Spectating is a sport, too!

Katie goes on vacation and all you guys get is a bunch of guest posts... Who does she think she is spending the whole day layin' on the beach, wearin' nothin' but a smile, playin' kissy-kissy, smoochy-smoochy, talkin' mooshy-mooshy er... wait that's a Steve Holy song. Sorry! But you get the picture, must be nice to go honeymooning!!! (Just kidding, that girl earned this honeymoon! 70.3 last weekend anyone?!?!?)
Anyway, when Katie first asked me to write a guest post I said, "But Katie, I don't even know what to talk about on my own blog! What the heck am I going to write about?!?!" In case you don't know me; Hi! My name is Morgan and I am the overly excitable redhead that writes: "Caution: Redhead Running." For the last two months I've been dealing with an incredibly annoying, non-healing stress fracture that sidelined me mid-training cycle. Since then about the only other thing I've done besides aqua jog my life away is spectate a a whole slew of races. When debating which would be the more exciting topic to write about, clearly I chose the aqua jogging... just kidding!!! Of course I meant spectating!
Everything I ever needed to know about being a good spectator I learned while running the 2009 Chicago Marathon. I spent a majority of that race soaking in everything around me and looking for my own spectators amidst the masses. If you've never ran a big city marathon than you just do not understand how hard it is to find your loved ones amidst wall to wall people some 5-10 people deep. To be effective you have to be creative and draw attention to yourself so your runner can find you. 
Here are my tips for effective spectating:
Have a plan, man: Go over the course map with your runner, figure out which points you can realistically get to during the race, and keep in mind that they'll need your energy the most from the half way point on. "I'll be at the turn before (location), runner left." Keep it simple and specific. Every year for the Boston Marathon I set up shop directly across from the convention center in front of Trader Joe's on the runner left. This is a location Spike won't ever forget because we go to the convention center for the expo and we're both left-handed.

K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple stupid): If you want your posters to be read they need to be easy to read. Use big bold letters, short statements, and pictures. You also can't go wrong with using your runners favorite quote or empowering mantra. B.o.B. and my cousin made this poster for me in Chicago and having my logo on it made it easy to spot. 
POSTER TIP: Make sure to write out and spellcheck before you write it out on the posters. This should have read "Run Fierce Melissa" Can we say spectating FAIL!?!?!
More cow bell: Every runner loves a cowbell and you can pretty much always find one at Party City. While there pick up other obnoxious party favors in the birthday party aisle. I love giving kids around me stuff to spectate with too since parents tend not to think about that kind of stuff. Who better to enjoy being obnoxious then little kids?!?! I also like to fire up the crowd by shouting things like "That guy/girl looks like he/she needs more cowbell?!?!?"  "What was that? Did I hear someone needs more cowbell?!?!?" The runners eat that up and as a runner myself always demand it as I go by anyone that has one.
We have a floater: I will never forget seeing this group of spectators on the course that had a huge birthday cake balloon, I literally saw it at least five times and because I recognized it and remembered their signs I would shout to them as I ran by. I now make it a point to pick up some random balloon from the dollar store, like a big smiley face or cookie monster, anything that's obnoxious and colorful. Make sure your runner knows what the balloon is and they'll see if from a good distance away and it'll perk them up before they ever even reach you.

Costumes, not just for Halloween: Now I'm not saying go all out, but dressing obnoxiously will get you noticed. (And the passing runners will appreciate the effort).

Say my name, say my name: Send your runner out with their name on their shirt or bib and make it a point to cheer on runners who pass that have their name on their shirt or bib too. It's such a boost to be directly cheered on, even by strangers. I also make it a point to cheer on anyone that has an easily identifiable sports team, university, cause, or marathon name on their shirt. "Looking good Washington State!"  "Nice turn over Determination runner!"
and last but not least...
Have fun: Dance, sing, say off the wall things! (Need inspiration? Just read any of the one liners Spike has ever shouted at races. Bullhorns make these all the more effective!) I also have a mix of fun run-spiration music to play if the weather permits a radio. There's nothing like an impromptu booty shaking session to cheer up passing runners. In short, if you make it an enjoyable experience for yourself, the people around you and the runners that pass you can't help but get in the spirit.
With the fun stuff out of the way, here's the more serious side of things: 
  • Make sure you check the weather and pack accordingly. 
  • Dress in layers to add and remove as the temps rise and fall. Pack ponchos or umbrella's in case of rain. 
  • Snacks are a must, for yourself and extra for your runner just in case. Last year at the 2010 Chicago Marathon I had a cooler with water, coconut water, and an apple for a friend. Somehow we missed each other but I put the coconut water to good use as quite a few runners went down near me with calf cramps. 
  • Make sure you have access to restrooms. You could be out there for hours and no one likes a spectator that pees their pants.
  • Redbull (and other caffeinated drinks) are your friend. The longer the distance of race you're spectating, the longer of a day it will be. Despite what people may think spectating is a sport too and you can end the day feeling just as exhausted as your runner.
  • If at all possible spectate with friends. Company makes everything more fun.
Want to read more about spectating fun? Here's a few of my spectating recaps:
Have a blast!!!!


  1. Great guest post & suggestions!
    I really want to get more into spectating and cheering people on because I know how great it feels when random people do that for me as I pass by. The "run fiere" poster made me laugh a whole lot! :)

  2. Wow small world.. I just found your blog and see that you are with Red! I only met her once but what an amazing runner girl!! Yes spectating is a total SPORT!

  3. I LOVE spectating races when I'm not actually running them! Great suggestions!

  4. I'll tell ya... my feet hurt after a full day of spectating!

  5. Ha, girl even before the injury you were QUEEN of spectating recaps! I'd hire you to come cheer on any race ;)

    This is an awesome list of tips - the balloon thing is brilliant!

  6. These are some great tips. I think spectating races is a lot of fun, but clearly I need to step up my game! I've made bright posters, but that's about it.

  7. I've been racing for a really long time but somehow have never seen the other side and spectated. Now I'm excited to get out there and do it. Thanks for the awesome ideas!

  8. Great Post... I have never spectated a race before but I am planning on it soon. Thanks for all the great tips!

    New follower from Reds blog

  9. Hands down one of the best days of spectating ever was spectating with you and the rest of the girls in Boston. Looking forward to doing that again next year! Thanks for letting me guest post and I hope you are enjoying sunning your buns with the hubby!

  10. Great post Morgan! You are the best. spectator. ever!!!

  11. Great post! Your other posts on spectating inspired me to spectate some friends running a 10K. I could not believe how exhausted I was afterward! Lots of walking, carrying crap, and then jumping around and yelling. Spectating truly is a sport, and it's so much fun! Thanks for inspiring me to get out there and cheer!

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