Saturday, January 14

Rules for race spectators

I am not the first person to publish a spectator "dos and don'ts" list, nor will I be the last. But sometimes people need a swift kick in the pants gentle reminder about race spectator etiquette.

This morning I spectated at a 5k/10k/half marathon, and watched - in disbelief - as hundreds of people stood silently by as the 5k winner... then the 10k winner... then the half marathon winner crossed the finish line.
I know it's the morning, people, but show a little enthusiasm!

Cheering done properly!
Source: Nationaal Archief
Beth's rules for race spectators:

1 - Cheer for everyone.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of runners passing you. They all worked hard. You, on the other hand, are just standing there looking bored until the one person you know comes by. Then you wake up for 8 seconds and clap. So now we know your hands work.
Stop being lame and just cheer already!

2 - If you don't know what to say...
Yelling "looking good" or "looking strong" always works, even if (especially if) the person looks miserable. "Woo hoo!" is appropriate. "Good job" is appreciated. If you get tired of repeating those things, just clap.

3 - What you should never say...
Never, ever tell runners "You're almost there" unless you are within arm's reach of the finish line... and then that phrase makes you Captain Obvious anyway.
So better to just NEVER say it. If you aren't a runner, you have no idea what "almost there" means. For example, mile 18 of a marathon is not "almost" anything. And if you are a runner you probably already know better.

4 - Do not crowd the course.
We know you want that photo of your best friend / significant other / Great Aunt Millie. Find a way to get the photo without tripping other runners. OK?

5 - Ringing a cowbell is the social equivalent of bringing jello salad to a potluck.
Some people love it. A few people will eye you with open hostility.
I am squarely on the cowbell-loving side of this fence, but you should be aware that not everyone is fond of the clanking clamor.

In short... You look lame standing there with your hands in your pockets.
Seriously. Lame.
So cheer!
(You might even have fun.)

PS - If you want pointers, the Houston Olympic Marathon Trials crowd shows you how to do it right. :-)

What's your biggest spectator pet peeve?
What would you add to this list?


  1. My biggest peeve is spectators who aren't aware of the other spectators. I cannot believe the number of times I've had others scream in my ear while trying to attract the attention of a runner, or who step right into my picture as I'm trying to get a photo. Seriously, be aware of others around you would be my best piece of advice.

  2. My biggest pet peeve is when spectators cross the course, especially when there are racers coming through. Dodging spectators should not be part of the race.
    Once, I nearly ran into some lady while on my bike during a tri because she crossed the course without looking. I almost wiped out trying to avoid her and she had to audacity to give me the dirty look. Not cool.

  3. I hate spectators that want you to give them a high five at mile 23 of a marathon. I'm DYING at mile 23 and can't fathom raising my hand to give a stranger a high five.

  4. Hahah great post! I love the "almost there" rule! Whenever I race I try not to think about the end until I'm very very close lol


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