I have a saying…
“During a race – if you’re lucky – you’ll see your family only a few seconds at a time. It doesn’t seem much, but those few seconds are the best part of the race. Those few seconds make the race worth it.”
It sounds silly, but race spectators are just as important to the runners as the race itself. Spectators have the power to pump a runner up, give them a reason to push through, and even take their mind off of the race. Not only that, they have the important job of finding their runners as many times on the course as possible – NOT an easy task.
When I ran my first marathon in 2009 Derek and I had only been dating a couple of months. The marathon was in San Diego and even though I had been training with Team in Training, I was basically flying across the country to run a race all on my own.
A few weeks before I was set to run, Derek surprised me. He bought a ticket to San Diego and was there as I started, pushed, and finished my first marathon.
After that race, Derek became my rock. He stuck with me and race after race, he continued to rise before the sun, brave freezing temps, brave blazing temps, and was there as I crossed every single finish line.
(even when I was in pain crossing that finish line! 😉 )
This past December I PRed in Palm Beach and completed my first sub-4:00 marathon.
Derek wasn’t there that time, but my Sister and Dad were.
It was a tough race, I pushed myself harder than I had ever been pushed and before the race I warned my sister to not give me any crap. When she saw me struggling her goal was not to tell me it was ok to give up, but to remind me that I could do this, that I had worked hard for that moment.
She didn’t let me down. At mile 20 Kelly ran a quarter of a mile with me. She fed me oranges, made me laugh, and reminded me I could do this. Because of her I was able to power through and achieve my goal. Her extra push was just what I needed.
Last month the roles switched. It was my turn to be the spectator. I wanted to push, encourage, and bring a smile to as many runners’ faces as possible.
It was my turn to make the race fun.
Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up from bring a runner myself and spectating on a big race
Have a plan:
From the minute we arrived in Nashville that Friday my goal was to plot out the most efficient spectator route as possible.
The night before the race we consulted a local (Heather) who gave us tons of advice on which roads would be closed, which would be safe roads to take, when would be good times to get around, and overall what to expect for the course (areas with lots of spectators/ areas with little to no spectators/etc).
That advice was invaluable and really guided us for the day.
We were lucky that the course looped back on itself several times and created a flower. This provided more opportunities for seeing our runners at different parts, opposed to a big circle or out and back with little opportunities.
Our runners knew ahead of time where to look for us. This gave them something to look forward to along the way. Of course, plans change. When I ran Palm Beach Kelly and my Dad parked on a different street and ended up missing two of the pre-planned spots. Luckily they made up for it when I saw them at 20.
The same thing happened to us, we missed them at pre-planned mile 15, but were able to think quickly on our feet and found them at 17 instead.
Make a Sign:
Any runner will tell you how important race signs are come race day! Running can get a little boring and any sort of distraction is always welcomed on the course. I can tell you that I personally read 80% of signs on any given course. The best ones are the funny ones that relate to the task at hand.
Of course, personalized ones are fun too.
The best part about our signs were even though they were targeted specifically to Kelly and Ben, lots of people could relate. We had a few shirtless runners give a thumbs up and got a lot of ‘that’s so true!’ regarding the thesis sign. Our goal was to make everyone smile and I think we achieved that.
Signs on brightly colored paper help too. Especially in large crowds when your runner is specifically looking for those signs. The more obnoxious the color, the more they stand out and the stronger chance your runner has at spotting you.
Also, don’t be afraid to improvise. We had fun with the free Publix sign makers we picked up at the expo.
Don’t just cheer for your runner:
Your runner isn’t the only person that needs support out there! Ashley and I parked ourselves in the middle of a hill on mile 17 about an hour before Kelly and Ben were suppose to come through. We could tell the runners were in pain at this point and needed any encouragement they could get.
Instead of standing idily by, we got loud, annoying, and cheered our little hearts out. Sure, we got a few weird looks, but I know deep down inside they were happy to have the push.
Stay away from phrases like ‘you’re almost there’ :
Especially if you are at mile 20 of a marathon. Trust me, a 10k is not ‘almost’ there and you’re just making the runner realize this even more. 🙂
Orange slices are a runner’s best friend.
- Jolly Ranchers
- Icee Pops <— best marathon hand out EVER!
- Mini Chocolate Bars
It may seem funny at the time, but beer is not. 🙂
Trust me, runner’s get tired of gu and chomps during a marathon, The possibility of a juicy orange slice around the next corner is about as good as it gets come crunch time.
Also, having prepared water bottle for your runner ‘just in case’ is a major plus. 🙂
Runners. Love. Pictures.
Call us conceited, but we love having proof that we ran the race. The professional race photos are expensive, so make the personal ones count! 😉
I suggest shooting in a ‘sports setting’ or high shutter speed.
And just hold the button down. Better to have 30 photos and end up with one good one, then take one photo and have it be awful.
Your runner needs to concentrate on the race and not be stressed worrying about you. It’s his/her big day, let them enjoy every minute of it.
- Wake up at 3:30am with a smile
- Offer to drive before and after the race
- Don’t make them late
- They just ran for +hrs, don’t mention how you were standing there for +hrs
- Tell them over and over again how proud you are of them 🙂