Spectating 101

Spectators are a huge part of any race and I love being a spectator as much as I love being in a race! 

Spectator Reports: Nike Women’s Marathon, Napa Marathon, Vineman 70.3 Triathlon

Since spring race season is ramping up, this is the perfect time for a post on some tips for spectating that you can apply to yourself as a racer or spectator, or pass on to your spectators.

As a Race Participant


Tell your spectators what you will be wearing so they know what to look for and where you expect to be time wise!  It’s not easy to spot runners in the middle of crowds so make sure to communicate this before hand.

The blue hat

Be Bright

Wear something bright (hats are also great for this) so you can easily be spotted.  This is the best way for your spectators to find you – stand out from the crowd!

Hello brightness

Map it Out

Make a plan with your people so you can keep an eye out to where they will be and where you might need them the most.  Seeing a spectator at the right time will definitely give you a boost.  If you know you always have a rough mile 18 – send them to mile 18!  

Be Nice

Smile, wave, say thank you… it’s a tough job being a spectator, so if you have the energy (which I know sometimes I definitely do not) try to thank them for being out there!  Even if it’s just a smile, they love it and it will actually make you feel better too.

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As a spectator


I know that sounds simple but it’s true.  It’s very hard to constantly be in cheer mode, especially when you are out there for hours and they are people you don’t know, but try to give everyone some enthusiasm.  A cowbell is great for this when your voice gets tired.

2010 Vineman 70.3 049

Call Names

When someone has a name on their shirt, they want you to say it!  I love the reaction I get from racers when I actually acknowledge them by name.  It’s definitely a boost hearing your name in the middle of a race.


Be Bright

Yes be bright as a spectator too!  Wear something so your racer can spot you and has something to look for.  It’s hard to find your spectators when you are out there running, so when you have something bright to look for it helps!

Go Aron shirts, and they are finally true!


Signs are fun and all the racers love them!  They also help when you are getting tired out there and your voice is dwindling.  Holding a sign shows support!

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Have a Plan

Check out the race course map before hand and try to have a plan of where you will be so you can communicate that with your person.  They will know where to look for you!

Do you see me???
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Have Fun

Spectating is a tough job too but it is also fun!  People are out there working hard, pushing themselves, so when they see you having fun, they will have more fun too!  Make funny signs, bring a boom box, have a party on the side of the road… anything to keep your spirit up and boost the racer’s spirits too!

2010 Vineman 70.3 058

Have you been a spectator before?  What are your tips for spectating?

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33 Responses to Spectating 101

  1. Kim March 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I LOVE spectating! It gets me so pumped up and ready to race myself! I love the “take us to Boston shirts” those are absolutely amazing! You have awesome fans :)

    Thank you for giving the ‘cheer’ guideline under “as a spectator”. My boyfriend and I volunteered at a half marathon a few weeks ago and NO ONE was cheering! It was a brutally cold winter day, so awful that it was snowing throughout the first half of the race. The poor runners had a major mental battle ahead of themselves, so my boyfriend and I planted ourselves right before mile 10 with a sign and cowbells. We were so obnoxious but we had so many people come up to us after wards telling us how much we helped them during a tough part of the race! :) I like to tell people to be absolutely shameless and not to hold back, much like running!

  2. Kerry March 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Yeah! Our minds are in the same place. I am going to use your tips for spectating at oakland!

  3. Sarah @ The Pajama Chef March 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    great tips! when we cheered for teammates in CC/track we’d spread out, then there would be a line of spectators :)

  4. Morgan March 17, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    You know I love me some spectating!!!

    Here are my additions:

    Hold an obnoxious balloon so your racer can pick you out even easier among the crowd! Not only will they see it from far away but it will spark convo’s with the other spectators around you and even the runners.

    Dress up like a goofball… wear a wig, a tu-tu, your most obnoxious race shirt… anything that sets you apart from the crowd.

    Write personal messages on one side of your poster board and general ones on the other so you can cheer on everyone while you wait for your runner.

    Boom boxes are a hit and don’t forget the cowbell. I also like to fill a bag with random noise makers from Party City to hand out to kids to get them excited for the runners.

    Commit to a location(s) and verify which side of the road you’ll be on, try to stay on the same side for all locations so there is less brain work for your runner.

    Bring provisions for your runner just in case they are in need of a GU, Water, Ice, etc… in the event they dropped their’s on the course, the aid stations were packed, etc…

    • Aron March 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      I think that should be posted in “spectating 201″ – coming from the expert! :)

      • Emily March 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

        HA! Morgan is definitely the resident spectating expert! I want her cheering at every one of my races!

  5. Tim Wilson March 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Spectators are so important and they can honestly make or break a race in many cases. I have run some races where the only people you see the entire time is other runners and an occasional course volunteer. It is bad enough, but then when those volunteers just stand there it is brutal.

  6. Beth March 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Spectators make such a huge difference! As a spectator, don’t forget comfortable shoes, water and snacks. It sounds funny, but just standing around or walking parts of the course can be just as tiring as running! Fuel and hydrate :)

    • Aron March 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      YESSSSSS!!! I have forgotten snacks and paid for it big time!

  7. Emily March 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    I’m the spectating nazi. When my friends are tired and complain about clapping their hands for runners I’ll yell “THESE PEOPLE ARE RUNNING A MARATHON, YOU CAN CLAP YOUR MOTHER EFFING HANDS”

  8. Karyn March 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    i’ve never been a spectator before i LOVE it when people call out my name when i’m running. and high fives are great. and i love it when the spectators are drunk and having a ball. then again, i was having a good time myself. who knows if i was in a funk how i’d feel

    and i loved the beer being handed out at WR and Boston, both races i did not choose to imbibe because i was racing them but this year at Boston, taking in as fun?, maybeeeeee.

  9. Teacherwoman March 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Great post! I love the idea of bright colors! Woot woot!

  10. Mile Posts by Dorothy Beal March 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Great post! My mom always wears a BRIGHT orange hat when she runs so I can spot her. It’s easier for me to see her head than her body when people are blocking her :)

  11. misszippy March 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Great advice! I agree…spectating can be as much fun as racing.

  12. Jess March 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    You are such a good spectator! I love that someone made a Go Aron shirt–how sweet!

  13. Janice March 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    hmmm, it seems I am only the spectatur when i am prego, and it’s been 6 years.

  14. Nelly March 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    This post is awesome! You are dead on with all of these tips! I try to have spectators tell me what mile marker they will be at and the side of street they will be on, so I can be on the lookout for them while running by, it makes it so much easier to find people.

    I’ve never actually been a spectator in a race before, I have A TON of respect for anyone who spectates at a running race. All of us runners really appreciate it. My parents have come to a lot of my races, and it does give me special motivation knowing that I’m running for them too.

    One of your points that really resonated with me is having your name on the front of your number, hearing your name be called by spectators makes the race become very personal and almost emotional – because you feel that person picked you out to say your name, and you are now running for them too.

  15. Page March 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    I kind of want that green shirt! I’ll wear it around on our training runs just for you :)

  16. lifestudent March 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    I try not to say anything dumb :) For example, when I was running a marathon that also had a 1/2 running the same course, there were spectators yelling “you are almost there, you can do it” at like mile 12. That was killer. But, that was more of a simple mistake. During that same race there were people at mile 24 saying the same type of thing. “This is your final stretch, you can do it”. They obviously never ran a marathon before … the last TWO MILES are not your final stretch :)

  17. Kristen March 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    I love spectating because I know how much I love to hear people cheer me on as I run. I’m with you- I love a good sign. I’ve made signs for my sister many times and try to make at least two- one that is specific to her and one that can be applicable to everyone…

  18. Kristin March 17, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Love signs, the funnier the better. Hate the cowbell thing, honestly. Noisemakers are even more annoying. I don’t mind if people play music, though- who doesn’t need a little Eye of the Tiger blasted on the sidelines? I also tend to be very sensitive to food smells while running, so spectators: no grilling!

    That was one thing I loved about wearing the Greater Boston singlet, it was really easy for people to read and say “go Boston.” I’d try to smile or give a little thumbs up for that.

  19. Kelly March 18, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    I like spectating (even though I always wish I was running!) – definitely having fun and cheering loudly, and using people’s names if they’re on their shirts. When my mom and sis came to watch me in the NYC Marathon in November, I gave them powerpoint slides on where exactly to be and when, and what to have for me if I needed it. Uhh, ’cause I’m not crazy or anal or anything :)

  20. Marlene March 18, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Spectating is so much fun! It can be stressful too, trying to find your runner(s) – these are some great tips!!!

    A bunch of my friends bought COWBELLS recently which are so much fun to bang & clang at races. I don’t know if everyone loves it (lol) but I do!

  21. Lauren March 18, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    I LOVE spectating races — all the excitement and nerves of race day without the suffering. ;) And I also love having spectators. I’m not sure people realize how much of an impact their cheering can have. It gives me such a boost (side note: you are going to love Boston for that reason! I have never felt more like a rock star than when I ran that marathon. It’s absolutely amazing!)

    I agree that having a plan and wearing something bright are super important for your spectators to recognize you (and you to see them). If I know where my friends/family are going to be, it helps us see each other on the course – sometimes it’s easier for me to spot them than for them to see me in a sea of runners. It also gives me something to look forward to along the way. And at my recent half marathon, I wore a pair of crazy bright knee high socks – my boyfriend said he has never had an easier time finding me as on that day!

    Just want to add – NEVER say things to runners like, “you’re almost there” when they are at mile 20 (or even mile 22) of a marathon. Or anything along the lines of “run faster” or “pick it up!” That stuff is not encouraging when you’re tired – it just makes me want to hit the person screaming it (oops…did I say that out loud??)

  22. Naomi March 18, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    this post couldn’t have been timed better! i was just talking with a friend who is planning to spectate an upcoming race and wished there something i could send her for advice. great post! the only other thing i would add would be to dress comfortably (use sneakers) and bring snacks and water – they are usually out there for a long time too!

  23. Nitmos March 18, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    I thought I was so smart wearing an extremely red shirt in Boston. Everyone wore red. We looked like blood passing through veins as we went along the streets. Don’t wear red in Boston.

  24. Cortney March 18, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    I don’t love when spectators only care about the person they know. They completely ignore every other tired runner going by. You are standing there! You might as well cheer for everyone!

    I’m doing my first official spectator role at a Half Ironman in a few weeks. I think being a racer now, I will be a much better spectator!

  25. Kristin March 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Love this post! We have spent many, many races together spectating. Especially memorable – Nike Womens on the Great Highway. We almost froze to death, so I guess my tip would be to prepare for anything weather-wise! Like at the Napa Half Iron man, no sunscreen = bad burn on my shoulders :( And we would have been the best spectators ever if we had a cooler of beer/cold drinks. Ahhh! So many things for spectating, but I love it!

  26. onelittletrigirl March 21, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    I am currently working on my own post about Triathlon Spectating. Great minds think alike as I have many of the same pieces of advice!

  27. Susan - Nurse on the Run March 22, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    I think one of the most important things about spectating is telling your runner where you’re going to be…I was on the opposite side of the road as to where I thought I would be once, and people said they missed me because I was on the other side! Have a plan and stick to it.

    As a runner, I always look for where my spectators will be….my dad ALWAYS wear a bright colored shirt, so I usually spot him before he spots me. Scanning the crowds can really make a race fly by as well, so it benefits me too!

    I recommend having a sign that your fans can hold up that doesn’t look like anyone else’s…mine has Testudo (Maryland’s mascot) on it, and very few people in Chicago went to Maryland, so I know it must be for me! Works like a charm. :)

    And of course the key to being a good spectator is to scream like nuts for EVERYONE!

  28. Laura April 10, 2011 at 12:31 am #

    Love the Go Aron shirt!

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