Over the weekend I heard a speaker who recounted his experience at a 5K race. He noticed that after the leaders ran by the majority of the fans left, so he and his wife decided to stay to cheer on the rest of the participants. As a result, he learned heartwarming stories about the challenges the final runners faced. They overcame obstacles, beat illness and in general were more inspiring than those who sprinted across the finish line first. He benefited from cheering on others, and undoubtedly the runners gained a bit more energy having even just two people there motivating them to endure.

Running seems to be a timely topic, as this week I received this email from a friend: 

Yesterday during the GO! St. Louis Half marathon, I thought about you and had an idea for leadership dots:
When running a foot race – 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon – some of the BEST parts of the race for the runners (besides finish line!) are the creative signs made by spectators.  The signs help a runner get his/her mind off of the remaining (sometimes what seems like) endless miles, makes one smile/laugh, and are just all in all FUN! Also, the signs make those NOT participating suddenly an important part of the race and the fun/energy/excitement surrounding it.
There are some common ones: “Run Amy Run!” with another sign that says “Run Random Stranger Run!” Those spectators who are there for a particular person and cheering on that person, but seeing thousands of others so having a sign for them! “If it was easy, I’d be running with you”
There are some that only make sense to runners: “Toenails are not IN this season”  (Toenails often fall off when you run a lot – particular marathon distance, etc.)
There are some that might only make sense to a younger runner: “I’d swipe right for you”.  
There are some that are timely and the funniest yesterday: “If Trump can run, so can you!”

I think both the speech and the email highlight the importance of having someone there to support you. At a race or in life, we undervalue the role of the cheerleaders and fans. It would be a totally different experience running in isolation, just as it would be less fulfilling to go through any meaningful experience without someone to high five at the end. Whether it be graduation, finishing a major project, overcoming an obstacle or achieving any other goal, it is clearly nicer when there is someone to recognize your achievement in the moment.

Make it a goal to step back from the running and doing to be the sign-maker and applause-giver for someone else. You may find that the extra mile you go to cheer on others will fuel your own inspiration in ways you did not expect.

beth triplett with Jen McCluskey

Speech by Erik Hatch, NACA Northern Plains, April 8, 2016

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