Spectating a Race? Well, This One's For You.

Spectators. Some friends. Some family. Even those who get some sick, twisted pleasure out of watching strangers try to kill themselves for 26.2 miles. Runners love them. After all, they get up at three o’clock in the morning, just like us runners. But, instead of hitting the course, they stake out a cold slab of concrete for three hours waiting for our slow asses just to say, “woo!” and then pickup to move to another spot and do it all over again (a marathon in itself). A cheer to the spectator who endures just as much as, if not more than, us runners – So, here’s to you, random cowbell ringer!

Today’s post is for those spectators who are looking to get all they can out of a race watching experience. Below are some ideas on how to maximize your race experience and the experience of the thousands of runners who pass you. 

She didn't even laugh at my goofy ass hat

She didn't even laugh at my goofy ass hat

  1. Wear something bright so your personal runner can see you. It’s just as hard for us runners to focus on a single person as it is from the other side of the rope. Make it easy by selecting something bright and unique. I’m a huge proponent of the goofier clothing, the better. Think about dressing up like a school crossing guard or those people who direct airplanes to the gate. Maybe even a drum major (see the theme here?) Doing so will increase your odds of your runner seeing you, as well as shed some delight on the spectators around you.
  2. Signs? Yes, please. Draw up a few colorful ones that call out something unique about your runner so they know it’s about them. Things like the runner’s baby pictures or awkward headshots from 8th grade tend to work pretty well. Although, it’s probably not that wise to go uber-personal. No runner wants to see, “Jim, hope the hemorrhoids clear up” regardless if it’s Jim or not. If you need an idea for colorful and race relevant signs, read my post on the subject by clicking here Disney Marathon Sign Ideas
  3. Locations. Plan them out in advance and find out how to best get around to each stop along the way. For some of the bigger races, it may be tough to get around given the crowds, so be realistic about the spacing of your stops. Seeing your runner at the Transportation and Ticket Center means you may not have enough time to see them run down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. Also, keep a table of times your runner may pass by based on their training. Make sure to build enough of a buffer given the excitement of the race may speed them up and cross your viewpoints early.
  4. Sometimes it can get pretty cold waiting for a runner. You may want to think about bringing something warm to drink. A thermos full of coffee or maybe a fake leg full of bourbon? Whatever’s your pleasure.
  5. Make friends with those around you, so when your runner passes more people will make noise (see #4 for making friends around you).
  6. Bring a camera and take a lot of pictures. Race photos are expensive, so if you can snap some winners of your runner they will be appreciative. Make sure to take them at each stop. Then your runner can relive the experience, with fresh-faced and happy runner at Mile 2, and sad, creeping death runner at Mile 20. Bonus if they’ve soiled themselves
  7. One thing about camera selection. Please, please, PLEASE do not use an iPad camera. For the love of all things holy people, these were not designed as outdoor cameras. Let’s face it, you look as goofy using the thing as you feel using it. Leave the iPad in the room, or better yet, at home.
  8. Smoking. That stuff tends to hang in the air annoying those around you and really pissing off runners. Don’t be THAT spectator. In fact, just give it up already.
  9. Cheer on runners you don’t know. Really, it’s okay. We know you want to find your runner, but that blank stare and open mouth make you look like a zombie. Runners don’t like zombies. Plus, we could really use the encouragement.
  10. Have fun! You’re part of the main attraction! Your support of the event and the people around you can really make the experience spectacular and unforgettable for everyone.

In all seriousness, most runners train for months and months in near isolation, so when race day arrives, it’s such an amazing experience to see those who support our crazy addiction. You really make the race great. Thank you.