Tips For Spectating A Race


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?

Share Button

I Think We Need A Break

Five years ago, I signed up and trained for my first marathon. The entire process was like a dream, pushing my body to do something I never fathomed I would be able to do. As we’ve talked about previously on the blog, I did not grow up an athlete nor a runner.  In fact, while I spent a great deal of time outdoors growing up, I was only on a formal sports team four times in my life and each year I dreaded the physical fitness test mile run more than a doctor’s appointment or getting shots.

The 2010 New York City Marathon was a day that will forever remain in my brain, each mile still is imprinted and I could recap the entire race course experience to anyone today, even five years later. Each mile was a miracle as I pushed through the boroughs, taking in every single mile with a huge smile on my face.


Since then, I continued to sign up for one marathon each year. I had a different goal for each marathon, but primarily my hope for each was to improve my time. Five years and five marathons later, I have improved my time from my original 5:29 marathon but I’ve spent the past four years, finishing short of the goal I had in my mind. Completing a marathon, regardless the pace, will always be an accomplishment in my book. As someone said yesterday, moving 26.2 miles on one’s own two feet is something that most people never dream of doing, much less in 5 or so hours.

Therefore, when year after year, my body falls short of the goal I’m chasing, I finish the 26.2 miles with my head hanging lower than it was when I started the journey. At 30 years old, I do not have anything left to prove to myself when it comes to the marathon. I have successfully completed 5 at this point, I know that my mind and body are capable of accomplishing the distance. But, what I have also learned along the way, and unfortunately my friends and family as well, is that my body really does not enjoy the distance.

I am thankful and blessed to have suffered no physical injuries during five marathons but I have suffered one too many emotional injuries. Each year, somewhere between mile 15 and 22 the wheels come off. In most cases, it seems to be attributed to heat, which also explains why my best experience to date was the Philadelphia Marathon where it was below freezing at the start. As someone who sweats a great deal, I can’t seem to hydrate or take in enough fuel to overcome nausea, muscle cramps, or in yesterday’s case severe quad cramping and vomiting.

What started out as being something that I loved has grown to be something that makes me think less of myself. I beat myself up internally for not achieving a goal which based on my training runs, half marathon time and speed workouts seems achievable. I question the twelve to sixteen weeks of my life, dedicated to marathon training, trying to figure out where the process went wrong. I question the forty-eight hours leading up to the marathon, wondering what I should have or shouldn’t have eaten. I drive my husband, who is the most supportive and incredible marathon cheer leader and spectator, crazy with agony as he watches my self esteem diminish along the course.

I know that there are people who run marathons for fun and would tell me that I am too hard on myself and that every marathon won’t be a personal best. I know that the goal is to enjoy the miles and focus on the fact that each one is a gift. Trust me, yesterday during the toughest miles, these were my mantras. Every ounce in my body, especially in my legs, wanted to stop at mile 18.

But, after five years, I think that marathons and I are ready for a break. While I enjoy the training process, I’ve stopped enjoying the race day, which is unfortunate but true. There are too many other things in my life which bring me great joy to continue doing something which doesn’t make me happy. As I reflect upon this training cycle the things that I enjoyed most were my speed workouts and tempo runs. There is no question that I’ve become a faster runner in the past 12 weeks. I set a new half marathon PR and have set multiple unofficial 10k and 5k PRs during training runs and speed workouts.

Yesterday, though the Berlin Marathon was everything everyone promised – beautiful, flat, filled with amazing spectators, and a bit chaotic, I never enjoyed the race itself. For almost five hours I waited to find my groove and enjoy the experience only to finish without ever reaching that point. My happiest moment was chatting with fellow runners in the starting area, motivating one runner who was about to embark on her first marathon.

While sitting at dinner, a few hours later, a reader proved that they knew my running records better than myself, quickly making me realize that yesterday was 2 minutes short of a PR. As I sat there in tears, Bo asked me why I continue to put myself through this each year. Before last night, I had never truly thought about it. Maybe it’s because as a health and wellness blogger I am surrounded by so many incredible people who take on athletic feats each day. But, what I realized is that what was once a huge accomplishment had started to turn into just a habit that came around each year, choosing what the next fall marathon would be.

So for now, while I know the marathon and I may meet again one day, I’m ready to focus on other things such as triathlons and shorter distance races. The half marathon will always be my favorite distance and I would love nothing more than to enjoy a few, especially while combined with European travel to new cities with Bo or girlfriends.

Thank you for your support these past few years during the roller coaster of marathon emotions.

Share Button

Berlin Marathon Training – Week 5

Happy Thursday!

My post schedule is all sorts of crazy this week due to our travel to Athens. I hope you all enjoyed Bo’s food tour recap. I’m jealous I couldn’t join but his recap has already convinced me that a Berlin food tour will be the perfect activity on Monday, following the marathon!

Marathon month has finally arrived. In order to ensure that my training is successful during these next three crucial weeks, amongst travel to three different countries, I’m scheduling my training just like i would any other business meetings. Last week I put each long run, tempo run and speed workout on my calendar along with yoga and strength training dates. Waking up early is going to be a hard habit to get back into but I know it is crucial.

Let’s take a few minutes to recap last week’s training, shall we?

Monday: I started the week with a 60 minute yoga class to help my tight hamstrings. This was my first time trying Donna’s hatha yoga class at InnerCity Yoga but I really enjoyed it! The class was less intense than the 90 minute music flow yoga class I typically take on Tuesday nights but I really think it’s perfect for this last month of marathon training. I don’t want to risk soreness for my workouts and this helped take out the kinks without pushing me too far.

1227Tuesday: I pushed snooze one too many times so I slept through my planned morning tempo run and instead ended up having to squeeze it in after work. I listened to Chrissie Wellington’s book to help the 6 miles pass faster but unfortunately nothing made this run more pleasurable. It was one of those runs where my sole focus was getting the miles done.

Wednesday: I kept up with cross training by completing two rounds of Julie’s 20 Minute Bootcamp workout during lunch. It was an awesome workout that moved quickly yet left me sweaty and breathless! I highly recommend this 20 minute workout for anyone who gets bored quickly but wants something that is challenging but easy to follow.


Thursday:  Rest day!

Friday: I did a 15 mile long run before work as I knew that running in Athens, Greece would be challenging due to the weather and our hotel location. This run went perfectly and I felt really strong. I can only dream of keeping a 9:43 pace for 26.2 miles but for 15 it felt great!


Saturday: Our flight landed later than expected so this ended up being an unplanned rest day. Ooops.


Sunday: Our hotel gym only had two treadmills, both of which were occupied bright and early Sunday morning when I tried to squeeze in my weekly speed workout. Bo, nor I, were comfortable with me attempting the speed workout outside as our hotel wasn’t in the best location of Athens. Instead, I covered 5 miles during our 4.5 hour walking tour of Athens, Greece.

Last week wasn’t perfect but I know the areas of focus for this week and the following weeks so instead of dwelling on one missed workout, I am going to focus on the positives!

Your turn – I’m putting together my marathon playlist and am looking for any suggestions. What is your favorite song for a workout or long run? The more random the song, the better. I’m pretty tired of the Top 40 songs on Spotify right now.


Share Button