August 27, 2007

Spectator Ettiquite?

Watching the triathlon yesterday was so fascinating, and as a spectator one of the conversations that came up was proper spectator behavior. During the CDC a few weeks ago, a woman was yelling to us "only 1/2 mile left!". This seems like it would be motivating, but there were two issues with it. 1) She was talking about 1/4 mile to the next water station...we were at mile 11 and actually had over 2 miles left of the race. 2) it was actually about 1/2 mile even to the rest/water stop. This woman kindof screwed with my mojo, and Patti and I spent the next 1/2 mile trying to figure out where we were in the race, and what the heck was going on. (Questions answered with disappointment when we came across the 12 mile marker a few minutes later). And as one of the last aid stations during the triathlon, we got to see some participants who were really struggling. The race sponsors and workers started clearing up the track: putting away cones, breaking down tables, etc - and there were still a few stragglers left on the course. We waited ... until EVERY participant passed our station. We made sure to cheer extra loud for them. Becca was SO AMAZING. For the last 3-4 people she personally walked them out a cup of Gatorade and water ... and was telling them how awesome they were. Most of them shook their heads in disagreement, which was really sad to see. ALL FINISHERS ARE AWESOME. I am so proud of each one of the people who passed our station, but especially proud of the ones who were struggling - but pushed their way through and made it happen.

So, what do we say to the spectators who are giving it their all as they move along their events?

Donald suggests a few "do's" and "dont's"...
GO DONALD! (obviously, "insert name here")

ONLY x MILES LEFT! (where x is anything over ¼ mile)
Check out his whole post, he explains his logic and has some great insight on the Complete Running Network

Jazzyjo wants to hear how "great my sexy calves look" or how awesome she is running.

Jessica gives some other do's and dont's in a 2006 Colorado Runner article.
Way to go!
Looking good!
Great job!
Go number 75!
or the simple "Woohoo! Yeah! Yippee!"
...try something creative or funny, like "Look at those hot legs!"

You're almost there!
You're almost finished!
It's just around the corner!

There is a neat tip sheet, "Marathon 101" posted on the Boston Marathon site. They suggest cheers of: "Way to run", “Party in Baltimore”, “Awesome”, “You Can Do It”, “Looking Strong”, “You’re flying”, and “Looking Good”. The article also notes to stay away from good old “Almost there” and “Not far to go”.

There seem to be some agreements...but also some conflict. Most agree you dont tell people they are almost there, or how much they have left - but some feel that is appropriate at the VERY end of the race (last 1/2 or 1/4). Jessica and Donald disagree on the "you're looking good" comment...but both think that yelling something funny/humorous (about their buns or legs) is good. And Jazzyjo didn't even think comments like that were funny - she seriously would like someone commenting on her "hot legs" :).

It appears to be a tricky thing ... this spectating. And I thought those of us running it were doing all the work :) I found that I was sadly mistaken at yesterdays triathlon! Working the aid stations is hard work! Cleaning up the course after is hard work! And as a spectator, cheering the "appropriate" things and motivating those out there on the course can be mentally exhausting. Since there seem to be so many opinions out there, I thought I would offer a few of my own.

My Own Ettiquite View
1. Cheer for EVERYONE!
The worst thing as a participant is to run by a silent crowd...all of them scanning the participants for the one person they came out to see. As a spectator, cheer for everyone. They all need the encouragement! (You can cheer for your special participant extra loud ... thats totally ok)

2. Find a "sparse area" and call it your own
Every event has areas where no spectators seem to want to be. Thats where the participants really need to see some smiling faces - and it will be an easy spot for your loved ones to spot you.

3. I agree with the masses...dont tell them how far they have to go...but I dont even want to hear it at the end :)
I am one of those people that never really wants to know where I am in a run. Even at the end, it still is hard! I remember the .1 mile of my recent 1/2 marathon being one of the longest-feeling runs of my life. When its at the end ... we know it! Just cheer like crazy and motivate us to get through it.

4. Tell those you are cheering for how much you love and appreciate them
I think these endurance events (marathons/tris/etc) can really wreck emotional havoc on the participants. Many people are dissapointed at the finish - and emotionally overwhelmed. When we get over the initial shock, we feel really great about our accomplishments and achievements ... but I think a lot of us have the tendency to re-think the route as we finish: places we could have sped-up, ways we could have done better, etc. What I think the finishers need to hear is just "you are awesome" and "I am so proud of you" and "We love you" ... comments that speak to how proud of the PERSON you are, not just how proud of the event/accomplishment you are.

Thoughts? Am I missing anything? Whats the worst thing a spectator has yelled to you? The best?


Rebecca said...

Thanks for the comment. I was worried that trying to run a 10K while starting school would be too much. And here you are prepping for a MARATHON and getting your PhD! Wow. You're my new hero. :) said...

Fantastic post - love the list of etiquette! Just from my weekend experience, here is my fav - they had two of the best cheerleaders about 1/10th from the finish and cheered and yelled like your own coach - go,go,go! My least fav was the guy about 1 1/2 miles out who told me there was beer at the finish (he was kidding) - I let him know that was mean. :} My second least fav is pity clapping or pity cheering when someone has that "oh my god, she looks like she is going to die, let' say something hopeful." Yep, had that one a few times.

jazzyjo said...

Yikes! Thanks for linking to my blog ( How in the world did you find me?

Love what you're writing. I ran throughout my master's degree (okay, I'm not finished with my thesis yet) and balancing school and running and life is rough. Keep up the great work!