Richmond Marathon

Whoever Thought Cheering For A Marathon Would Feel Like An Act Of Defiance?

Every year, we cheer for the Richmond Marathon.

Richmond Marathon
Let’s do this, runners!

Cheering for runners is so ingrained in my eldest son that as a toddler he would yell GO RUNNER at any one moving faster than us down the street whether they were running after a dog or training for a race, and for days after the marathon, he would beg to stand on a road, any road, and find more runners. There just something so very special about having a morning where one can lift up thousands of strangers who are attempting something we’ve done as a people for so many generations across almost every continent.

I did not begin running until I was 14 years old even though I was told that I have a “runner’s build” since elementary school. After watching as many marathons as I have, I will let everyone in on a secret: There is no “runner’s build.” If one wishes to run, there is only purpose, determination, training, belief, decent running shoes, and miles.

However, I fell in love with running in high school and as a varsity cross-country and distance track runner, I envisioned marathons and ultra-marathons in my future. Those never materialized  Or have yet to happen. Instead, my family and I got really good at cheering strangers and friends on towards the next mile.

We yell the requisite GO RUNNERS! and YOU CAN DO IT! but we quickly branch off into:




We love when people put names on their bibs so we can yell to them and for them. We’ve cheered for teams and sports and towns because of a shirt someone happened to wear.

My daughter and I choreograph routines.

Richmond Marathon 2
Step, Ball Chain and Jump and YELL!

My son gives amazing high-fives.

Richmond Marathon 3
We have to switch sides because his arm gets tired.

We have bells and clappers and drums. We are there for the first and loneliest runner and for the last and loneliest runner. I lose my voice. I usually cry at least once at the feats of strength and will of humanity.

There is a sense of camaraderie when the spectators cheers and the runners footfalls meet, and I cannot believe that moment was targeted. It is horrible and, minutes beforehand, would’ve seemed incomprehensible to me. I pray for those who were hurt and killed in Boston on the afternoon of April 15, 2013, as well as their families, and for all those who are scared and confused and upset.  I hope, come November and the 2013 Richmond marathon, we will cheer with them in our hearts and high-fives.

(I’ve talked in other ways about the Boston Marathon on Facebook: the actual event, some hope, and why I wore a running shirt today.)

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

6 thoughts to “Whoever Thought Cheering For A Marathon Would Feel Like An Act Of Defiance?”

  1. There is so much joy and hope in this post. In the midst of all the sadness, you make me smile and believe.

    As someone who’s been on the running side of a marathon three times, I can tell you that it’s the cheering strangers who get me through the miles. And the coward who hoped his/her cowardly act of violence yesterday might scare me into hiding was wrong: I cannot WAIT to get back out there and celebrate the freedom, the strength, the joy I find in running.

    I refuse to let fear be the emotion I carry with me going forward.
    Love always wins.

  2. I have the exact opposite of a runner’s build. And I might never run a marathon, but I am remarkably stubborn and have pounded out a few half marathons. I cry every time, and I adore the people who cheer from the sidelines. xoxo

  3. I’m running Richmond this November! Now I’ll be looking for you so that I can stop in the middle of the race and be all “I read your blog!” 🙂

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