I never thought I’d come to love this aspect of run races that I have done a couple of times. It has nothing to do about running technically but I believe it serves a good degree of importance in a race. I myself am privy to this when I did my first marathon at The Bull Runner Dream Marathon Batch 3. Along strategic points in this picturesque 42k Nouvali route and most importantly before the finish line, I felt its power to uplift and energize me towards achieving my dream marathon medal. I believe most runners who have done a good share of running in several organized races have experienced and acknowledged its importance in boosting once performance.
I am talking about cheering on the sidelines of races, running races in particular. I never thought I could do this or be good at it. I am never a cheerer, no loud voice, no energetic personality. I am just there at the sidelines, keeping to myself and being invisible from attention and letting others do the shining most of the time. Or maybe these are the very characteristics that cheerers are made of, a wind beneath the weary runners’ wings or legs in this case.
I rose at a very early hour last Sunday to prepare myself and my stuff and arrive at the KOTR Activity area on time. Our call time is 2:30 a.m. to be able to do all the preparation at our designated cheer area near two adjacent hydration stations at the foot of the Kalayaan flyover before the gun start which is at 5:00 a.m. for the 16.8 km runners. I say rose and not woke up because I did not wake up, I cannot sleep. Out of excitement or nervous expectation even though I hit bed at 9 p.m., I just tossed and turned and do all the acrobatics in bed but not sleep. I have done many cheering volunteer work before so this is not new to me. But this will be my first time to wear a skirt and a wig while doing so! The bugging thought of how runners will react to a blond afro me in tutus egging them on kept me on edge.
Arriving at our staging area, I was not only excited; I was wary I may not be able to have the energy to shout, dance, run and everything imaginable that at times silly just to give support and boost to the weary and “wasak” runners which most of them are by the time they reach our area. For how can I be effective in my job of energizing others when I lack the energy to do so myself? But the excitement of my fellow Fabulous Running Divas (Ivan Patrick, Sweetness, Blue, Marjee, Juvy) and the Waterworld Boys (Pinoy Fitness members Chutee, Victor, Aljim, Joel) rubbed on me and I was ready for anything. Add to this is the presence of Pinoy Fitness himself, Sir Jeff, and the ever-present Miss Mars to give us the needed support and address our needs.
By the time the first elite runner arrives which to my observation happens to be either Kenyan or Ethiopian, followed very closely by a local national team player and running icon to most, Eduardo Buenavista, we are very much prepared with our balloons, pompoms, lively cheers, water sprays and fabulous costumes. First they came one at a time. Then waves after waves arrive bringing in more and more weary legs needing some boost from our fabulous team. And we did not disappoint. With each sweat they spend, we gave them an all-out shout from the top of our lungs to push them to sweat more! With each weary step they take, we egg them to quicken their legs and spring forward with our spirited dance steps (mostly courtesy of Mariah Carey dance-alike diva, Ivan Patrick).
Boom, boroom, boom, boom we cheered! Louder, louder we chanted. A one, two, three, four – a signal for Ivan, Sweet and Blue to dish out some killer moves and dance steps. A shout here, a whistle there, an intermittent response from the runners, all combined in an atmosphere not only of competitiveness but camaraderie as well. Add to this is the beauteous members of our squad (and I’m not talking about Sweet! hehehe), Marjee and Juvy who not only cheered but sashayed as well. We have our very own photographer too in the person of Ghry who provided the necessary coverage which the runners, ever ready with their jump shots, thumbs up and Japan Japan poses, took advantage of.
The Water World group was not to be outdone either. Composed of Pinoy Fitness boys and one astig muse in the person of Chutee, they came ready and in full force to provide the necessary refreshment. Armed with a pail of cool water, water guns and sprays, they aimed at the reddening faces and overheating body rivaling the effect of a light cool heavenly shower which luckily did not manifest into a torrent unlike in the northern areas of the metro. (Our collective prayers and egg offerings must have done miracles.) They came with their own brand of masculine cheers, as well, which provided a nice counterpoise to our gay and mardi gras drag number.
I was surprised at the energy level I was able to sustain throughout the onslaught of thousands and thousands of 10k and 16.8k runners which seemed never ending at times. Though feeling raspy from shouting nonstop for more than two hours and zero sleep effect slowly manifesting, my voice and body did not break up nor did my spirit. But alone by myself I am insignificant, the combined energy, spirit and vivacity of our Pinoy Fitness cheer squad made this effort a rave success. Add to this is the boost in energy we got from the runners themselves which made me realize that this is not a one sided relationship after all. We gave runners the energy boost and they likewise do to us the same!
The needed break for us come in the form of running friends and group mates passing by us who acknowledge us not only with a nod and a wave, but with their very own cheer for us, a fast kiss and a hug, and even a picture taking if not in a PR mode or at a leisurely pace to boot! Even strangers (though I consider every runner a friend waiting to be acquainted with) stopped with their running just to pose by the side street with all of us. Most of them are running in groups of family members, team mates or loved ones. A picture with us in skirt and whathaveyous is indeed a great souvenir of this wonderful race to be posted in FB!
When the very last of runners arrived, we called it a day and followed them to the finish line. After a very satisfying cheering activity, we made our way to reach our finish line. As Fabulous Running Divas and Pinoy Fitness team, we did it in a very fabulously fun filled and picture filled way. We sashayed and posed along the Kalayaan Flyover as if we closed the entire route so we can pass by and have our pictorial. On second thought, after all the effort and sacrifices we did to give our share to the running community which gave us so many, I heart fully think we deserved such!
Post Script: We won second place in the Cheering Squad Contest of the KOTR 2012.