How To Be a Race Cheerleader

By Amanda Theobald

I have no formal cheerleading experience, but that should be excusable because cheering at a race is different than at other sports. I mean have you ever seen cheerleaders at a high school cross country race? Doubtful. And why is that? Probably because all the cheerleaders would fall in love with the cross country boys’ amazing lean physique and awesome personalities, only to have the whole team maimed by the football team when they found out about all this budding love. And finally the football team would all be expelled, making room for the glee club to start a tyrannical reign over the school. So basically our cross country teams need us to cheer for the safety of the students. Actually, all runner’s in our lives would love to have us at their races, yelling our faces off at them.

While I’m not a real cheerleader, I am a race cheerleader. I have perfected my craft by going to Ironman races with Chrystel Christensen (the best cheerer ever) and planning out 9 hours of running around to be at different parts of the course. I also have the lovely opportunity to help coach at the University of Utah, where I get to yell encouragement at some pretty amazing athletes. Finally, I feel I have gleaned some knowledge from great friends and family while I have raced. So here are my tips to be a good cheerleader.

  1. The most important thing you can do is plan.

Know the course beforehand; figure out how many different places you can be. The race course will generally determine whether or not you can see someone at just the start, just the finish, or places along the way. If its somewhere along the way; try to pick somewhere that not many other people will be or somewhere they may struggle. It will be very appreciated.

The other thing you need to plan is what you’re going to say. Talk beforehand if they want to know their place in the race or their time, because some people would rather not know. One of my friends likes me to make her laugh when she’s racing. Another friend likes me to tell her how hot and sexy she looks. Its really hard to think of something deep and inspirational when someone is zooming by, so plan ahead.

  1. You have to YELL all of the awesome things you thought of. Show some enthusiasm! They are likely not going to hear you if you just talk in your normal voice. If and when they do hear you, depending on your runner they may be super excited-wave, smile, say thanks. Or they might totally ignore you, swear at you, look more discouraged, or look super pissed. Don’t take it personal, they will appreciate you when they are done.

  2. Dress appropriately. Meaning where something comfortable, weather appropriate, and recognizable to the people you are cheering.

  3. Decide carefully if you want to make a sign. Signs can be very cumbersome, so if you are planning on moving around the course a lot it, might not be the best idea.

  4. Don’t be late- there’s nothing worse than missing the whole race.

The most important thing is just showing up. I did my first half ironman this weekend, and I raced with an injured rib. It was the most painful experience of my life, but I had two best friends running around cheering for me. I don’t think I would have made it through the race without their encouraging words, even though at one point it spurred an outburst of tears, and another point I almost used some obscene hand gestures to express how I felt about them trying to be encouraging and positive. So thanks for anyone that has ever cheered for me, and hope this helps in making you motivated to get out there and yell at the runner’s in your life. Just make sure they are racing when you do it.



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