If you’ve ever run or walked a marathon, you know how crowd support can immensely help you. But being a good marathon spectator takes preparation and work. If you’re planning on watching an upcoming marathon, follow these marathon spectator tips to be an asset on the race course.
Runners love to read signs along the race course to help break the monotony. 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.
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 KM 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 KM marker, for instance). Too many spectators give out wrong information, which can be frustrating, confusing, and disappointing for runners.
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 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 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.
Public transportation is the best way to get around the course. Check the Ottawa Transpo website to help you take to get from one point to another. If you absolutely have to drive to get around the course, you should also check the race’s web site to get information on road closures. Whether you’re using public transportation or driving, give yourself plenty of time to get from one spot to another.
Have a Finish-Line Plan
The finish line area can be crowded and chaotic, so make sure you and your runner have a plan to meet up after he or she crosses the finish line. We have designated spots where runners can meet family members. If not make sure you designate another landmark where you’ll meet or have a plan for contacting each other.