March 4, 2013

A Few Quick Spectating Pointers

In this briefing, I will briefly touch on a few brief topics that will, in brief, help make spectating a more effective and pleasurable experience.

Remember, the whole point of the activity is for the runners to know you are there supporting them.

  • yell loudly"o, hey! go, runners! goooooo, runnnnnerrrrrrrsss!" vs. "lookin' good! lookin' strong! GO, RUNNERS! NICE JOB! WAY TO FOCUS!"If you're the runner, you don't want to be wondering if the soft voices you're hearing are only in your head and you don't want to wonder what in the fuck they are telling you.  Feel free to repeat the same motivational things. While annoying to fellow bystanders who are listening to it over and over and over, the runners are only within earshot for about a minute.  
  • clap loudly – this is not the time to do the royal three-finger-tap-on-the-heel-of-your-hand deal. If your hands aren't red and raw after five minutes, you aren't doing it right.
  • don't say stupid shit – the most reviled phrase heard anytime before the last quarter-mile? "You're almost there!" When you get into that one-time-around-the-track zone, sure. You can sense that finish line. But with a mile to go? Two miles to go? At the fucking 20-mile mark of a marathon? Ummm. No. 
  • if you're too shy to screech or you have laryngitis, get a cowbell and/or a horn. Actually, having a cowbell and/or horn is a good idea anyway.
I can be very loud.

Bottom Line: They need to hear you. I tend to get strange looks from fellow spectators because I'm really LOUD and noticeable. However, the runners are smiling and thumbs-upping and waving arms and picking up the pace more often than not. And THAT is why I am there. Sure, some runners scowl. But they aren't scowling because of me, they were miserable and scowling before me. For those runners, I sometimes wish I could position a disabled, wheelchair-bound person right in their path. Most runners need to lighten the fuck up and/or get some therapy. By the same token, spectators should never take a runner being an asshole personally – even if the shitty behavior seems to be directed at them. Therapy is a beautiful thing on both sides of this equation.

  • wear bright or distinctive, comfortable clothes. Costumes can be fun and are highly visible, but regular clothes work, too.
Layering is important.
In the event of pouring down rain, a Hefty bag is awesome.
But decorate it so you don't just look like a California Raisin.
  • colorful signs that are simple and uncluttered. If you have a long, clever, intricately-decorated sign, best to position yourself at the beginning of the race before the runners' brain activity has devolved into its most primal state of simply putting one foot in front of the other and remembering to breathe and staying upright and moving forward and not shitting one's pants.
Bottom Line: They need to see you. Even if you don't see them. It's okay if you miss them as long as they see you. I have spectated at numerous events armed with projected split time ranges, an accurate watch and arriving well on time and staying a good long time while dressed in my pre-stated obnoxious outfit and still missed my runners. Since I am generous with my spectating and visually remarkable, my runners have almost always spotted me.

  • on the macro level this requires being organized and having knowledge of the course and some vague familiarity with the area in addition to knowing your runners' split time ranges. 
  • once alongside the course - see and be seen by the runners but be respectful and don't block the view of others or the path of the runners!
  • do not underestimate how long it will take you to get from one spectating location to another. Better to plan your watching spots conservatively, or you might end up playing leapfrog or catch-up with your athletes the entire way down the course and never actually see them run! 
  • more motivation is generally needed farther along in a race. The second half is the more critical when it comes to providing support.

Bottom Line: You need to be there when they run by so that they are able to see you and hear you. Talk to your athletes about when in the race they feel they will want your support. Create a contingency plan.

Don't beat yourself up if you blow it. Just like with the running part of a race, all we can ever do is our best. Some days our best is better than others.

Have fun out there!

Are you a good spectator? Why or why not? Have you ever trained to be a good spectator?
–I am a fucking awesome spectator. Unless you are a dour, scowling, asshole and then you will probably HATE me. But then again, you probably hate EVERYTHING anyway. I'm loud and encouraging and POSITIVE. Yes, I trained to be a good spectator. Not by taking classes but by serving in a motivational capacity in my sport of concentration prior to shifting my focus more into running.

What do you like in a spectator when running in a race? And what do you hate?
–I like it when spectators lighten the mood but not in a distracting way. I hate it when they sound and look not into it. Hard to describe, but you probably know what I mean.


    1. I hate when it's obvious you're not 'their person' and they abruptly stop clapping and clamp their mouths shut as you pass. Actually it's kind of hilarious.

    2. I run all the races, so I'm not normally a spectator...

      But my wife love's to watch, but she is n't very good at supporting me... she is there with the best intentions, then you ends up following the front of the race or her lady friends at the middle of the race. Poor me!!!

    3. These are the best pointers ever. Taken from the true best spectator of the universe. I can't tell you how confused I was to see you once, and then see you two miles later. WHAAAT? how'd you get there so fast!?

      Teamarcia's comment is funny and true.

      Things that I love from a spectator: everything. I can't think of anything I don't like, except for when my husband forgets to remember what he's doing there and I have to yell HEY in his face for him to see me.

    4. I watch all the races, so I'm not normally a runner.

      But my wife loves to run, though I'm not very good at supporting her because I'm completely self-absorbed and/or looking at blonde chicks in running skirts wearing color-matched Nike Free running shoes.


      It seems easier to be a cycling spectator. Because a cycling spectator can yell "Allez (name), Allez"! at any point along the race route regardless of their native language and personal racing pedigree, while never risking a shaming by anyone. You can also go shirtless wearing only a banana hammock and ring a cowbell until you die from a heart attack and still no one will give a shit, especially in France.


    Say it. But if you can't own your shit, don't dump it on me.

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