Mill Race Marathon runners had signs from Columbus East students to spur them on, and also the unforgettable chorus of the “Rocky” theme song, when they reached Mile 18, or “Inspiration Mile” as it was dubbed.
They also could have yelled “More cowbell!” when passing Eva Cagwin of Columbus, who stood amid the signs shaking a cowbell in each hand and shouting words of encouragement.
The “Rocky” song, “Gonna Fly Now,” was playing loudly from the Cagwin truck on the side of the road.
Skies were gray, conditions were chilly, there was a headwind and the clouds were spitting rain as many runners turned the corner from Chapa Drive to Ray Boll Boulevard early Saturday morning.
“Hang tough,” Cagwin yelled as the runners passed.
“I like that stride,” she told another runner.
Many of the competitors couldn’t help but smile as they heard the cowbell and then glanced on the left hand side of the road, where messages from Julie Hult’s contemporary issues class at East were on posters stuck in the ground at intervals.
“Run, total stranger, run!” a bright yellow sign said to runners.
Before Saturday’s race, Hult’s students were asked to tap into something that inspired them personally to create their posters.
One student went with finding a competitive edge, with the message “You are beating everyone behind you.”
Another took the patriotic route, saying “Uncle Sam wants YOU to run.”
The posters were placed on Mile 18 to encourage runners not to give up because they were nearly to the final miles, and to give them a confidence boost at that point in the race, Cagwin explained.
Cagwin and Hult have run half-marathons in the past and know that sometimes a runner’s head can tell them that the next mile isn’t possible.
The signs designed by the students were humorous reminders to keep going, no matter what.
The East students were not with their signs to cheer on the runners Saturday morning, but Cagwin said she was sure that each student’s message was getting through.
Just up the way on Ray Boll Boulevard, Columbus resident Joe Turner was walking along the signs and chuckling over one that read, “This mile is old enough to vote!”
He had ridden his wife’s bike out to this windy and solitary location a few hundred yards and around the curve from the Cagwin truck, and was talking to each runner that passed, giving them their estimated times behind the lead runner.
Turner said he planned to stay in his portable chair at the roadside along the course until about 11 a.m., to encourage the runners to keep going.
“It’s a good day to run,” he said, adding he wasn’t really lonely out there on Inspiration Mile.
“It’s a little windy. But I just like watching them run.”