Tips for Marathon Spectators

One of the things I am most nervous about for the marathon is race day weather. It is the one thing I cannot control. In the past, CIM has been notoriously cold. Last year it was 31 degrees at the start (and that’s 2 hours after the bus picks you up to take you to the start).  I remember being at home during last year’s race and so happy I hadn’t signed up to do the relay. It was SO cold and we had a nice fire roaring and I was tucked under a fuzzy blanket.

Not such luck this year. One of the main reasons I am worried about the weather? My cheerleaders.  If the weather is nice I am more likely to have a good amount of spectator support (the main reason I chose to run CIM as my first marathon). If the weather is cold and rainy, people may be less likely to show up. And I will feel bad for those that still do show up and have to wait 4+ hours in the cold for me to shuffle my way to the finish line.

I found this article with tips for marathon spectators and thought I would share.  Some are common sense and others are pretty useful:

Make Signs

Runners love to read signs along the race course to help break the monotony. Try some of these phrases for signs : “You’re all Kenyans.”; “There’s beer at the finish line.”; “All walls have doors” (good one if you’re cheering around mile 20 or beyond). If you’re supporting a family member or friend, make a sign with his name that will encourage your runner but also help them to easily identify you.

Be Prepared
The water stops and food stations are for race participants, so you should be prepared with your own supplies. Pack some bottled water and snacks. Make sure you also have a reliable watch, a course map, cash, a camera, and cell phone. If rain is in the forecast, bring an umbrella, rain jacket, and extra socks. If it’s sunny, don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses. You’re most likely going to be standing still for a while. So it’s always good to have extra layers in case you get cold. And, most importantly, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.
Respect the Course
Don’t stand or walk on any part of the course. It’s not fair to runners if you make the race course even more crowded or become an obstacle that they have to run around. If you can’t see the runners from where you’re standing because it’s too crowded, move to a different viewing location.
Pick an Encouraging Phrase
Rather than just clapping as runners go by, pick a phrase or two to yell. Some good ones include: “Way to run;” “You can do it;” “Looking strong;” “Nice job;” “You’re flying;” or “Looking good.” Many marathon runners display their first names on their shirts or race bibs. So if you see someone’s name, you can always add that to the end of your catch phrase.
But Don’t Say This…
Unless you’re right next to the finish line, don’t yell, “Almost there” or “Not far to go.” Trust me, marathon runners don’t want to hear that phrase unless they are about to cross the finish line. It’s also not a good idea to yell out a specific distance such as, “Two miles to go,” unless you’re 100% certain that the number is the correct distance to the finish line (if you happen to be standing next to a mile marker, for instance). Too many spectators give out wrong information, which can be frustrating, confusing, and disappointing for runners.
Use Technology
Many large marathons have a variety of great services to help spectators follow their runners. See if the race’s web site has a sign-up for a runner tracking system, which can send alerts to cell phones, pagers, or wireless handheld devices as your runner moves across the chip timing mats throughout the course. Some races also offer Internet stations throughout the course and at the finish line, where spectators can check their runners’ progress online.
Timing Is Everything
If you’re looking for a family member of friend, find out his or her projected pace per mile ahead of time. This will help you figure out where and when they should reach certain points in the course. But keep in mind for big marathons that it could take a runner as much as 20 minutes to cross the starting line because of the crowds. So don’t base the predicted viewing times on the start time. You can adjust your projected viewing times after your first sighting of your runner.
Find Your Runner
Make sure you know exactly what your runner will be wearing, from head to toe. In crowded races, it’s easier to spot a purple shirt, for instance, rather than looking at everyone’s faces. Let your runner know what you’ll be wearing and where you think you’ll be standing, so he or she knows to look for you. If the race and cheering sections are really crowded, it’s helpful for the runner to know what side of the street you’ll be standing on. Some spectators even carry balloons so their runners can easily spot them from a distance.
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