Do’s and Don’ts for Marathon Spectators

This weekend, I ran/walk/jogged (read: attempted) the Long Beach Half Marathon. I was amazed by the amount of spectators; it was more than I’ve ever seen at any marathon and I’ve now done 10 race events. However, my amazement quickly turned to dismay.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate spectators and the fact that they wake up just as early as we do to support us in our insane endeavors. I will never lose sight of that fact however, there are a few rules that must be observed when you’re spectating and supporting athletes that won’t make us want to wring your neck when we hit our “Bite Me” mile.  Watching and cheering us on is a lot easier than spending months training for a race event and I want your job from the observation deck to remain simple, yet supportive so let’s begin:

First things first, your position during the race is important. With all the cheering and yelling, we won’t be able to pick out your voice vs the crowd so don’t get upset if we don’t hear you screaming out our name. If you’re at the start line, we’re there too but probably with 30,000 other runners. Chances are you’re going to miss us so try standing at mile 5 where the crowd starts to thin out and guess what? We’ll also hear you from there too because everyone will be at the start line. :) The same rule applies for the finish line. Get there early so you find a prime spot near a railing or fence, we might not hear you call out our name but if you can catch some photos of us running across the finish line, we’ll thank you forever.

Now let’s move on to the Don’ts:

  • “You’re almost there!” – This is the worst possible thing you could say to a runner. We are “almost there” if we can see, touch, and feel the finish line. Telling us we’re almost there at any point of the race is where you lose your cool points. Chances are something isn’t going right during the race if we frown back at you.
  • “You’re looking good!” – Seriously? Unless you like that hot, sweaty, smelly, glassy eyed type. We know we’re not looking good. You’re lying and we know it.
  • “Only ‘x’ miles left!” – We can see the mile markers. We know how many miles are left. Please don’t repeat it again. It doesn’t make us feel any better that we’re not anywhere near the finish line. You may think that 2-3 miles might not be very far away but after being on our feet for a few hours even 500 feet is too far away.

Now that we’ve got the “Don’ts” out of the way, what are some things you should DO?

  • “Go Suki!” – Yay! You just read my bib and called out my name! I love you for that and so will other runners. It means you’re paying attention and for a brief moment I feel special until you read someone’s name but I’ll be so far gone it won’t even matter.  If you can’t read the bib name, call out the bib number or complement their outfit.
  • “You’re so awesome! We are so proud of you.” – Aww, thank you! Complimenting us on our training and for taking the time to run the race really helps.
  • “Beer at the finish line!” – Sweet! Every race has a beer garden and what better way to celebrate all those miles than an ice cold beer. Right? It’s better than the Gatorade and Gu. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it does bring a smile and what’s in store at the finish – our ultimate goal.

There’s your complete guide to marathon spectating. Have fun cheering on the runners and remember the “do’s and don’ts.”

Photo courtesy of Katielann12

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  • Kyle Clouse

    Great post Sukhraj. I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s funny that the list of don’ts has to even be mentioned. Trust me; the people shouting those have never been in a race…just sideline spectators.

    • Sukhraj Beasla

      Haha! Thanks! I’ve wondered that myself – have they ever run this far? Do they know what the true distance is?

      • Kyle Clouse

        I guess every sport needs a spectator section. The only difference with the sport of long distance running is that the runner is running for herself or himself while in other sports they are typically playing for the cheer of the crowd.

        • Sukhraj Beasla

          I completely agree and I love spectators and all their support. Just want them to be effective in their support tactics. :)