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How to be an awesome race spectator (part 1)

by Meghann on November 22, 2010

You know I couldn’t resist…

Have you Elfed yourself yet? Dooooo it! And link below for fun. 🙂

Obviously I’ve been getting a lot of work done today. 😉

This morning I snacked on some applesauce and granola. (A new favorite combo)


For lunch I decided to dig into my soup filled freezer and pulled out a container of Butternut Squash & Apple Soup.


The soup was a bit thinner then I remembered, but still tasty. I added some pumpkin seeds for crunch and raisins for a touch of sweetness.


With the last of my Jalapeno Corn Muffins on the side.


How to be an awesome race spectator

This is a new series I’m implementing for the week. This Sunday I’m the official race spectator for my Sister, Brother, and Derek at the Space Coast half Marathon and I want to do it right! 😉

Hi Meals and Miles readers! My name’s Jess and I blog over at A few weeks ago, I had my first experience as a marathon spectator. Normally, I’m the one running the races, but this time I got to cheer on a good friend and all the other runners in the Marine Corp Marathon.

Since spectators are such an important part of the race experience, I thought I’d share some tips from a runner’s perspective on what makes a truly great support crew.

Find out what your runner will be wearing and their bib number. If your runner is wearing something distinctive, you will have an easier time picking him or her out in the crowd on the course. Some races offer runner tracking through text message so if you know the bib number you can sign up to get alerts when your runner gets to certain points on the course. This will help you know when to start looking for your runner.

Look at the course map in advance and find ideal spectating spots. Pay attention to areas of the course that are out and backs or cover areas that are close to each other. This will let you set up camp in one spot, but see your runner more than once. Race websites sometimes offer good advice on prime spectating spots, so it’s definitely worthwhile to check those out.


Try to find a place where no one else is standing. Not only will this make it easier for your runner to find you, but if you set up your cheering area in a spot where there aren’t many other spectators, you will give all the runners that pass a much needed boost of energy.

Take pictures. Sure there are usually professional photographers on the course, but the pictures you take are free and since you’re only looking for one runner, you know who to focus your lens on.

Make a plan, share it with your runner and stick to it. If you decide you’re going to be at miles 5, 10 and the finish line of a half marathon, let your runner know. As a runner, it’s great to be able to anticipate where you will see your friends and family on the course. Sometimes that is the biggest motivating factor to keep moving.


Designate a meeting spot. Finish lines of big races can be complete chaos. The best way to reunite with your runner is to settle on a post-race meeting spot in advance. Pick a landmark that everyone will be able to find and meet there. Some races offer family reunion areas where you can meet near the letter of the runner’s first or last name.

Have fun, cheer loudly. The most important thing as a spectator is to just have fun. If you want to make signs to bring, go for it. Runners almost always appreciate them. If people wear their names on their shirts, don’t be afraid to give them a shout out. Cheer for everyone, not just the person you are there to watch. All the runners out there are working hard and love the encouragement.


You can use these tips at short races or long races, for first time runners or experienced marathoners. The bottom line is, runners love their support crews. Even the smallest ounce of support could help a runner immensely.

So runners, what other advice would you offer to spectators? Spectators, what’s the craziest thing your runner has asked you to do for them on race day?

1 Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat November 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Ooh great tips! I think the best race spectators are the ones that can actually take FLATTERING photos! 😉
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2 Amanda (Eating Up) November 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Elf yourself is genius! Always guaranteed a good laugh!
Amanda (Eating Up) recently posted..Still Tasty or Gone Nasty

3 Tami November 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm
my kids love this-i think their favorite part is when they say Jib Jab in the beginning!

4 Alison (Ali on the Run) November 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Great post! I love this. Thanks for the spectating tips, Jess!

5 Nicole November 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Can you bring me some of your soup? I’m getting sick and could really use some, it looks so yummy!

6 Becky November 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm

The BEST thing I have found my spectators to have is a helium balloon of some sort. You can buy it the night before and let everyone know that you have it and what shape you bought. The runner can then easily spot you in the mass crowds of people! Just hold on tight to that balloon or else your runners will be looking for it and it won’t be there….that has happened too 🙂

7 Sarah @ goingongoals November 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm

I love your new favorite snack – apple sauce and granola.

8 Kacy November 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm

This is so true! Spectators can really make or break a race!

9 Allie November 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Aww, what a thoughtful post, I LOVE spectators-they make the race 10x better!! I really gotta try applesauce and granola 🙂
Allie recently posted..It’s all in the…

10 Meghan November 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm

As a runner, one of my favorite part of racing is looking at all the different signs! My favorite one: “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking so much ass.”

11 Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday November 22, 2010 at 3:44 pm

That sign rocks.
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12 Lauren November 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Cheer LOUD and be excited for your runner!
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13 Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday November 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I Elfed myself:
Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday recently posted..Breakfast in Bed

14 Lisa (bakebikeblog) November 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm

haha they are some crazy elf moves you have got going on there 🙂
Lisa (bakebikeblog) recently posted..The apple butter of my eye

15 Rachel November 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Woo! Space Coast Half Marathon!! It will be my first and I am so excited. Hope to see you, Kelly, Ben, and Derek on race day. 🙂

16 Caitlin November 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I did a post on this once:

Some good tips!
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17 Britt @ Runnerbelle November 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I have found that along with an idea of what mile you will be at, also figure out WHICH SIDE of the road you will be on. I have totally missed people cause I was looking on the wrong side of the road while I was running……… depending on the race that can make a HUGE difference due to how wide the road is at that point on the course.
Britt @ Runnerbelle recently posted..Busy but runless weekend…

18 kathleen November 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm

my all time favorite spectators were the bums on south beach during the miami marathon/half-marathon. they were trying to sell every runner that went by water and pants.

totally not kidding about the pants.
kathleen recently posted..Black bean dip

19 Madeline - Greens and Jeans November 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm

In college a bunch of my friends came to support me and my friend Keri during a half and they had a huge sign that said “Madeline and Keri! We’re right here!” and they tied balloons to it. Definitely made them easy to spot! 🙂
Madeline – Greens and Jeans recently posted..back in the p-h-l

20 hippierunner November 22, 2010 at 5:45 pm

What a great series! I’ll remember to show this to my family next time I race!

21 Bridget@PavementandPlants November 22, 2010 at 6:13 pm

THANK YOU for the stick to the plan! My dad was supposed to be at mile 6 of the marathon and I planned on tossing him my long sleeve shirt. He wasn’t, I spent 3 miles looking for him, and I ended up having to toss my shirt to some random person. STICK TO IT!!!!

22 amanda November 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm

ha, i’ve been elfing my nieces all morning. i’m a little bit obsessed.

i wish it were possible to send things through the computer screen…because that soup looks so warm and cozy, i’d love to be able to reach through all the way to orlando and help myself! :o)

23 Kiran November 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Great tips!

I love leftover soups – somehow the flavors are magnified!
Kiran recently posted..Dining @ Hyatt Miami

24 Mara @ What's For Dinner? November 22, 2010 at 8:08 pm

I’ve never actually been a race spectator… i’m a bad friend 🙁
but i elfed myself!
Mara @ What’s For Dinner? recently posted..A Wonderful Thank You

25 emily November 22, 2010 at 9:03 pm

My tip (not necessarily for volunteers, but for workers) is to know the course! I ran a poorly marked 5k over Halloween and none of the workers could ever tell me my distance. Not a big deal in the scheme of things but very frustrating when you feel like you can’t run another step and aren’t sure whether or not to push it.

26 Kelley November 22, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Hi! I found your blog through Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point and I love it! I will have to keep and eye out for you this Sunday because I will be doing the Space Coast Marathon too (it’s my first)!

27 Amy at TheSceneFromMe November 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Thanks for introducing the granola and applesauce combo to me! Can’t wait to try it!
Amy at TheSceneFromMe recently posted..Crafty carpets

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