So, Your Friend is Running a Marathon: 11 Tips for Marathon Spectating

A friend of mine is running her first marathon this weekend at the Chevron Houston Marathon. I’m SO excited for her, and she sent me a text the other day asking if I had any suggestions for her boyfriend, who will be spectating.
Well, YES. Mark and I have been marathoners our entire relationship (though I’m mostly cheerleader, only two 26.2 races for me so far!) I’ve cheered him on in Detroit, San Diego, Minneapolis, Provo (UT), Chicago, Houston, and most recently, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.. I’m almost a pro!
Tips for marathon spectating
Mark and I after the Detroit Free Press Marathon; it was the first I spectated at. We had only been dating about three months. Go dirty Nerdy!
If you’re looking to cheer on your lobster at an upcoming endurance event, here are some tips:
Where to be
  1. Check the course map to see how many places you can cheer on your friend. Some Marathons are one huge loop and few are one long line, but most are obscure shapes. Many times there will be spots a block away that are miles away on the course. Each map is different, be strategic & let your loved one know where to look for you.
  2. When you’re planning your map, plan to go nowhere that’ll have you cross the race. If you’re on foot, it’s not a big deal, you can run in the same direction as the racers and keep making your way to the other side. If you’re on a bike, you’ll be the biggest jerk for miles, and if you’re trying to spectate with a car (not recommended)-then, well, you just can’t.
  3. Don’t expect to see your runner during the first mile or two. The crowd of runners is just too dense. You can try to see them off, but its unlikely and you could spend that time getting to a further destination where he’ll appreciate seeing you more.
  4. If you’re meeting your runner at the finish line, make sure your last cheer spot allows for a lot of time for you to get there. With crowds, road closures, and, because of the Boston Marathon Bombing, bag checks near the area, you will likely run into more than one obstacle
  5. If you’re not meeting your runner at the finish line, please cheer at a spot before the last mile or two! That’s where runners need your support the most, and unfortunately it’s the most sparse.

What to wear

  1. A runner needs to wear what’s most comfortable for them, but if your runner wears a white shirt or white cap, you’ll have a hard time finding them! There’s a lot of colors out there but white is the hardest to spot. Red might be easier to spot, but no amount of neon will help you see your runner.
  2. For you, wear something silly if you want! It’ll make people laugh and make that long distance a little more interesting. If not, dress like a runner. During the Marine Corps marathon, I was running late to the finish line and came to a bridge that only people in the race were allowed to cross. I couldn’t take a chance on the next bridge that’d cross that body of water, so I just acted like I was a part of the race. (Naughty, I know. Desperate times!)
  3. Only bring the essentials. Back when Mark did Rock n’ Roll San Diego, I had a whole backpack full of water, snacks, fuel for him, loud bang sticks, my wallet, his wallet, my phone, the course map–everything I could have possibly needed. That was fine for then, but, since the bombing, there are officers who search bags at the finish. If you don’t have a bag, you don’t have to wait in that line.
MORE COWBELL! (What to do)
  1. It seems silly, and I can’t explain it, but endurance athletes love a good cowbell! Nothing picks up my pace when I’m starting to drag like hearing a cowbell. If you’re out there clapping for a long time at a lot of strangers, your hands can get red and tired. Cowbell all the way!
  2. If you read that last suggestion and thought, “Strangers?! I’m only cheering for my man/friendf/girlfriend/mama/sister-in-law’s baby cousin Tracy!” PLEASE don’t have that attitude! Don’t just stand there on the sidelines while everyone runs past. Your energy and support helps these people achieve their goals, and they worked just as hard as someone you know to achieve it.
  3. Most names are written above the numbers on their chests, also known as bibs. Call out their names and make them feel awesome!

7 thoughts on “So, Your Friend is Running a Marathon: 11 Tips for Marathon Spectating

    1. Hahha! I’ve seen SO many when I’m racing that look more tired than the athletes (really they’re just bored) and it makes me crazy! That’s why I mentioned that they should cheer for everybody!

      They definitely make the race, though. My second full marathon was a tiny race and I wouldn’t do it again, I need spectators to add to my energy!

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