportunity for fun and bonding, and I invite you to be a part of it this year! Create a tailgating event for your friends. Make food and drinks, and socialize – all while cheering on our runners! And don’t be shy: take this opportunity to promote your business or club.

Runners appreciate all kinds of gestures – including (but not limited to!) high fives, smiles, words of encouragement, hearing their name, funny signs, fun outfits, music, candy, Kleenex, Vaseline and gum.  This is not a complete list so please feel free to have fun with your ideas. The more creative, the better!

Many participants travel long distances to run this course. Please join me and our fellow spectators by showing all of our Kansas City Marathon runners our enthusiastic support!

I encourage you to set up your cheering station at 7 a.m. (that’s the race start time) and to stay as long as you’d like.

Click here to see the KC Marathon race course so you can pick the best spot to show your support!

I’ll see you out there!

By: Cheryl Birkey