There’s a giant flamingo to your right and a band of blow-up guitar strumming rockers on your left. A superhero cape-wearing swarm flutters by your periphery. A chant of ‘Go Team!’ echoes through a bullhorn. Silly string is flying. Tutus abound.
Is that anchovy pizza you had last night spinning a weird dream? Are you on some bad Gu-induced euphoric trip?
Maybe. But you’re also in the midst of American Odyssey.
So you gathered up 11 runners. You came up with a witty team name, rented some vans, and got t-shirts made. You packed protein-rich snacks and your Odyssey handbook. You’re ready to roll through 200 miles of pavement, trails, and battlefields with no sleep, no showers, and no real concept of the crazy amount of fun you’re going to have over the next two days. What’s the only thing that could make this an even more remarkable experience? Taking home the Odyssey title for the most spirited team, natch!
As Captain of the record-holding team for the most Spirit awards, I’m here to offer some tips.
Mix Tape! Before heading into the vans, create a playlist or old-school mix cd to blast from the speakers as you leap frog runners on the course. Pump up those fleet-footed warriors with some tunes sure to put some pep in their steps. Upbeat, fast-paced songs are a sure-win. You get bonus points for running-themed lyrics. Consider tracks like “I Just Want to Run” by The Downtown Fiction, the Boss’ “Born to Run,” “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder, Snow Patrol’s “Finish Line,” and “I Run” by Slim Thug. And though a little trickier, Ludacris’ “Move, Bitch,” when delivered with the proper panache, always elicits a smile from the pavement pounder.
High-fives! To build your confidence, ease in. Line your runners along a quiet section of a leg and raise your hands for high-fives as Odyssey-ers run by. Make sure to vocalize some positive, encouraging words as they pass. Things like ‘nice stride, runner!’ and ‘check out those glutes!’ are quality go-tos.
Cheer Tunnels! Once you’ve mastered the runner high-five, try upping your game by gathering up another team for cheer tunnels. Create two rows of off-leg runners with arms extended above to create an arch on the course for runners to trek through. As the runner hits the cheer tunnel, call on your mad high-five expertise and shout out some witty and charming words of support.
Team Tags! Figure out a symbol or word to represent your team. Then print stickers or grab some removable grease crayons and start tagging! Slap your mark on other team vans and runners. But maybe skip tagging the Odyssey course signs. Bob isn’t thrilled when that happens (not that I know firsthand!)
Finish lines! Get your cheer on at the finish line. Of. Every. Leg. Streamers are the perfect medium for every runner to feel like they’ve led the charge and crossed the finish line first. String out the streamers between a couple of team members and announce the ‘winner’ (get their names from their teams as they approach the transitions) as they break through the ribbon. Everyone can be a winner while running Odyssey!
Bring it on Home
Bullhorning! The bullhorn is a well-documented tool in striving for the Spirit Award. It allows celebratory, encouraging, and well-wishing words to be heard for miles. Use it to cheer on runners, provide accurate leg directions to confused racers, blast your mix playlist along the course, and organize cheer tunnels! The possibilities are endless…
Whisper cheering! The night legs through neighborhoods require a softer vibe. Perfecting the whisper cheer provides much-needed dark hours support. A well-placed and properly implemented whisper cheer usually gets a laugh—as it isn’t often someone hears a quietly enunciated cheer emanating from a van full of strangers on a pitch-dark road while running at 3am. I mean, how many times has it happened to you?
Human pyramids! Not for the faint of heart, but an effective Spirit mechanism. Collect runners from a few teams and create a human pyramid—nothing pulls people together better than jamming your knee into their backs as you stack humans on top of one another!
So take these tips and be creative! Get out there and cheer your butts off! Just get other teams involved, hike up the energy, and have a great time! The Spirit Award is within your reach. And, if in doubt, bake Bob some sweets. He’s a sucker for sugar!
Rebecca Turchin is the team captain of American: Odd n Easy, a team that will be running the Odyssey for the sixth time this year. They’ve *officially* won the Spirit Award three times (they think they should have won a fourth) and have won Best Race Director Bribe, with baked goods, (not really an award, but it clearly should be!) for the past 5 years.