Saturday morning Bo and I woke up bright and early to spend a few hours in Prospect Park, cheering and supporting our friends running the 2017 Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon. As runners who have run races of multiple distances, we can appreciate how much spectators can change the mood of a race, especially half marathons and marathons. While we were spectating, a few people asked us a number of questions, appearing very overwhelmed by the task they’d been charged with – successfully cheering and supporting their runner. Here are a few tips for making your next spectating experience enjoyable and hopefully successful.
- Review the course and choose your spectating spots in advance. A day or two before the race, take the time to visit the race website, review the course, and figure out your spectating locations. If it is a longer race, such as a half marathon or marathon and you plan to spectate from multiple locations, ensure you allow ample time to move from one spot to the next. This will ensure that you are able to figure out the best method of transportation and route for getting there on race day and can share the information with your runners. Keep in mind, on race day there will be MANY road closures which can impact your ability to navigate the area, whether by public transportation, taxi, Uber or even bike. Once you figure out your planned spectating spots, share them with your runner. This will allow them to look for you just as much as you’re looking for them as well as provide any feedback since they most likely have studied the course in advance. Make sure to note things like which side of the race course you’ll be standing, near which mile marker or landmark and what you’ll be wearing or holding. For example, for Saturday’s half marathon Bo and I stood on the runner’s right side of the course as this was the easiest side for us to access, we were right before the 10k marker and I told friends we’d be holding a sign.
- Make a sign that will make everyone smile, not just your runner. I often see people holding signs that speak only to a specific runner such as a picture of that runner or something like “Go Ashley.” However, if you’re like most spectators, you will spend at least 20-30 minutes cheering in your spot before you see your runner so why not make a sign that can motivate everyone, including your runners? I actually reached out to Twitter and asked a few runners for ideas in advance of the race since my creative juices weren’t flowing. Our sign made cheering SO much fun as we received hundreds of high fives, hollers, and smiles from both spectators and runners. If you finish the sign in advance of the race, send a picture to your runners so they know what color the sign is and can watch for it on the course.
- Know your runner’s pace and any tools that can help you track them. This is the part that is especially difficult for spectators who aren’t runners. They know that the race begins at 7 AM but they have no idea when to expect their runner to hit the 10k point where they are going to cheer. It’s important to check in with your runners and understand both their goal pace, i.e most likely their fastest pace, so they can help you calculate when you need be at each spot in order to see them. On Saturday there were many spectators who showed up to the halfway point only to realize they’d missed their runner OR were there entirely too early based on their runner’s start time and pace. Keep in mind that just because a race starts at a certain time, that doesn’t mean your runner will start exactly at that time especially in larger races that have corrals and separate starting waves. For Saturday’s half marathon, some of our runners started in Wave 1 (7:00 AM) while many of our runners started in Wave 2 (7:40 AM). We were able to use the NYRR app to track our runners on Saturday, which allowed us to see the exact time they started and their paces since the app tracked the runners using their timing chip. Since we knew this information, we were able to plan for a longer spectating period and wore comfortable clothes, brought coffee and breakfast with us and knew we’d have about 15-20 minutes of downtime when we could explore the park, relax or go to the bathroom if needed.
Hopefully, these tips will make spectating your next race easier and more enjoyable!
Your turn: If you’re a runner, what are your favorite race day signs?