Thursday, 26 April 2012

London marathon cheerleading

I love the London marathon because it's on my doorstep and as there are so many people doing it, I can live it through them and experience a whole range of emotions. I've taken a friend from France and together we cried having got to know spectating parents, as their child came through. I've taken an Aussie man, who has been inspired and then gone out running the next day, so hard that they puked. I've cheered for Constantina Dita and a surprised Deena Kastor and even a limping Jordan as well as friends who did it so long ago I hadn't even contemplated it as something interesting or even aspirational!

This year was even better because a friend was running. Tash had been blogging her journey and I loved reading about her progress because she came from a similar non running background and her learnings felt like they echoed mine. I was really excited about her run. Also I'd been speaking to this guy on twitter who turned out to be a Commonwealth and Welsh Champion; to say he was good was an understatement and so I had someone to cheer at the pointy end of the race too. 

I got so excited about going and supporting them and making signs that this got picked up by the twitterati. One retweet later and I was making a list of the four runners that I knew were running, no six, no ten. And then it was 34. I drew a twitter bird on a cheering sign and told people where I would be, not expecting that anyone would care or spot me. Suddenly I had a timeline full of descriptions of pace, split times, t shirt descriptions and people to look out for. 
I dressed for the day exactly like my twitpic in the hope that would help people and was so excited to read how nervous people were that I was at the 25 mile point at 930 as the kids races were taking place. I blocked out spots for four people, erected our signs and laid out the food. I was joined by Andy and his daughter and a camp from Jersey set up next door. 

As soon as the elites came through our area got very packed; pushing, shoving and a man obsessed with handing out Jelly babies to the point I thought he might have been a feeder. It was his mission all day to have sweets on hand for anyone - even if they didn't want one. He started off a bit annoying but after the elites and club runners went past, the jelly babies provided such essential relief for runners that I couldn't begrudge that he stole a spot, blocked my signs and obscured our view!

As the open car full of photographers descended on us I saw one of the teenagers from the kids race still on the track. That's odd I thought. Actually it was Mary Keitany who can put away the distance pretty quickly for someone only 5ft 1. Very sad to see Liz Yelling further back, happy to see Constanina Dita and confused to see Louise Damen's running style (no she's not in pain, that's how she runs!)

Then it was the men. Not just any men but Richard Gardiner. Oh I know there were a few blokes in front (including Lee Merrien who got a roar from me and the Channel Islands crew) but my eyes were trained for a brown haired, Welsh-looking guy in a a black strip with yellow stripe. Yes that's how I described him to the crowd. To say I a made a fool of myself when he appeared would be an understatement. I screamed and I screamed - and because there was a bloke within catching distance of him, I screamed some more. And I swore. And then once I had calmed down, I had to explain to the Jersey crew that no that wasn't my boyfriend, and no he wouldn't be coming to meet us after the race. 

Next up was Denis aka @ruggedradnage. The instruction went up "blonde hair, white tshirt, says Denis, but say Dennis". I mean, really can you imagine looking through 34,000 people with that description? And then, there she was! I actually got tongue tied and it took a while to call out but she spotted us and Andy got some great pics. Right next: Peter Savage, blue top, red stripe. We got him too though I am not sure the t shirt was that color. We actually had a list of people to look out for, expected times and descriptions! We thought we saw Claire, definitely got a wave at Jo (Where's Wally), and high-fived Hugh. We strained our eyes in vein for Baz and Paul Monkey. And fortunately my good friend Tash spotted me! I was SO proud. Sadly the web tracker then went down and my battery was onto backup chargers for spotting the next runners, though the crew via twitter were great for giving times for Becs and Manoj who I particularly wanted to see. Becs was in hospital the week before and Manoj had live tweeted the event (including how to handle wedgie issue) and both deserved all the support we could muster. We were gutted for everyone we had missed. 

It was great having Andy and Liz for company. Next year we need more of us - so we can take loo breaks, fight the crowds which were a bit brutal this year (everyone wants to get a final cheer for their runner before heading to the meeting area). Come and join the fun. Even if you're not a runner. If you want to see what people can push through, if you want to see pain etched on people's faces and then see them run again when you shout out their name. Come to make someone smile who thinks it's just the man in the mankini getting a whoop, call out the names on people's shirts, call to their spirit and strength and help them to the finish line. Come and watch the seething mass of humanity overcome a great challenge for charity. Your lower back and feet will be sore, your bladder bursting, your stomach rumbling and your throat hoarse. But you will have eyes brimming with tears, a heart swollen with restored faith in humanity and goosebumps from the inspiration and raw emotion. And who knows, you might even enter the ballot for next year. Just don't run the day next till you vomit. 

Thanks to all runners for a great day out. You were great. 

And thanks to Liz and Andy for putting up with the shouting. 


  1. I'm sure going to miss you in New York :-( I can really feel the vibe again from this blog. Brilliant :-) Goosebumps again. Thank you for supporting so brilliantly, helping all us runners know where you would be and what you did for us. From my point of view to know you were there at mile 25 kept me going. Denis x

  2. It really was so fantastic to hear someone, who 'knew' me scream my name! Fab thank you :oD. Jo365 :o) AKA Where's Wally?

  3. Thank you Denis and Jo - it was a pleasure to shout and strain to see you guys and especially you two had great expressions when we found you. Denis, if America wasn't so far away you'd have yourself a cheer squad for NYC!

  4. Rowena, this has been one of the few higlights to what has been a trying week after a tough weekend. Your support for everyone is what I love about this amazing sport and you are right at the top. Thank you, I will ensure I get further up that pointy bit. :)

  5. Nice post, thanks for sharing this to us. Looking forward for more updates. Great job well done, Congratulations !

  6. Ooh blimey, I seem to be a bit late for my own part! Sorry, just read this! Firstly, you are a star! There's nothing as brilliant for a first time marathoner than knowing someone is out there shouting for you I was delighted to see you at the end. Secondly - you're a star! Your support throughout the training with tips, tricks and general pep talks is also awesome! Thirdly, you're a star! This time, for being there at the very end with, food, freeze gel and most of all a big cheer!
    Thank you so much for supporting, for being as excited as us actually running it and for just being top cheerleader. I wouldn't be surprised if you're at this very moment being head hunted by the Olympic committee to become the Olympics Chief Cheerleader. You rock! Hopefully one day I can return the favour. Thanks for making running fun, no matter the ability. Awesome.