One of the greatest things about running a big race is the spectator draw. Throngs of people line miles of sidewalks cheering, ringing cowbells, blasting music and proffering encouraging and often amusing signs. But runners know that the wrong sign, song or slogan can let the air out of a motivational moment faster than you can say, “You’re almost there!”
We polled runners about their real-life race course experiences, and these motivation killers topped the list of responses.
Sarcasm and Irony1 of 6
There's a fine line between funny sarcasm and sarcasm that just cuts a little too deep. Admittedly, that line moves in the direction of the latter the later it is in a race. When a runner is tired, sore and considering giving up, the last thing they want to see is a sign joking about how ill prepared they are.
Drawing Attention to Pain2 of 6
At mile two or three, signs that say, "Toenails are for sissies!" or "Chafe Today, Brag Tomorrow" are kind of funny. But late in a long race, when toenails are throbbing and skin is being rubbed raw, those signs are only reminding runners of the misery they are in. Worse than that, though, is the handful of sadistic songs that some spectators delight in blasting at the midpoint of a big hill or late in a long race. REM's "Everybody Hurts," "Burn Baby, Burn!" by Ash, and Queen's epic "Another One Bites the Dust" are just so wrong!
Reminding a Runner How Slow They Are3 of 6
Most runners never hope to win a race or even place in their age division, but that doesn't mean you need to point that out to them. Signs with slogans like, "Move It, Slow Poke!" or "Hey, At Least You Can Enjoy the Scenery From Back Here" might be funny to you, but remember that every runner has trained hard just to get to the starting line.
What may be even worse than signs from spectators, though, are those fellow runners on the race course who feel compelled to tell everyone around them that they're only going so slowly because they're injured. If this is you, save your sad tale for the after party, because sharing this information with others in your pace group who aren't injured just isn't a good look.
Talking About the Race Course4 of 6
Perhaps the best tip a spectator can learn is to strike all reference to hills and remaining distance from your vocabulary. Never, ever tell a runner they are almost there until the finish line is in sight, and don't say, "That was your last hill," unless you have run the course yourself and know this to be true without a doubt.
Poorly Thought Out Food and Beverage Offerings5 of 6
While a dixie cupful of beer may be regarded by many runners as a quirky kind of fun, your full cocktail bar at mile 7 is a really bad idea. Ditto to pre-mixed margaritas, jello shots, donuts, cheese curds and pizza. Most runners are savvy enough to politely decline these offerings, but trust me, merely catching a whiff of something greasy at mile 25 can start a runner retching.