How to Be the Best Race Spectator

How to be the best race spectator |

How’s your running inspiration right now?

Mine is through the roof after watching the Boston Marathon coverage on TV and tracking friends on Monday.

It’s crazy the wide range of weather that rolled through – thunder/lightening and torrential rain, then sun, warmth and humidity followed up with more heavy rain.   For a lot of my friends running, their goal times got pushed to the side after the half point.  It was too freakin’ hot. Their new goal was to run smart and enjoy the sights and sounds of Marathon Monday.

We had the marathon coverage on in the gym at work all day. I was glued to the screen.  A few patients made the typical non-runner comments –

Why are these people doing that to themselves? Running is so bad for them.  They are going to need new knees by the time they are 40. I don’t even like to drive 26 miles.

It’s amazing that my tongue wasn’t bleeding from all the biting I had to do. I had to remind myself that most of these people have never been a runner and never will be. They don’t get it.  From the outside, I’m sure it does look crazy. I’m sure I even thought running a marathon was crazy before I became a runner.

One thing that I took away from almost every single post I’ve seen on social media from runners on Monday was that the crowd support is what pulled them through the race.

For a runner, having spectators on the course to support you is huge. There is nothing like the sound of cheering and clapping to keep you going. Crowd support can be a game changer when your mind is screaming “You CAN’T do this!” But then a simple, “You’ve got this!” or “Looking strong!” from a spectator can be enough to keep your legs moving.

They convince you that you CAN do this.

In some ways, spectating a race is just as hard as actually running the race. Spectating involves cheering for everyone you see, traveling from point to point to watch your runners and if you do it right, acting like a fool. There’s logistics, strategy and planning. Cheering, clapping and of course, MORE COWBELL, are all good ways to support the athletes. But why not have some fun with it? Those athletes are deep in the pain cave. You job is to make them forget it, even if it’s for 10 seconds. You want to be the best athletic supporter there is out on the course.

So if you are looking for inspiration, go spectate a race of ANY distance and follow these tips on how to be the best race spectator.

Be a Sugar Mama/Daddy.

What makes everyone happy? Candy! Gummy bears, jelly beans, licorice or anything easily digestible and sweet. Another option is orange slices or pretzels. The athletes will flock to you. I remember vividly the Honolulu Marathon in 2014, I was craving salt around mile 21 or so. An awesome spectator had a bowl full of the best damn pretzels I’ve ever tasted. That person knew what’s up!

Make it rain.

If you are spectating a race in the heat, bring along squirt guns or Super Soakers to cool the runners down. If the race just so happens to run by your house, hook up a sprinkler for the athletes to run through. That’s sure to bring a smile to the runner’s face. There’s a local 10k race in mid June that always seems to be on the hottest day possible. The race goes through a neighborhood at about the 5k point that has a sprinkler at every single driveway.  It’s amazing!

Play dress up.

Get crazy with feather boas, wigs, hats and glasses. Wear a banana costume. How can you not smile at someone wearing a banana costume?  The Boston Marathon always has a Santa (he looks so legit!).  Santa makes everyone happy!

Crank up the tunes.

Hook your iPod up to speakers and blast some tunes. The Rocky theme is always good if you are spectating on a killer hill. Bonus if you choreograph a routine to the song.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs.

Signs are a sure fire way to distract a runner from the pain cave. Motivation and inspiring words are great but funny signs are way better. Laughter really is the best medicine. Amanda has a fantastic list of over 50+ sign ideas. And if you can’t think of anything funny, you could always go with the “Tap here for a power boost!” sign.

What’s your best race spectator memory?

Linking up with Coaches Corner.

15 comments on “How to Be the Best Race Spectator

    1. So my gynecologist and I were talking about running (I know, weird) and he told me about spectating a local 10k. He shouted “you’re almost there!” to a woman and she promptly yelled back “fuck you!” He was so taken aback by it that he learned his lesson – never ever say you’re almost there. Lol!

  1. I love it when spectators are playing music on the course! The best spectator experience I ever had was when I dropped out last fall in a half. One spectator helped me hobble to a car and drove me back to the start/finish area!

  2. I always get really emotional when I am spectating even for people I don’t know. Not sure what it is but always happens! It is fun to be on the other side of things sometimes

  3. This is such a fantastic perspective. I never realized how important the spectators are. Thank you for sharing. Next time there is a race I will definitely be attending and take these tips to heart.

  4. I think all runners should spectate–it is so inspiring! At my race last weekend, I was able to cheer on the 5k runners who came in after me and all the 10 milers. It was just the best experience! And so inspiring too.

    1. Absolutely! Things look so different from the spectators perspective. Even my non-runner husband finds inspo from spectating.

  5. The signs — and don’t be a pole. Engage with runners who appreciate your signs. FLL still has the best in my experience. Likely due to it being the best weather.
    Love: “It’s amazing that my tongue wasn’t bleeding from all the biting I had to do”

  6. Your post inspired me to try running in a marathon. I am always afraid of trying and I am always in a dilemma whether I will be able to make it or not. You are absolutely right that the spectators can fill up in you the required energy and motivation. I will try this time in my city Mumbai. Loved your post.

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