The Athletic Supporter

By: Cassandra Henkiel 

That is exactly what I was, on January 14, 2012 in Houston, Texas at the US Men’s & Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials. It’s hard to believe four years ago in April, that was me, getting ready to step on the start line, starting my Olympic Trials Marathon. Before leaving for Houston, several friends, fellow runners, clients and family asked me, “How hard is it going to be, to just watch and not be running?” Well, not hard at all.

For those who do not know me, I am an avid sports fan.  I love sports and competition, participating as well as watching it. There are too many examples to name and give that show why I dedicate so much time to watching sports. Whether it be TV or live (my personal preference), there’s nothing better than riding that emotional roller coaster while watching competition unfold. It’s the athleticism, strategy, will to win, team or individual effort, battling the elements, and so on and so on. I believe being an athlete myself attributes to this love.

Therefore, it felt quite nice simply sitting in a restaurant, enjoying a nice Italian meal and wine. I know what all of those competitors were going through, because I have been in their shoes. Their nerves, anxiety, frustrations, excitement and anticipation of the morning’s event awaited them. A great meal was had and now time for bed. Waking up in the morning at a reasonable hour and not at the ungodly hour of race morning, Mother Nature delivered the most perfect conditions for any marathon; clear, cool and calm! I was pumped for all the runners. Many of us have faced the brutal reality of how mean Mother Nature can be on race day mornings! Man she can be a brutal bitch, huh?!?

After putting multiple layers of clothes on, it was off to meet friends to grab some much needed coffee and a quick nibble to make it to the course to catch the leaders. We had perfect timing; the lead group of men whizzed by for the first loop of three. All favorites were present and accounted for, and they looked amazing, of course. As our little group ventured on to the ‘ideal’ spectator spot on the course, I tried to cheer for as many of the runners I could along the way. Boy, do I remember how great everything feels in those early stages….of course things do change as the race goes on!!  Getting to finally see the women for the first time, I was truly thankful to be cheering, not out there running.  I know what it takes to be out there, all the work it took to get there and couldn’t imagine being out there, in the place I am at now.

I ran back and forth in order to catch the runners at three various locations on the course, to see how the race was unfolding, was truly exciting as well as so fun. These big running events, draw all kinds of people from all over the country. It becomes a  “who’s who” of the distance running scene. I got to chat, catch up and see numerous old running friends, former coaches, and interesting fans/spectators.  Not to mention keeping other friends posted on the phone or text who couldn’t make it. I was happy to be present supporting former competitors, friends, and our fellow ROGUE TEAM MATES, Allison & Scott…..”the MAC ATTACK”. After being in the sport for so long it is still so motivating, inspiring and emotional seeing some of the old guard out there still making their presence known, the young talented newbies trying to make their stand and of course the present day US talent who have put our distance program back on the international map in recent years!

As the runners came through for their last loop, both teams where pretty much solidified. Although, there was a possibility for the men’s 4th place position to give one last surge to run himself into 3rd. Unfortunately, he came up short. At this point, it was the order of who was going to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  I was not able to make it to the finish, which I heard was amazing! What an awesome morning it was to witness and to be grateful to have been there “athletic supporting” all those athletes with no wishing or resentment I wasn’t out there myself. We’re truly sending 2 very talented marathon teams to London!!  It is going to be exciting! ……….GO USA!

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