On the eve of the Falmouth Road Race, my thoughts drift to my experience last Saturday as “part” of the Beach to Beacon 10k in Cape Elizabeth, ME. My family gathered at the 2.4 mile marker to watch the elite runners cruise by and then to cheer friends and family. I enjoy many sports, but running is not exactly my thing… I am content as a spectator when it comes to road races. Or so I thought; my experiences last weekend have given me a new view of things.
We did watch the elites run by and gave them a casual clap. As the middle of the pack arrived, we scanned for running friends and family in the mob of heads bobbing up and down. We shouted their names particularly loudly and more often than not they slowed their pace a bit and waved back. After family had passed, we decided to hang around and cheer. We read names off of jerseys and shouted them. Clapped and clapped. The elites were spectacle to us, the rest of the runners were mere mortals out for a fun run by the rocky coast.
As we clapped and cheered… we began to notice runners cheering back at us. And after every few runners jogged or walked by we would hear a “thank you” or have one come over to us and give us a high five. At first it seemed quite backwards to me. My heart rate was not raised above 70. I had yet to break a sweat on the day. I had no finish line to chase down. Apparently though… I was part of the race.
I could wax philosophically-scientific about how this was some sort of great example of the first sport psychology experiment in the 1800's by Norman Triplett. He had cyclists race together and gave a first scientific glimpse at social facilitation… how the presence of others can improve our performance. Sure, it is fair to say the crowds that lined the Beach to Beacon were social facilitators. More importantly for this column however ought to be the encouragement to not let the race run by your street unnoticed. Get out and get in the game. Cheer for them… they will cheer you back.
Good luck to all running Falmouth tomorrow. Enjoy it all.
Dr. Adam Naylor leads Telos Sport Psychology Consulting and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Boston University’s School of Education. He has a decade and a half of experiences working with professional through amateur athletes – of note: US Open competitors, NCAA champions, Olympians, Stanley Cup winners, and UFC martial artists. Beyond sports, over the past five years he has served as a corporate performance and wellness consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ahnaylor.