Community Spotlight: The Cheering All Stars

If you’ve run the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in the past decade, you probably remember the people at kilometre 34.

You know, the noisy ones with the colourful capes, fancy hats, noisemakers and dozens of pairs clapping hands?

They’re the folks at the Beechwood Cheering Station, and over the years they’ve become a beloved fixture of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

So what keeps them coming back?

“It’s just so much fun,” says group organizer Joseph Cull. “It’s as simple as that.”

But what’s more, it’s also something that brings the neighbourhood closer together, and forges deep connections between the runners and the cheerers.

The group first started as an activity organized by the Crichton Community Council, the neighbourhood community association where Cull was a board member at the time.

“That first year we set up at Stanley Park and we just thought it would be fun to have people in the community come out and cheer,” he said.

That was 14 years ago, and they’re still going strong.

For Cull, who’s cheered on, hugged, and talked with thousands of runners over the years, knowing every runner has a story is inspiring—from people overcoming disabilities or disease to those running in memory of a lost loved one.  

“For so many people, it’s not just a race,” he said. “It’s about setting a goal and overcoming the challenges in their life. How could you not find that inspiring?”

Recognizing there were other group’s like Cull’s along the marathon route, in 2003 race weekend organizers started a Cheer Station Challenge with the top three cheer stations being awarded prize money for initiatives in their neighbourhoods.

It’s a prize that the Beechwood Cheering Station has won numerous times on behalf of the New Edinburgh Community and Arts Centre (NECTAR), and which they won again in 2018.

“We love that that we can have so much fun doing something and win some money that goes right back into providing programs for the community,” Cull said.

The group’s dedication to the craft of cheering has made them a favourite highlight of the course, especially 34 kilometres deep into a race when the dreaded bonks and walls start to pop up.

“We hope by cheering people on, down to last runner, we can make a little difference and help them reach their goals,” he said.

Cull and the rest of the Beechwood Cheering Station will be back next year at kilometre 34, so make sure you say hello!

Want to plan your own cheering station for 2019? Learn more about the Community Spirit Awards.