I recently finished my second half marathon this fall. I finished in just over two hours, which was well under my targeted time and, in spite the pain that comes in the final miles, I had a blast doing it!

 I can credit my months of training and perseverance for part of my success, but there is no doubt a huge part of the experience was due to the crowd—the crowd of runners and the crowd of spectators.

 I know the runners all had their own stories and, without knowing the stories, I understood what it took to do what they were doing; their very presence inspired me.

 Then there were the spectators. They didn’t know me or owe me anything. People from stopped cars who just happened upon the race were cheering “Good job runners!” These cheers were selfless and unconditional.

 I’m not a huge cheerleader. I’m pretty tough on myself and set my standards high. Impress me, then I’ll cheer. Yet when I finished that race, I had empathy. I was connected to every other runner. My inner standard-setter was silenced as I watched the runners who were still on the course. I cheered them on.

 I left the event wondering why I had to experience the pain of my run and the support of others in order to give my support. Why is it we can’t see another’s challenge, pain and effort and recognize those things for what they are? Maybe we feel we’ll go too easy on those around us.

 I know when I’m not cheerleading others I’m not connected to them. When I withhold my cheerleading I’m judging them as not worthy of my praise. What affect does that have on others? On me?

 Is it worth taking the risk of being a cheerleader all the time? Everyone could use it. Maybe we can start by cheerleading ourselves.