Words by Pierre-Alexandre Cardinal
Images by Yamajo Run Crew and Cid Merisier
Generously provided by: Like the Wind magazine

Eight degrees. Midtown. The air is filled with that fresh morning dew. Shy sunrays start beaming through the early morning sky; hardly a cloud in sight. It’s one of those cool, refreshing mornings. Perfect for running. Not for me. Today, it’s about the others, about the runners from the crew. But also about all the others, those strangers who we don’t know but who are still out there, putting one foot in front of the other.

I lace up my shoes, jog a couple of hundred metres to the nearby Timmy’s and meet the runners from the crew who are running today. There’s tension, excitement, a little chatter, a little… stress, even. For now, it’s about getting into the right mindset: for some it’s about finding that happy place, for others, it’s an exercise in visualising. They will be running this morning: some on the marathon, others on the half. All of them will be crushing it, though. But they don’t know that yet.

Outside at the start/finish line, high knees, stretches, muscles warming up, other runners getting ready for the race. Some find comfort in that exasperating pre-race “this year’s achievements” chat. Hey, I guess that warms your ego up. Others find their solace in silence, bathed in a beaming golden sun and cool morning air. Feeling gratitude.

We all have our routine before or during our run. We all have things we do or say, our mantras that keep us going. Sometimes they are expressed not vocally, but through actions. Meeting up with the crew, getting together, for me, is one such mantra. Running, then, is all about crew love. That’s my mantra. It’s about care for one another, passion for the sport and determination to go forward, always. That’s why I was out early that morning. That’s why I was out all day running, yes, but mostly supporting, reaching out, not only to the crew, but to all who ran.

Alone / Together

For some running is lonely. But whatever running culture you’re from, we can only acknowledge that running with or alongside others is a daily thing. It happens with hundreds or thousands of others on race day, when nodding to a couple of other runners on those cool early morning tempo runs, or supporting another lonely runner on a long trail. Whether we want it or not, running brings us together.

With the crew, we know for a fact that running is not lonely. It is something we do together. When you join, you connect with others merely by stepping one foot in front of the other, fast. And we know how that stepping faster feels, especially after 30 minutes, three hours or for some even 30 hours. And that’s what makes us believe that running is not a lonely sport, it’s an empathic sport.

We want to let people know that we not only understand what they do when they run that 5km, 10km, half or marathon, but also that we wholeheartedly support what they do. Why? Because we know how it feels. And since others are so omnipresent, on race day we believe that if you are a runner, there is one rule: you run or you cheer. That’s not an imposed rule, but it comes from our heart, from the gratitude we feel for one another when we get support on those training or recovery run, on the track or hill repeats, on the trails.

Everything and everyone congregates to the cheer squad on that race day: Sunday 23 September, downtown Montreal.

The cheer squad

The cheer squad is one of those time/space junctions where everything comes together. From the best friend or the lover, to the rival or the complete stranger, we cheer. No discrimination. Why do we do this? Very seriously, it’s selfish. It feels good to pay forward, to help out folks out there, whatever their level, from the elite to the run/walker, to those amazing souls going through a marathon with a blind person or someone with a disability in a wheelchair. It feels good to care.

The cheer squad is that time, our opportunity to show that we care. It is when we give back to the neighbourhood, to the city, to those random strangers whose paths we cross on race day, only to go our own way again at the finish line. The cheer squad is when we go out of our way and help people who strive for their goals. It is where we recognise the struggle that some folks are going through and say: “Hey, we got you.” That’s when we go out, we see that spark in people, and fan it to set it ablaze. Merely by screaming our heart out, blasting loud tunes and filling the air with confetti.

Caring is cool. We are in an age of quarrel and hypocrisy. What makes the news is unfortunately not random acts of greatness and compassion, but haters, naysayers, back-channel talk and all the bullshit. The cheer squad is where we say: “No, Imma go my own way.” It is where we rev it up, live the passion for running from our heart and show we care. It is where we express our gratitude that, hey, we can run, and folks have helped us along the way. And damn that’s cool. Whatever the haters are going to say.

The crew makes us recognise that every day. And that crew is not only Yamajo (for me), or the local running store’s club, or your lunchtime work-run group. The crew is all those who feel it’s important to show that we care, and express gratitude for that. The cheer squad makes us express support for our crew(s), it makes us express our passion to the world, and show how caring for something as simple as people running can make a difference. How a smile and a handful of confetti can make someone’s day brighter, how it can make a struggle more enjoyable, and how, when we crew up together, crushing goals, and helping others to, feels amazing.

The Rarámuri of Tarahumara tribe say: “When you run on the earth and with earth, you can run forever.” I can’t disagree with that. However, I’d add a different formulation to it. When you run together in and with your community, you can run forever. That’s the essence of the crew; that’s the essence of the cheer squad.

Stay true.

Pierre-Alexandre Cardinal a trail runner and forest-lover. Local plants based. Wordsmith. Traveller. Lifequester.