Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanking your cheerleaders

Confession: The longest I've ever run, without stopping, was a mile.

And I did that once, about a month ago, totally on a Forrest-Gump-esque whim.* I constantly joke that the only thing that could make me run is someone chasing me with a knife. But I also understand that there are people who love running, who can't imagine living without going on long runs almost every day.

Running is a language I don't speak.

But on Sunday, I decided to wake up while it was still dark to cheer on my friend Hannah as she ran the Philly Half Marathon. I made a sign, but as I agonized over exactly what to write (it was my first race, had to make a good impression!), I decided that, since my presence was for Hannah, my sign would be for all the runners I would see before and after she passed me by.

What did I write?

total stranger,

My plan was to stand and see Hannah two places along the race route, and then at the finish. So I'm standing by myself in the cold, dark morning, and the runners start to come by. And I'm cheering and hooting and holding the sign, and I couldn't believe the reactions.

Runners were laughing and pointing and yelling "thanks, stranger!" and hollering "hey, that's me!" and saying "great sign!" — over and over and over again. And the ones who were focusing (or huffing and puffing) so hard that they couldn't say something gave me a smile or a thumbs up or a wave.

I couldn't believe the reaction that little sign was getting, and how much people appreciated and were cheered on by me, a total stranger. It was so wonderful to know how much my enthusiasm mattered to them. Even though I certainly didn't understand the drive to run 13.1 miles, much less 26.2, my support and encouragement had an impact.

That's when I thought about all the random people in my life who take the time to ask about my writing progress. Not just close family and friends, but co-workers, acquaintances, people I know from high school and college that I barely talk to anymore, friends of the family.

They're not invested in my life and happiness in any particular way, and most of them probably can't fathom having the urge to write a novel, but they still remember, and they still ask, and they still encourage me.

Being a marathon spectator reminded me to show my appreciation for the people who care, who cheer me on, who hope that I succeed in getting published. When I'm on that metaphorical mile 6 and there are 20.2 miles to go, they're what keep me moving forward.

I hope all our U.S. readers have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

*Basically, the whim was this quote exactly, except instead of running cross-country, I ran a mile.

"That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going."

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