Wondering how to be a good spectator? Here are the 10 commandments of spectating to make any athlete’s race day the best day.
Totally agree with these. Especially #2!
Spectating is a special thing. For some (*ahem Mr. rUnladylike, cough cough*) it may seem boring. But for me, standing on the side of the road watching people I care about (and people I don’t of every size, shape, age and walk of life) race by with hope, anticipation and pure physical and mental guts sends little charges of electricity and excitement through my blood. Spectating reminds me that anyone can do amazing things. At Augusta 70.3, I saw a man with both legs amputated, a woman who was severely obese, a man that must have been in his 80s and countless others who probably thought they could never finish a half Ironman. And they did. We are all capable of amazing things. We just have to be willing to reach inside ourselves far enough to bring them to life.
For the athlete, having spectators on the course to support you is a game-changer. It can be the difference between keeping your mental sanity or having a mental “I want to quit right now” breakdown. Spectators keep you going. They remind you to smile. They convince you that you CAN do this. I can honestly attest that there have been races in which my spectators literally kept me alive. If I can just get to mile 23 where mom will be … If I can just get to the run, I’ll see Mr. rUnladylike …
I’ve written before about how to be the world’s greatest spectator, but spending 10 hours as a race Sherpa, cheerleader and logistics guru last weekend reminded me about the do’s and don’ts of spectating. As many of you are heading into your goal races this month and next, be sure to remind your friends and family about how to be a good spectator.
The 10 Commandments of Spectating
1. Thou shalt do whatever your athlete wants of you – no questions asked. If they want you to stand on your head, pat your head while rubbing your tummy or walk 2 miles to find them at the next stop, just do it. Anything you can do (that is legal of course) to help them mentally and physically get to that finish line makes a difference.
2. Thou shalt never, ever, under any circumstances complain about how tired you are. Yes, you got up at 4 a.m. So did your athlete. Yes, you’ve been running around all over creation from one mile marker to the next. Must I remind you what your athlete has done? After running 26.2 miles several years ago, my dad tried to tell me how tired he was from spectating. If he wasn’t my dad, I would have punched him in the face. You don’t have to say everything you are thinking.
3. Thou shalt be overjoyed to carry around lots of stuff, be it backpacks, changes of clothes, water bottles, extra GUs or even ridiculous things like balloons, umbrellas or rafts that will help your athlete see you better on the course. You will be sore from lugging around gear and you will like it.
4. Thou shalt not act bored at the race expo, the days leading up to the race when your athlete doesn’t want to walk anywhere or stand for extended periods of time even though you may be on what is supposed to be a vacation or complain about being bored. As a friendly reminder, this is not about you. See commandment #1 as a reminder.
5. Thou shalt not yell stupid things to runners on the course, like “You’re almost there” at the half way point, “Pick up the pace,” “You can go faster,” etc. Just clap and smile. Clap and smile. When I see someone struggling, I often say “You’re looking strong,” “You’re doing great,” or “You’re stronger than you think you are.”
6. Thou shalt have high energy at all times. Although not required, dressing up, getting creative with your attire and being cleverly witty with signs not only helps your athlete spot you but also gives a boost of positive thinking to other runners and athletes on the course.
Cheering on our friends in wigs and a sparkle skirt!
I loved this lady who was standing by the swim to bike transition. Best spectator costume ever. I hear this wig is available at Target.
7. Thou shalt make every best attempt to see your athlete as many times on the course as possible. Yes, even if that means you have to run 6 miles to get from place to place. It means more than you know.
I saw my friend Amy 7 times on the course and at the finish.
8. Thou shalt take excellent pictures to counteract the terrible ones that the professionals are sure to take of your athlete with their eyes closed, looking like death and so they don’t have to pay for great shots to show all their friends on Facebook. Thou shalt not have a camera roll full of blurry images or pictures of the guy right behind your athlete.
9. Thou shalt understand the emotions that race day can bring to your athlete. They have trained for months and months. Given up opportunities to do fun things on the weekend. Given up opportunities for sleep. Made sacrifices. And they likely have goals that are important to them. Race say is emotional. Be supportive at the finish line. Share how proud you are of them. Make them feel special. And be there at the finish to share their victory.
10. Thou shalt allow your athlete to revel in their race and talk about it non-stop for the next 24 hours before crushing their spirits and letting them know you cannot take one more second of recounting every detail. Again.
What are the most important ways your spectators can help you on race day? What other commandments would you add to this list for how to be a good spectator? Who is coming to cheer you on at your fall race(s)?