Runners think about running a lot, and talk about running a lot. We like to relive past races through telling our stories or looking at event photos. I’m not sure though whether we acknowledge enough the fact that what makes an enjoyable race is not only the joyful mass of fellow runners, but also those kind people who have come to cheer us along. There is a lot of difference between trying to do your best on whatever distance when nobody seems to care and when you receive encouragement, whether in the shape of a smile, loud claps or cheers.

Last Sunday was an important date for many of our runner friends in Coruña, since it was the day of the Maratón Atlántica – Coruña 42. This is a young event, with only the fourth edition held this year, but organizers have put in an amazing effort to make it worthwhile for runners to visit this remote spot of Spain. Accordingly, the race has evolved a lot since its truly memorable wind and hail struck first edition, and turned into one of the neatly organized smaller scale marathon events, where runners still get a race t-shirt, medal engraving service and a meal at the marathon expo pasta party, all for free. At the same time, participants are treated to varied refreshments and numerous bands playing on the course, just like in major races.

Since we only just ran the Vienna City Marathon the week before (see my thoughts on it here), participating was out of the question. Many of our friends were running though, and we felt that the least we could do was go and cheer them on. So there we were, up on our feet and out on the streets at 8 AM, to give some hugs and see them off at the start. I must admit I get at least as emotional when seeing other people run the epic distance, as when I’m running it myself. There is something very touching about the excitement and anticipation on their faces, after all the months of preparation it had required to be able to stand at the start line.

The cheering crew. In case you don’t read Spanish, the sign says “Run 32k using your legs, 10k using your will and 195m with your heart”.

During the race we moved around on our bikes, Chan taking photos, our friend Yulia and me cheering the runners as loud as we could – holding the sign a very skilful Yulia hand crafted with much love the night before (see photo). I have to say it was an extremely gratifying experience to see how runners smiled back and waved at us. The little over three and a half hours that it took to see all our friends to the finish line passed without us almost noticing, which is to say, we had at least as much fun as if we ran.

While watching these moments of glory, I couldn’t help but think of how thankful we runners are to people who decide to dedicate some of their free time to standing on the side of the road and encouraging us however best they can. This week a friend and former professional athlete told us about his experience viewing the 10k event, which accompanied the marathon. With his partner participating, he, even though reluctantly so, joined the people watching the runners only to find himself enjoying the atmosphere of joy and comradery. Nothing better to show that even if you are not a runner, even if you are injured or preparing for another event, it is well worth getting out there.