Race Spectator Etiquette Don’ts I Learned the Hard Way

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race spectator etiquette

Whether running in a race or being a spectator, there is a certain etiquette that both ends of the spectrum should follow when engaging in their race-day role. Some of these are self-explanatory, you would think. But, often times, the magic of the moment makes us temporarily stupid and even rather careless. Unfortunately, all of these tips come from first-hand experiences (half my own stupidity). They make me cringe with embarrassment when I think about them. Why I would share them on the internet is beyond me. Maybe someone will learn from my blunders and avoid making the same spectator etiquette mistakes. Yeah… let’s hope for that.

4 Race Spectator Etiquette Don’ts

Leave Your Bikes at Home

When Jesse ran his first marathon, the Columbus Marathon, the boys and I traveled down to Ohio with him to watch and cheer. The course wound around the city in a way that we could catch him at a few different points if we hurried. I had the great idea to bring our bikes so we could travel more quickly and beat him to each meeting point. Little did I know that the streets of Columbus (EVERY street in Columbus) would be mobbed with people. It was a nightmare. And we managed to trap ourselves in the center of the marathon course. Crossing the course was nearly impossible, dangerous even because the runners were barely spread apart and coming so quickly. We never saw Jesse. Giving up, we parked our bikes and made our way to the finish line where we did get to see him finish his first marathon.

Stay Off the Course

WP_20150418_009 (2)It is SO tempting to jump onto the course and run in with your loved one as they finish their big race. Especially if that loved one is only 11 years old and just finished his first half marathon 20 minutes faster than your own PR. (just sayin’) This is NOT a good idea. I actually hadn’t intended to step onto the course. I was trying to run alongside out of the way. But, before I knew it I was cutting off a runner who just wanted to finish the race. I know. It’s so embarrassing. Just stay off the course.

Never Say, “You’re Almost There”

It’s true that 3 miles pales in comparison to 26.2. But, another half hour of running is NOT almost there. I’ve just run 23 miles. Stop toying with me. Some alternative phrases you could use to encourage runners are:

Just one more 5K!

Looking strong! You got this!

It’s the home stretch! Keep it up!

Many runners include their name on their bib. Cheering for a runner by name will give them a giant boost.

Don’t Smoke

Seriously. It pains me that I have to include it on this list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been running a race and spectators are smoking right along the course. It’s distracting and rude. If you want to stink up the air, cook bacon. I love the smell of bacon.

Thank you to all the spectators who come out to cheer for runners. Most of us are not Olympians, but we work very hard. It is amazing when that is acknowledged by all the wonderful encouragers who come out to support us… etiquette blunders and all.


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  1. Vivian November 15, 2015
    • Amy November 16, 2015