One of the cooler things about running a race are the fans on the sidelines. When, in any other sport, does a recreational athlete command an audience? Never, unless we're talking sprouts soccer or the under-12 IM relay at a swim meet. During a race, sometimes the cheerleader is random person on her lawn, coiling up her hose, unexpectedly caught at mile 2 of a 5k, and she yells, "Good job!" Sometimes screaming throngs of people bring you in for the final stretch. Either way, the extra encouragement--they're cheering for little old me!?--is an unexpected, spirit-raising bonus, like discovering a dry pull-up on a chronic bed-wetter or seeing that Nutella is on sale: 2 jars for $5. (Who can pass up a deal like that?)
I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but there's one time I don't like the crowd. When somebody says, "You're almost there."
Chances are, I know I'm almost there. I've rationed every bit of my energy, based on my watch and the mile markers, and I'm well aware that this feat, which seemed like a brilliant idea when I stood at the starting line but now feels like a life sentence, is almost over.
But thanks for the info, Einstein.
More importantly, the trying-to-be-helpful soul is often lying. Almost there, in my dictionary, can be defined in one of three ways: I can see the finish line. I have less than 100 steps until I can stop. I will have the timer thing cut off my shoe in less than 2 minutes. If none of those qualifications are met, please don't tell me I'm almost there. I may look like I'm physically close to collapse, but my brain is still shiny, and I'm.not.almost.freakin.there.
To balance out my bitching, here are two things I really like to hear:
"Last uphill of the course!" (If that is, in fact, a true statement. If it's not, it's worse than almost there.)
"Looking strong!" (It feels so much more substantial than the bland looking good.)
Full disclosure: my brain goes numb when I'm on the sidelines. I'm a big "woo!er", often followed by a heartfelt but fully unoriginal "Nice job!" I have, it should be noted, never told a runner she was almost there.
With SBS heading into Big Sur, it's a perfect time to ask What do you like to hear? What don't you like to hear? What do you like to cheer? What's the best race sign you've ever seen?
Let us know, and you could win a new Road ID, an integral piece of equipment for any woman who runs alone. The testimonials on the site about how the ID saved lives freak me out, but the scarier thing is being totally anonymous in the cold, hard world when you need help the most. I wear mine pretty regularly, but I admit I need to be more consistent with it.
The best part of the ID? You can customize it, and there's often enough space for an inspirational saying on the bottom line. I'd suggest "Run Like A Mother" or "Looking Strong" or "I've Got This."
Anything goes, except, of course, "Almost There."
What phrase is music--or cacophony--to your ears when you run?