By Emily Kulkus
I wish I could say that I loved running but I don’t. What I do love about running is everything that comes along with it. I like the way I feel after a good run. I like the way it helps me stay and feel healthy. And I love running races with hundreds or thousands of people who are all working to accomplish the same goal.
When I run a race I rely heavily on people lining the route. It’s why I love the Boilermaker so much – there are people and bands and dancers and animals everywhere! (Good luck all you Boilermaker runners this weekend!) People cheering on the race route both distract and encourage me. Smiling faces push me forward, high-fives from little kids put a spring in my step and a clanging cowbell is music to my ears.
Once I realized how much I enjoyed and appreciated race fans, I became a much better race fan myself. I had the amazing opportunity to cheer on a dear friend in an Ironman in South Africa. We had a blast racing along the route trying to find him on different legs. We dressed up in funny outfits, sprayed water guns, hooted and hollered and didn’t care who was watching. Yes, we were the Americans making total fools of ourselves, but it kept our friend smiling and running.
For all of these reasons I’ve been dragging my kids to races since they were itty bitty. My kids are 4 and 18 months and I don’t think either of them have missed a Mountain Goat Run, which loops right through our neighborhood. I think cheering on races shows compassion and respect for the difficulty of the sport. And what kid can't benefit from a learning experience that includes both compassion and respect?
That’s why a recent incident in the car with my daughter made my heart soar. We were approaching a really big hill not far from our house, which we drive all the time. Pretty far up ahead I saw a runner, slowly making his way forward, one small and probably very difficult step at a time. I pointed out the runner to my daughter who craned her neck from her carseat to see him out the front window. I’d forgotten that her window was down when just as we passed him she yelled, “You can do it, man!” at the top of her lungs.
I sure hope he heard her. I’m not sure he did. But I did. And in that moment I could not have been more proud of my tiny little race fan in the making.
Emily Kulkus is the marketing coordinator at Fleet Feet Sports, Syracuse. Reach her at email@example.com.