|A sign made by my cousins before my 4th Marine Corps Marathon in 2014|
A few years ago while out on my very first 18 mile training run on the Columbia Trail in High Bridge New Jersey, I stepped off to the side of the trail to collect myself. I was beginning to chafe everywhere (this was before I was aware of high quality tech fabric and BODY GLIDE.) There was substantially more weight on my body than there is now and I felt extra heavy and in pain, everywhere. I was wearing the wrong kind of shoes. It was hot, and unbearably humid. I wanted so badly to stop and lie down in the poison ivy at the side of the trail.I didn't even have a chance to throw in the towel. Just as these negative thoughts began floating around me like the filth does around that dirty kid in Charlie Brown cartoons, an angel in the form of a man named Ralph Abramowitz ran by me, and then stopped when he realized there was a person standing, half hidden behind a tree at the side of the trail. I can only imagine how I must have looked.
"Hey! Are you okay?" he asked, smiling.
In sports as in life, the purpose of cheerleaders, whether they are the pom-pom wielding ones in brightly colored ribbons and short skirts or the super-acrobats catapulting themselves into thin air, is to "energize the team and the crowd." I would take it a step further and say that the most important aspect of cheerleading is to SUPPORT the team, loudly and energetically so that that any negative thinking or juju from the other team is drowned out in positivity and er, cheer.
As a non-traditional runner and fitness enthusiast, it has become increasingly clear how much support and encouragement I needed and still need in order to be able to do the things I am able to do, like complete an ultramarathon, backpack in the Appalachian Mountains for few days with a 60 Lb pack on my back while being responsible for myself and ten students, or to keep it real, just to be able to run whenever and wherever I want to.
|After about 6 hours of switchbacks in Pisgah National Forest heading toward Pinnacle Mountain.|
The running and fitness communities are incredible, as are those who are spectators. Everyone who has ever said, GET IT!, YOU GO GIRL!, YOU GOT THIS!, FINISH STRONG!, SMILE! ONLY 26 MILES LEFT!, OMG YOU ARE OUT HERE!, JUST A FEW YARDS TO GO!, LOOKING GOOD, UM, THAT SEXY MARINE JUST SMILED AT YOU!.....is a cheerleader. Anyone who has ever made a sign to hold up for hours and hours at a marathon is a cheerleader. Anyone who helps you get up in the morning so that you can workout like you promised yourself you would is a cheerleader. Anyone who gives you that encouraging smile or a simple thumbs up is a cheerleader.
I'm seven marathon distances and 2 ultramarathon distances in since my encounter with Coach Abramowitz. Thank you, Ralph.