On Sunday I stood and yelled in strangers’ faces for four solid hours. My throat was hoarse. Thousands of marathon runners went passed the Run Dem Crew cheering station and it was brilliant to see the effect our noisy support had on them. We were LOUD.
There were around 50 of us out to cheer on our crew members and keep the masses moving. Imagine 30 cowbells, over 50 screaming men and women, whistles, horns, vuvuzelas and a wamp sound system. It was like carnival in April, but with running and movement-related music.
Spirits were high and I couldn’t stop smiling. I shouted out as many names on shirts as I could read as runners moved past me. We encouraged runners to keep running and walkers to keep going. It was such a beautiful thing to see someone’s pained face crack a smile while they stepped up the pace because they appreciated our support. We made so many people smile on Sunday. It was one of the best days I’ve had this year (I’m still not down from my Berlin High) and I’d gladly repeat that every day until I wreck my vocal chords.
Run Dem Crew don’t disappoint - I don’t think they have the capacity to. That community means more to me than I had anticipated and after months of physical and emotional support from the crew I appreciated the opportunity to start repaying the favour. It was visible in hundreds of strangers’ faces that we made a difference on Sunday. From the gritted teeth that relaxed into smiles to those who ran a little bit faster as they soaked up our vibe. It’s like we were spoon-feeding energy to lots of tired people.
It was Charlie’s idea to set up at mile 21. It’s apparently the point in the race where you’ve already run 20 miles and realise you’ve still got another 10km to go. It’s the point where resilience starts fading and desperation and negative thoughts are inescapable. For me, that’s mile 12.5 of a half marathon and I was surprised that I only saw one tear-soaked face moving through the Supporters Zone. I think I would have melted my face with my own saline if it was me running last Sunday.
Charlie’s organisation to get all the posters and banners up made Commercial Road a colourful place to be. Props to everyone who cut, glued, nailed and gaffer-taped to make the visuals just as loud as we were. The Rosie Lee posters were phenomenal and they make us a proud bunch of happy, screaming supporters. We had huge images of Nathanial, Shameek and Candice posted up and when they ran through we went wild. Seeing Nathanial and Shameek made me feel so proud, moving like 21 miles so far was easy and they’d breeze through to the finish line. Caroline literally looked like a bundle of fun, all smiles, and looked amazing in her kit and temporarily tattooed and. Ellie and Kimberly looked ecstatic to see us and I’m glad I got a sweaty hug. I’ve never seen anyone as excited as Skinny - BOY, that dude can jump! He and Sami literally bounced through us, grabbing hugs and leaping onto us. There wasn’t a single person who wasn’t laughing at this point. Unfortunately I missed the other RDC runners, Robin (NY Bridge [badass bandit] Runner) and even my friend Jez, but I know you guys got a blast of motivation from the Supporters Zone!
The excitement didn’t ebb all day. We were waiting to see everyone we knew and when we saw Candice in the distance the crew exploded. Supported by Nathalie, who walked and ran with her from mile 16 where she had been volunteering, Candice was physically and mentally exhausted and overwhelmed by our cheers. The minute I saw her face crack behind her Raybans my throat caught, my eyes and nose stung and I was crying as we ran to meet her. She was surrounded - we took over the road. In hindsight, this was probably the worst thing for other runners to have to deal with. We’re sorry, we didn’t mean to be so selfish, but this girl’s something special to us, you know? We ran with Candice, encouraging her. I was filming and shouting, running just behind her. I kept yelling “come on girl!” (watch the video; even my own voice annoys me, I know it’s repetitive, SOZ) while we all kept her moving. Peigh, Chaka, Nathalie, Denis, Keith, Jeggi and Angel kept with her till almost the end when the majority of them got pulled off the course by race marshals while Petra and I turned back to help Charlie and Bangs pack up.
I really recommend cheering for runners at a race. There’s nothing like it. Remember that they’re doing something that you’re not. Even if it’s within your own capability, many of those running are pushing themselves past their comfort zones, past previous limits and achievements, and that’s admirable.
Seeing real emotion and pain in a stranger’s face always gets to me, maybe more so because I’ve had a taste of distance race (though not at any impressive ‘speed’) running. What really struck me was how I felt about the people I saw. I felt a little overwhelmed and quite proud of the women who had run fast enough to slip into the men’s group. I found myself looking out for the few women who had achieved this, and really cheered for them. I must have yelled “GO ON GIRL!” about a million times. Of course it was starting to get annoying to me and everyone around me, but those women who heard me knew that I had recognised their achievement and I got more than a few grateful smiles back. Well done ladies, you’re doing all sorts of wonderful things for the girls!
To everyone who ran all or part of the Virgin London Marathon last Sunday, congratulations on being so amazing. You’re winning at life!