Race Day Spectating 101: How to Cheer Like a Champ

The semester is over and I am BACK! Very much looking forward to reconnecting with all of you here on Dine, Dash and Deadlift as well as catching up on all the latest happenings on YOUR blogs!

Rememeber way back when I announced I would be running the Blue Ridge Marathon (aka – “America’s Toughest Road Marathon”) this year? I was asked to be an Official Blogger for the race, and thus given free registration for myself and a free registration to give out via a giveaway here on DDD. Well, that race was held this past Saturday last month and sadly a nasty, recurring case of bursitis in my hip has been plauging me since January, forcing me to be sidelined for the race. I was still on hand to cheer on my friends who were running though. Having learned a lot in the process and taking in to account my thoughts about spectators as a runner, I figured why not share six important lessons I learned in spectating with all of you!


Rule 1: Make Your Sign(s) EARLY!

We all know it is important to get shut eye before running a marathon. Well let me tell you, it is also important to get enough sleep before spectating a marathon. I stayed up very late making my signs and was feeling very tired and zombie-ish the next day. In order to give your all cheering and being enthusiastic, get some rest. Also, your friends who just finished running 26.2 grueling miles don’t want to hear YOU whining about being so tired from all that poster holding, yelling, and fast walking to find them at multiple points on the course.

Dogs + Signs

Another reason to make signs during normal hours: you will have company. By the end of the night I was left in the living room by myself and even the dogs wouldn’t stay awake and help me out.

Rule 2: Personalize Signs for YOUR Runners

While it is great to have general signs for all of the runners to enjoy, if you are there supporting specific runners, take the time to make something special just for them. For one of my friends I made a sign that read “Cowboy Up Colton. Get ‘Er Done!”. This is fitting because we are college friends from the best school there is – the University of Wyoming. “Cowboy Up” and “Get ‘Er Done” are common Wyoming sayings and mindsets. Very fitting for a marathon!

Colton Poster

For another it read: “Getting Here Was the Hardest Part. Go Morgan!”. Coming all the way from Colorado {while it is still winter there}  for this race proved to be a bit a crazy. They ended up going off the road en route to the airport (luckily they were totally fine) and getting in a day later than scheduled!

Rule 3: Get CREATIVE With Your Signs for All Runners

No offense, but some race day signs are just overused and not so exciting. Examples: “You’re Feet Hurt Cause You’re Kicking So Much Asphalt“; “Worst Parade Ever“; “Staying Up All Night Making This Sign Was Hard Too“. Anyone who has run at least 1 race in their life is no longer amused by these signs – or maybe that’s just me…. So start brainstorming now and be a bit more creative. I took inspiration from my life as a Registered Dietitian and found a way to work calories in to one of my signs: “Run 26.2 Burn the Calories in 30 Beers“. Several runners stopped and asked me, “is that true?” and then went off talking to their friends about all the beers they would have after the race, so I think it was appreciated!

Marathon and Beers*Note, this isn’t an exact, concrete fact. The amount of calories you will burn running a marathon depends upon your weight, your pace, the temperature, the course, etc. But for our purposes on a sign, this works out as a good estimate of how many calories worth of a standard Light Beer you will burn running 26.2 miles.

Rule 4: Make Multiple Signs

If you will be specating from multiple points in a race, make several signs so that way runners are seeing something new and fresh each time they pass you. If you are only watching from 1 point, make a few so that you can stay fresh by switching up the sign you are holding and have extra to hand out to young children to hold who are bored with watching. The other signs I made:

Push for Turbo Boost” , complete with a giant red “Turbo Boost button” which proved to be a great way to engage runners. Several did come over and push it.

“If Britney Spears Can Get Thorugh 2007, You Can Get Through This” which had several folks laughing.

“Free High Fives…(tips appreciated)”

Rule 5: Dress In Layers

It was COLD in the morning. So cold in fact that poor little Oakley was shivering. Fortunately, thanks to some throw away gear from the runners he was styling with this oversized Patagonia sweater.

Oakley at Mile 15

Later on though, things warmed up and I was able to encourage runners with my shirt as well as my signs thanks to this Boston Marathon shirt which stated “Run Wicked Fast”. We use the word “wicked” in a totally different manner than the rest of the country back in Massachusetts!

Run Wicked Fast

Rule 6: Set Up In a Location Where You Can Spot Your Runner From a Distance:

Because the Blue Ridge Marathon is a smaller race, they don’t have a system set up to get text alerts when your runners cross certain check points on the course. Therefore, having a general idea of their expected arrival time at different locations is key. However, it is not enough. Make sure you set up in a place where you can see them coming from afar so you can get your camera/phone out and ready for a photo op. Otherwise, you just end up getting their backside! Ooops!


There you have it. Follow these 6 Race Day Spectating Rules and you will be on your way to cheering like a CHAMP!

Are you an experienced spectator? What tips can you share? Are you an experienced racer? What do you wish spectators would do to help you out a bit more?



12 thoughts on “Race Day Spectating 101: How to Cheer Like a Champ

  1. Anonymous says:

    T! This is such a great post. I can honestly say that having supporters with you on your big day is very special. They keep you motivated, remind you of why you are doing it and push you through when you want to give up. All of your tips are awesome. One thing my friends have done for me is surprise me with flowers when the event is over and I truly loved that!

  2. sklloyd15 says:

    I used to watch my dad’s races when I was little. I can say I did nothing supportive lol but I was 3 so i had an excuse. This post makes spectating look really fun!

    • Tanya says:

      You were 3, so I think you get a pass on not being so supportive. I don’t think I will be back in action for the Hokie Half in September, so we can be a cheering section together!

  3. David H. says:

    Thanks so much for coming out and supporting us that cold morning. It was great to catch up with you as well at the expo. I hope our paths will cross again soon!

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