The Run-Up to the Marathon: Back of the Pack Cheerleaders

By PAM GARDINER

In 2011, Run Wild Missoula’s Back of the Pack (BOP) Cheerleaders made their debut at the Missoula Marathon. It was so much fun that we are back for 2012!

According to historic race results, approximately 100 runners and walkers can be expected to cross the finish line after the 5:30 mark.

Those of us who have personally experienced a BOP finish know that it can be discouraging when crowds have thinned, snacks are mostly gone, the finish line and timing clock are being dismantled.

The race does end, Higgins Avenue re-opens, and life goes on.

However, we looked for an opportunity to make that finish line experience just a little more welcoming for our BOP buddies.

People who have been out there on the course since 5 or 6 am are drawing on the deepest reserves of spirit and resolve to put one foot in front of the other. We celebrate their accomplishment as much as we celebrate the elite runners who broke the tape hours earlier.

The Back of the Pack cheering section at the 2011 Missoula Marathon.

BOP cheerleaders use neon plastic handclappers to increase the auditory impact of our small numbers.

We wear signature green BOP bandannas, celebrating the brother-and-sisterhood of tortoises in a world of hares.

We bring a few new snacks to supplement those left behind by the thousands who have passed before.

Most of all, we stay until the very end. We make sure the very last (best) finisher gets their turn to be a rock star.

If you want to join in, come to the finish line around 11:30 am on race day. We will have extra clappers to share.

Calling all volunteers! There’s still time to volunteer to help at the Missoula Marathon. Visit the Run Wild Missoula website for more details.

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Do you want to join the Back of the Pack? You might like more of Pam’s posts: Galloway Training for the Back of the Pack, My First Last Best Finish, and Who Will I Find at the Back of the Pack?.

  Stay in the loop with Missoula’s running community! Check out the Run/Walk It archives for more posts from Missoula runners andwalkers.

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Pam Gardiner retired from the US Forest Service in 2008, and trained as a wellness coach (doing business as Wellbuddies Coaching). She also volunteers for Run Wild Missoula, co-directing the Galloway marathon training program and developing programs that encourage slower runners and walkers at the Back of the Pack.

Pam started running in her early 50’s, and ran three marathons the year she turned 55. A decade later, she has settled on the half-marathon as her preferred distance. Pam is grateful for the diverse and inclusive community of runners and walkers in Missoula.