Dear Race Spectator

Dear Race Spectator:

You are the lifeblood of any racing event.  Unbeknownst to you, you have the ability to make a break a race.  Your presence on the course signifies nothing but good things to come when I pass by you.  To make this experience the best for both of us, there are a few ground rules you should be aware of.


Spectators from the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon.

Cheering. Even if you don’t know the person running by, scream like you do! Especially you fellas.  Take advantage of being able to scream semi-lewd (don’t go all out, please) things at girls as they run by.  This is probably one of the few places you can yell “Hey! Girl in the skirt, you’re looking great!” and not be punched in the face.

“You’re almost there!” Do not, under any circumstance, say this to a racer unless they are entering the finisher’s chute and are about to cross the finish line.   I realize that you are attempting to be motivational but nothing can take the wind out of someone’s sails quicker then hearing that knowing they still have several miles to go before crossing the finish line.  Try using these instead: “You’re doing amazing,” “Way to go,” “Looking strong/good/great/fantastic,” or if words fail you, don’t use words – just scream like a crazy person.  It’s ok to lie to us, we know we most likely look like death.

High-fiving. Sticking out your hand is one of the single most beneficial actions you can do for tired and weary racers.  But please be aware that when you stick your hand out, you do so at your own risk because I am going to high-five you and my hand will most likely be covered with a mixture of sweat and/or snot.  I’m sorry it’s gross, but it’s true.  Please don’t stop high-fiving; it’s like an instant energy transference with each slap of the palm.  Just make sure to have hand sanitizer readily available.

Alternative race course beverages.  If you’re passing out beer on the course, don’t get offended when I run by and don’t grab one. While I would love to stop and toss one back with you, it’s just not a good idea.  Like drinking and driving, rest assured that bad things will happen if I drink and run.  So out of respect for my fellow runners, I will always opt out.  But don’t stop offering it, I need that mid-race laugh that always comes from being offered a drink.  And who knows, maybe someday I’ll take you up on it.

Cowbells.  This is a 50/50 thing.  Some runners hate them, some love them.  I fall into the latter of the two so bring on the bell!  Yes, it may seem annoying to you to have to ring the bell for 2-4 hours but for the few seconds that I pass by, I assure you it’s totally worth it.

Race signs. Yes, please!  Give me something to distract me from what I’m doing. And the funnier, more original the sign is the better reaction you’ll get from me.  When selecting the slogan for your sign, please don’t use the following: “Worst parade ever” or “Making this sign was hard, too”.  I promise 500 other spectators will have the same phrase.  The best sign I’ve ever seen was during the Marine Corps Marathon and it read “No more Saturday long runs means Friday next sex again.” Haaa-larious, I tell you.  And true.

Music.  If you’re going to play music along the course just make sure that it’s something very upbeat.  Now is not the time to break out your secret stash of Michael Bolton CD’s.  Think more of 80s rock (Joan Jett, AC/DC, Madonna) or current hits (LMAO, Pitbull, Pink).  Just be prepared to witness lots of fist pumping, awkward run/dancing, and some really bad karaoke.

In closing, thank you for your support on the course.  If you follow the above advice, you will ensure that both your and my race experience is the best it can be!


A. Runner

P.S. – We really do LOVE you!

Question:  If you could give any advice to a spectator, what would it be?


37 thoughts on “Dear Race Spectator

  1. Awh! Thats great spectator advice!! I would b the one screaming at the top of my lungs. I love to cheer! Hahaha. I played softball my whole life and was notorious for it! Even the other teams would know my name! Lol. So important to be encouraging!

  2. This is great. I think little kids cheering are the best. My least favorite is “almost there” because whenever someone says it..chances are we aren’t. I like race signs too, I think they are awesome.

  3. This post is hilarious Gina! So true! I despise the “You’re almost there” or “It’s all downhill from here!” But I love it when spectators have upbeat music and cheer! I got so many “Go Snow White!” at the Disney marathon…and it was sooo awesome!

    • I bet running Disney in costume was so much fun! Definitely a morale booster. I guess I’m pretty lucky with the downhill comments, I haven’t come across any of those (that stick out in my memory at least).

  4. That’s really great advice for spectators. I’m not big on yelling and cheering when I’m racing because I find myself stressing more about the people watching me and not enough about actually running. I’m better off zoning in and just pretending nobody is around but I understand why there are certain things that spectators can do to make it a positive experience.

  5. This post is awesome. Cheering on the course is one of my favorite parts of doing races! The best sign I have ever seen was on the course for last year’s Savannah Rock’n’Roll Half. Somewhere around mile 7, a young kid had a sign with a paper mache fist on it that read, “Punch here for power!” Runners (myself included) practically fell over themselves to get to him. I STILL think about that sign when I get tired.

    But ugh…the dreaded “you’re almost there.” Someone said this at the 1/2 mile to go marker at this past Sunday’s half AND followed it up with “It’s all downhill” (it was not). I wanted to vomit on his shoes, bless him.

    • How awesome!! I totally would have {unintentionally} tripped some runners just to fist bump that paper mache fist. Yes, I got the “you’re almost there” at mile 11.5 in my MARATHON and I screamed that I still had 15 miles to go. That’s kind of where this letter came from…

      PS – You should have vomited on his shoes.

  6. I DIG THIS POST. wow I love this. I have to agree with ‘you are almost there’ such a lie all the time or the ‘just keep running’. really? do you think I am just going to stop? the best thing I saw this weekend was the people handing out gummy bears. quality

  7. Great post! Got a few good laughs out of this one. And totally agree, spectators can make or break an event. A good crowd gives you that extra burst of motivation when you need it most.

  8. Great post idea!! I love it. I really enjoy when spectators I don’t know call out my name when it’s written on my bib – it freaked me out at first, but now I love it!

    • I love it, too, Mary!! Side note, I volunteered at a tri (the run portion) last year and was calling the athlete’s number to cheer them on only to realize that they had no idea what their number was. It was funny to see them looking around, then checking their number and figuring out I meant them. Whoops.

  9. AWESOME. I might pass this along to friends/family if they come to spectate my half. I would recommend for spectators at marathons or half-marathons to bring orange slices or bananas to hand out to runners. Or if someone has their name on their shirt or bib, shout them out! I get a personalized bib for my half, and I’m actually super excited to have spectators call me out!

  10. Too funny! You should make this the “Volunteer Manifesto” and require race volunteers to have it printed on their shirts (condensed of course)! example:

    1. Thou shalt cheer positive sayings during the entire race.
    2. Thou shalt NOT cheer, “You are almost there” unless the person is in the finishing chute.
    3. Thou shalt make clever run signs, just know “worst parade ever” = “worst sign ever”.
    4. Thou shalt respect runner’s choice to accept or forego ‘liquid celebration’ during the race.

    We could totally do this!

  11. I think it’s crazy that people actually come to races just to cheer/encourage/motivate/high five people they don’t know. I love all race spectators!

  12. YES to this post! Since making the transition to triathlons, I’ve become a huge cowbell fan–the more noise, the better! It really gets me amped up. 🙂 In fact, my aunt and uncle even brought one when they cheered me on during my first tri this summer.

    • Yes, bring on the bell!! I forget which state it’s in (and apparently I’m too lazy to Google it) but there is a 1/2 marathon that’s entirely about the cowbell. Yep, I would run that race fo’sho!

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