Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Lot of Work for a Free Banana

You can't have a race without the runners, but as a runner I know that you really can't appreciate a good race unless it has good spectators. I wrote a blog after the Marine Corps Marathon two years ago with pointers for spectators, and they still hold true. New York had incredible spectators. There were people everywhere, and generally they were loud and engaged. But just like there are those runners who try to ruin it for everybody, there are those spectators. 

Here are some general rules of thumb:

1. Do not cross the street when runners are barreling down on you. I get it - races are long, and streets need to be crossed. Wait until there is a lull in runners and make your move. But move fast and get out of the way. I had a woman run right in front of me in New York. I had to pull back to keep from tripping over her. I was furious. I yelled, "Really? I'm in the middle of something here!" You're there to support runners. Don't make them dodge you.

2. Do make signs, cheer and be loud. My cheering section was the best, and everyone should be jealous. But they were the best because they didn't just cheer for me; they cheered for everyone. I was a little disappointed by the crowds on First Avenue because while there were people everywhere, many were only cheering for the runners they knew. It was frustrating. We all need love people! 

My bad ass cheering section in NYC. They could write the book!
At the Mid-Land Half last weekend there were very few spectators, but some of them weren't cheering at all. You'd run by to them silently staring at you. Why are you out here to just watch and not cheer? You just made this creepy.

And my favorite signs from New York were: "If Donald Trump can run for President you can run 26.2" and "Nipple bleeding and hoo ha chafing ends today".  

3. Don't encroach the street. I know it's exciting. I know you're looking for your people. In New York I had to dodge spectators who made their way onto the race course. I'm not even sure they realized they were on the race course. Be aware of your surroundings.

4. Be encouraging. I had a spectator yell at a runner who was struggling near me at mile 20 "Suck it up Buttercup! You still have six miles!" Do you think that's helpful? Even if the person who yelled that is a runner, races are tough. Everyone's race is different. Yelling at someone to suck it up and being negative doesn't help the situation. How about "you've got this!" or something else encouraging?

I will never forget mile 20 during my first marathon in Detroit (2010). I had hit the wall- hard. I was struggling to run, and I was in a lot of pain. A spectator jogged out beside me and ran/walked with me. She said, "Once you do this, you're a marathoner. You can do anything. Nobody can take this away from you. You've got this." I can never tell that stranger how much that meant to me in that moment. Be that stranger.

5. It is ALWAYS a good idea to play Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", Cake's "Going the Distance" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger". Always.

6. I wrote this in my last blog too, but it bears repeating. DO NOT yell "You're almost there!" unless I can actually see the finish line. Because unless the finish is in sight, I am not almost there. 

Crowd support can make or break a race, and it is definitely a huge part of what made the New York Marathon memorable. Even though no other race will likely live up to that level of crowd, spectators smaller races can still help runners feel the love. We may not admit it, but we need your help. Bring your sign, your cowbell and your happy face. It's race day baby!

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