The friendship between Traci Frank, left, and Margaret Epley, right, traces back 35 years to kindergarten in Newport News. So when Frank called Epley and asked her to be on her cheering team near Menchville High for the One City Marathon, Epley said yes — and got in full spirit.
The team theme was “beach bums,” so Epley wore a hot pink floatie, a coat and gloves.
“When your bestie asks you to do something, you do it,” she said, holding a cup of water for the next runner who might need it.
The team had an elaborate beach plan — umbrellas, beach chairs — but it was too windy for that. Epley said her floatie alone was working out OK.
“See, they’re smiling,” she said of a runner who had just spotted her floatie.
Frank said she assembled the team for the first time this year. She said she did it just to show some community support.
“Some of (the runners) are responding — ‘thanks for your support,’” Frank said.
As men and women ran by Menchville High School, Kayshonn DePaul and his seven classmates yelled for them not to let up. They jumped up and down, throwing fists into the air — about as rowdy as expected from a group of high school boys.
Then a man turned the corner with an American flag.
“Flag, flag,” one of the boys said. The group suddenly assembled in a straight line, straightened their backs and put hands up to their heads in salute position.
The boys are part of Menchville High School’s JROTC program, and cheering runners on for the marathon was part of their required community service, said Kristopher Alden, the program’s senior aerospace instructor.
To Kayshonn Depaul, a freshman, it didn’t feel like an obligation to fulfill. Depaul’s voice had become raspy by 9 am, two hours into cheering runners on.
“If we ain’t stoppin’, you ain’t stoppin’,” DePaul yelled as his classmates’ cheers drowned out his voice.
“Some people actually speed up,” Depaul said. “That’s really why we’re out here.”
Relaxing after the run
The massage tent is set up and in full use for runners needing the relaxation after the race -- with this year being the first time the tent is equipped with heaters.
"We have three massage therapists here doing therapeutic table messages for the racers since 8 a.m.," tent manager Liza de la Cruz with the Riverside Wellness & Fitness Center said.
Cruz said last year wasn't as filled because they weren't given heaters during the cold weather, so runners decided to skip it.
"This is our third year doing it ... we said the only way we'd come back this year is if we had heaters," she added.
The tent also has a stretch station with rollers and mats for runners to use while they wait for their name to be called for massages.
Scott Porter used to be an ultra marathoner before a devastating spinal cord injury. He can’t walk anymore.
“The first words the doctor told me we’re ‘you’ll never run another marathon again.’ Then he said ‘you’ll never walk again,’ ” Porter said.
He now competes in marathons on a hand cycle. The One City Marathon was his 21st completed marathon this year, he said.
Porter plans to complete 210 marathons in 2018. He traveled from Orlando to compete Sunday morning and finished the race in under three hours.
“I just go to finish,” he said. “Today was a little cold and windy but it added to the charm of the event.”
Church making some noise on Sunday
John Nelson shouted “all right!” and “water?” to passing runners outside St. Jerome Catholic Church off of Shannon and Garrow roads. It was around mile 8 of the marathon route. Nelson ran the marathon relay last year with two colleagues and his 17-year-old daughter, but this year a painful knee kept him out.
“It’s very sporadic — I’m not a regular runner,” he said, right as a man who ran seven marathons on seven continents zipped by.
“There’s our first female,” one of the group members said as a woman ran by. A couple of people rang bells and cheered while another man held out water cups to marathoners, most of whom said thank you but passed it up. They joked that they wanted to use their church’s altar bells, but the Father wouldn’t appreciate that.
Last year, in the bitter cold, Nelson found that cheerleaders at each water station kept him going. Even the Denbigh drum line, just making noise, helped.
“That was our intent here, just to make some noise,” Nelson said. “An easy church term there to relate to.”
‘Sole Sisters’ running the race
Latashia Williams stood among a group of eight of her friends, “nervous but confident” for her first marathon Sunday morning at Newport News Park.
The Newport News native is wearing a pink tutu and matching headband that says “Black Girls Run” for the One City Marathon. She joined the group after hearing about it from a co-worker. She is running with 15 women from the group.
“I just wanted to do something different,” she said. “I was approaching 40 and I wanted to do something fun and stay in shape, so I started running.”
She calls the women she runs with her “sole sisters.” Williams said they serve as motivation and support for one another and their trainer will be waiting at the finish line to cheer the women on.
“No sole sister left behind,” she said.
Charities on the course
Versability — one of the nonprofit charities to receive money from the race — had seven runners in the 8K and also have a water station on the marathon route.
“Yes we made it!,” Sarah Bowman said. “We cheered each other on. We had a great time. It was really neat among the course cheering everyone on.”
At the water station, there are about eight people with cowbells cheering runners on and providing water, Bowman said.
Newport News father Chris Gaboury and son Tyler crossed the Nautical Mile finish line together, passing chants of "good job" and "way to go."
This is the fourth Nautical Mile Chris and Tyler have participated in.
"The whole family does it," Chris said. "And this is the first year my daughter participates."
After crossing the finish line, runners grabbed an orange lanyard, a banana and water bottle.
Karen Borrilez and her husband traveled from Tennessee to see their daughter Amber run her first marathon.
Standing with her granddaughter and the rest of her family, she held up a sign that said “go mommy go!” Once her granddaughter warms up, she plans to hold the sign.
“I am so excited and proud of her I might cry,” Borrilez said.
They plan to drive the course and stop to catch Amber and cheer for her. Borrilez said her daughter has been training for four months and ran a half marathon in January to get ready for One City.
Joe Miller and Derald Frazier are dressed to impress and cheer on Newport News youth programs.
"We're just out here with the kids," says Frazier, participating in the Nautical Mile for the second year.
They brought at least 300 kids this year to participate in the race and promote a healthy lifestyle as part of Newport News Parks and Recreation.
"We're trying to raise awareness for staying in shape," says Miller, who's been participating in the race for four years now.
About 100 people were at Denbigh High School to watch the runners.
“I’m here to support the runners,” Denbigh freshman Maurice Clark said.