Really, who doesn’t want to be awesome at cheerleading?
I’m living in the post-marathon / it’s cold outside blue period so I want to lighten things up with something fun. Cheerleading. I have taken field notes and am here to report on some great tips – mostly related to running events however, I think you can modify them for anything (cook-offs, dance-offs, the theatre, surviving winter, etc.)
In no particular order, here they are:
- Signage: Be funny, send love to strangers, support your team… So many great reasons to invest in some cardboard, markers and glitter glue. The best distraction while running is reading all of the signs so make it good. Here are some of my favourites:
“Go Mommy” / “The only marathon I do is Netflix“ / “Remember, you paid to do this“ / “I don’t know you, but you’re doing awesome“ / “You’re Running Better than the Government” / “Running shoes: $120, Race: $75, Finishing: Priceless”. Also, I noticed a new trend: People are making cut-outs of their runner’s faces and posting them on sticks that they hold high – like lollipops. Kind of creepy but effective. You will totally notice your big head bobbing high in a crowd. Or alternatively…
- Balloon or umbrellas: The best way to stand out in a crowd is be tall. Easier said than done so buy some balloons or fun umbrellas and hold them high. Your runner will spot them easily. At the Cabot Trail Relay we had 4 & 2 balloons for our team number. Easily spotable until they popped in the car on leg 3. My poor teammates were terrified. In Chicago, a group had matching kid’s froggy umbrellas – I saw those five green and speckled frogs many times. Adorable.
- Cheer loud, send happy thoughts and have fun: There will be music, so dance. Cow bells and bear bells are encouraged. Cheer for strangers. I will never forget the woman who yelled: “It’s all downhill from here” near the end of my first half marathon. She wasn’t lying and I really needed that positive encouragement.
- Pick a side: As the Chicago marathon was about to start, I realized I should of talked to my family about what side of the road I’d run on so we could better find each other. When there are 1.7 million people on the sideline and 45,000 runners, it is a needle-in-a-haystack situation. Luckily my mom knows me well enough that I am left-handed proud and will always choose the left.
- What not to wear: Not a time for heels – being a cheerleader is a serious workout. You may be running to several spots on the course. You will be up on your tiptoes. You will be jumping and juggling signage, water and a camera. You may need to jump in an offer support and encouragement. Be prepared. No one, not even a cheerleader, should loose a toenail. And speaking of clothing, know what your runner is wearing so you can spot them in the crowd easier.
- High-fives: I once heard someone yell “high-fives make you stronger”. It’s true. Give them out, they’re free. I always try and take one from the kids.
- Gear: Mike calls himself Sherpa-Mike whenever there’s a race because he has to carry a backpack full of post run stuff (flip flops, food, water, the camera, my phone, clothing). Get a good bag, save your back. Also wear a watch – preferably a stop watch so you can track the time. It’s helpful to know your runner’s pace so you’ll have a better idea of when to start holding up the awesome sign you made (see #1 & 2).
- Meet-up spot:
At the end of the San Francisco half marathon I quickly realized I didn’t plan a meet-up spot with my parents. Not smart when there are 35,000 runners. Not smart when your iPhone dies after taking pics of the cute fireman who were passing out Tiffany necklaces at the finish line. Not smart when they have no idea what you were wearing. Luckily the race organizers are smarter than me and had a “call a friend” station set up. I was able to call my dad and find them right away.
- Training: Listen, join, and practice. Listen to them ramble on and on about their training and join in if you can. That way you’ll know their speed and needs. Leading up to Philadelphia, my mom practice running and jumped in for encouragement (I had no idea she ran) – she kept me company and took my jacket all without needing to stop or slow down. Since then, she’ll often join me on her bike during long runs or family members will come and get me at the end of a run.
- Music: Does your runner have a pump-up song? Play it. We made a mix for our Cabot Trail Relay team with each teammate’s favourite song and played the song during their leg. At the Rum runner’s relay we brought the songs back and no joke, Eminem is a solid cheerleader.
So that’s it. Happy training and good luck next season!
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