Last weekend I was due to run the Rome Marathon. Unfortunately, due to a training-related back injury, I was forced to pull out at the eleventh hour. After five months of training it was a crushing personal blow, but I knew I had to swallow my pride. If I couldn’t go to Rome as a runner, then I’d go in a different capacity: As a supporter.
Initially it was hard to make the mental transition. At the airport there was a palpable buzz in the air as my four team mates’ (one of whom was my best friend) excitement began to build, and I tried my best to quell the feelings of disappointment. At dinner that evening I felt oddly removed from the build-up, and tried in vain to hide my sadness when I was handed my team pack containing my now redundant race number.
But as soon as the starter pistol fired on the morning of the race everything changed. Suddenly I was filled with a new kind of excitement – not for me but for the 14,000 or so runners who were taking part in this momentous race, my team mates included. When we saw them run past us for the first time I screamed my head off in support, and soon I realised how much all the runners – not just our own – appreciated the support of the crowd.
By the 34th kilometre the runners had dispersed and a great many were visibly struggling. There were very few supporters at this point in the course despite it being the point where most people begin to hit the infamous ‘wall.’ And so our merry band of five began to shout and cheer for EVERY runner that went past, calling them by their names (if we could read the small print on their bibs), encouraging them to high five us and, in one case, giving a protein bar to a runner who collapsed beside us with severe cramp in his legs.
Without exception our encouragement and enthusiasm were gratefully – joyfully, even – received, and I can honestly say it was both a joy and a privilege for me to know that we were making a difference – no matter how small – to so many people at such a physically and mentally taxing point in their marathon journeys. Having trained for the race myself I knew only too well the sacrifices that come with such a massive feat, and this knowledge spurred me on to scream even louder as each person ran past. Their grateful faces more than made up for my own disappointment at not running – if anything I felt glad I could be standing on the sidelines cheering them on to complete the race.
The whole experience taught me an invaluable lesson about the importance of having supporters – not just in races, but in life in general: A particularly pertinent sentiment for today, Mother’s Day, as I’m sure that many feel (as do I) that their mother is, and always has been, their biggest supporter in life. And whilst I’m not a fan of the commercialism surrounding these occasions I do feel it’s so important to make sure our mothers know how much they are loved and valued while we still have the chance to tell them. I feel very sad each year on this day for all those friends whose mothers sadly aren’t still here for them to tell them that they love them. But my belief is that no matter whether they’re in heaven or on earth, our biggest supporters are always watching over us. So well done to my fantastic team mates for completing the Rome Marathon, and
Happy Mother’s Day to you all.