Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How to be a good race spectator

So, something that I have wanted to write about for literally years is how to be a good cheerer at a race.  I love cheering people on, whether it is friends of mine or people I don't know.  Selfishly, part of why I love it is because it keeps me inspired.  Even from way back in the day when I went to NYC to cheer on Dani as she ran the NYC Half Marathon on St. Patrick's Day 2013.  To last year as I watched my friend Jenna race the Big George Half Ironman.  To this year when the week before my own marathon I went and cheered to get myself into the spirit.

As I have gotten more into running, I have had a number of opportunities to go to races, not as a runner, but as a spectator.  My cheering commitments have led to me eventually doing my own races.  Cheering for Dani's half marathon before my own.  Cheering and volunteering at a Ragnar Relay before doing one myself.  To now doing my own half Ironman after cheering on Jenna's.  And I wrote as well about how I have been cheering at races recently now that I have finished my goal races for 2015.

So over the years there are a number of things that I have picked up from both spectating races, and running in them myself that I want to share about how to be a good race supporter and fan.  Some of these things are basic and some are just my own personal suggestions.  Please feel free to add your own in the comments section to expand this list!

Tips to be a Great Road Race Spectator

  • Find a good position to be along the course.  I like to find a place to cheer that is not at the very start and not at the very end either.  Usually about 2/3 of the way through is a good spot to be.  You are deep enough into the race that people are hurting and need a boost.  But also not so close to the end that they are running of the "near finish" adrenaline.  I always think it is weird when people are cheering at the VERY start of the race.  I think it's most important to be a bit further in.  Although anywhere is still a good spot to be!  My friend Allie cheered for me at Mile 1 of the Paris Marathon and I still appreciated that, although I laughed when she told me later, "You looked SO strong!"

  • Be visible! It can be really hard to find the people that you are looking for while you are running a race, so do what you can to be visible.  Let your runners know where you plan to be, wear a specific color or piece of clothing, bring a sign, or something to be spotted by and make sure that your runners can see you!

  • Stay out of the way.  That being said, don't get in the middle of the road.  You don't want to get in people's way.  Don't be darting back and forth across the street and just be as out of the path of the runners out running!

  • Don't smoke or bring super smelly food.  I know that sounds random, but running past smokers can be a challenge for me.  And as far as food, I always think of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer has a cup of hot coffee that a runner mistakes for water.  What a horrible experience!  I hate running by bakeries or dumpsters or things that have strong smells.  When you are running you are breathing heavy and the smells can be extra strong.  

  • Read people's names or speak personally to the runners.  I love to shout to people based on what they have written on their shirts or on their bibs.  A lot of time runners write their names on their shirts or they have shirts with specific colors or written words that you can shout out.  In Paris, at the end of the race someone read my name off my bib and cheered for me by name and it made me cry.  Even if you don't know people's names, "Let's go Orange Shirt!" or "You've got this Smith Landscaping!"  And even if it isn't your team's, if someone is wearing a sports shirt - cheer for their team name, it will get them hyped up! 

  • Most importantly, make noise and bring the energy!!  More than anything else, what matters is being energetic and bringing the enthusiasm and excitement that you feel to the course and transferring that to the runners.  I can't tell you how much it means to have people being enthusiastic and excited and making a lot of noise along the sidelines.  When I run by people who are just standing or sitting there and not making any noise, it is so confusing to me.  Are you just here to watch?  When I go out to races, I am there to help transfer any tiny bit of energy that I can to do the runners.  I jump, I dance, I give out high fives, I "woohoo" like you wouldn't believe, and try to connect with the runners and distract them for just a second from whatever discomfort that they may be in.  And not just for the people I know but for everyone!

  • And yes, I often have a cowbell with me.

    [Pic courtesy of cheering at the Movers + Pacers Father's Day Run]

    So, there you have it.  A likely anticlimactic list given that I've been thinking about some of these things for a really long time.  However I am happy to finally get it posted!  What do you guys think?  I am sure I missing a lot of other things... what is important to you when you cheer or have people cheer for you at a race?

    Happy Tuesday everyone and also thanks for everyone's support on my post yesterday.

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