I went to Denmark recently with some of my team from work, to join some of our Nordic colleagues in an annual corporate challenge; a 25K relay race. Over 50 employees took part, making up several teams, from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the UK.
The event is simply huge. It takes place very year over five consecutive nights, with anything up to 30,000 runners each evening. It is very much a corporate thing. Each company has its own tent and after the race there is a BBQ and beer. Some companies have hundreds of runners taking part, all sporting their corporate colours.
I will admit that whilst running around this park in Denmark, I had my own private ‘Am I really doing this?’ moment. Two years ago I couldn’t run up the stairs, and now I was taking part in an event with some fairly serious runners. I was proud to be there, taking part.
The course itself is very cleverly designed. Taking place in and around a park, at the end of each lap the final 1.5K or so winds through the tents, meaning that you will inevitably run past your own team mates and colleagues, some of whom are awaiting their turn to run, others who have already done their part and are celebrating accordingly. As the evening wears on, those that are taking the later legs in the relay find themselves running in the dark, the course lit all the way along with burning torches.
And then comes a special tradition, one I haven’t seen before at any UK event. An announcement comes across the public address system. The very last runner, from the thousands who have gone before them that evening, is coming through. The announcement is a call for you to come to the course and cheer this last runner home, all the way to the finish line. Everyone left their respective tents, went to the side of the course and waited for him to come through, cheering and shouting his every step. Behind him, two bicycles follow, effectively signalling the end of the race.
Thousands of people, all cheering for this one final runner.
When you run, you are part of a family of runners everywhere, whatever the country, whatever the language. Perhaps this because we see ourselves in every other runner; simply people putting one foot in front of the other, as best as they can. Perhaps it is because we share knowledge of the pleasures of running, and its horrors too. Perhaps, when it comes to this particular tradition, we cheer the final runner because we know that sometimes, we all need a cheerleader to get us across the line. In running and in life.