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The perks of being a superfan

Carolyn Green | Thursday, October 4, 2012

The other day, I was running around the lakes, the sun glinting off the water, the first fallen leaves of autumn crunching beneath my feet and “Gangnam Style” pounding in my ears, when I approached a man running towards me from the opposite direction.  

He appeared to be in his early seventies, with a weathered countenance, a shock of white hair and a tan to rival that of Indiana Jones.  His shorts, perhaps a little too short, looked as if they were from his high school cross-country days, but any egregious attire was made up for by the fact that he ran with a huge smile on his face.  
Clearly, this man was so happy to be alive that day and so happy to be running.  

As we passed each other, he gave me a thumbs-up and said, “Hey, keep it up!”   

This stranger’s enthusiasm for what was obviously a lifetime passion reminded me of one of the best parts of the sport of running – the support we runners receive from other runners and non-runners, alike.  

In last year’s Holy Half, hundreds of dedicated supporters showed up to cheer on their friends and family.

I remember in particular a couple of local folk from South Bend, who set up a table near the Rock with free donuts for the runners. I do not know if anyone actually took up their offer to satisfy a mid-race Krispy Kreme craving, but it is the encouragement of fans like these that truly makes the difference in the experience of people running the race.   

Especially with the Chicago Marathon coming up next weekend, I urge everyone to watch a big race at some point in his or her life.

Every year, thousands of spectators flock to Boston on Patriot’s Day (coincidentally, a state holiday in Massachussetts), to watch the historic Boston Marathon take place. Half a million fans line the course to cheer runners through the toughest spots, including the notorious Heartbreak Hill. Boston College students have the day off from school, and their marching band often plays along the course.  Watching the Boston Marathon has become an annual celebration, just as memorable for the fans as it is for the runners.

Many marathon spectators take pride in the signs they hold up for runners, which if anything help to break up the monotony of the course for race participants.  

Be creative with the content of your signs. May I suggest writing things like, “Your feet hurt because you are kicking so much butt!,” “Worst parade ever,” “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon” or “Where are you all going?”

We adopted this tongue-in-cheek mentality with our mile markers for the Holy Half Marathon 2012.

Recall, if you will, the picture of Yoda with the slogan “May the course be with you,” and the word “Run” above a picture of a forest with another word “Run” written beneath. As a personal friend of Jason Segal (okay, my sister shook his hand one time), I know the cast of “How I Met Your Mother” would have approved of our signpost for mile four that said, “This race will be legen -wait for it” and our signpost for mile five that said, “Dary.”

We already know that running makes you happy (those pesky endorphins at it again), but cheering on runners can offer just as much satisfaction.  

Even if you don’t make it to the Windy City or Beantown to cheer on runners in a large-scale marathon, flash a smile or offer a thumbs-up to the next person you pass on an upcoming run.  
Even a simple “Good job!” can make a runner feel that much better about himself or herself.

It’s not just famous people who have fans, after all. 


Carolyn Green is the student director of the Holy Half Marathon. She can be reached at cgreen9@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.