Friday, February 24, 2012

A Marathon Is a Spectator Sport

A Marathon Is a Spectator Sport
by Susan E. Geissler for Street Business Association

This weekend we welcome runners from all over the world to Fort Worth for the Cowtown Marathon, Ultra Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K and 5K. All races start and finish in the heart of the 7th Street/Cultural District at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The support of the spectators is an integral part of a successful run. If this is your first time as a spectator, or even your tenth, there are ways to be the best support system for your runner and for the other runners on the course.

Be Prepared
Before the race make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable waiting 5-6 hours along the course. Bring a folding chair, a copy of the course map, bottled water, snack foods and entertainment. Charge your camera fully and bring a disposable back up in case. There is nothing worse than a dead battery or a malfunction when your friend runs past.

Find Your Runner
Know what your runner will be wearing, their planned mile per hour time, and any other identifying characteristics to help sort the runners apart. Things move fast and you will not have time to watch every person as they pass.

Make Signs
Even though the Cowtown is not as congested as the Chicago Marathon it can still be difficult for runners to find their people and vice-versa. Having an amusing, encouraging, and distinct sign can help provide some fun for the runner while also helping them locate you in the crowd of spectators.

Yell Loudly! Yell Proudly! (But Don't Yell This)
Any distance runner knows that spectators telling them "You're Almost There!" is the single most annoying phrase EVER. Unless you are standing on Mile Marker 26 this phrase should never leave your mouth. It can be very discouraging and misleading since the runner may not know exactly how far it really is to the finish and misinterpret your encouragement for fact. Come up with some great encouraging phrases that are supportive for your runner and the other runners on the course without derailing their mental game.

Make Friends
You are about to hang around other spectators who are supporting their friends and family. Ask your fellow race watch buddies the names of their runners and help them cheer. It not only makes the race more friendly from a community standpoint, but it makes it even more fun to have extra people to celebrate on the course.

Know and Respect the Course
Before you head to the race it's important to plot out your watching location. The course maps for the Cowtown are located here: Cowtown Marathon Course Maps It's a wise idea to let your runner know the approximate planned watching location in case their tracking devices fail. Also once the runner is in the zone they may not be as aware of their surroundings and miss you entirely. Have a plan and stick as closely to it as you can.

Also it is important to not obstruct the course. If you need to cross the course do not cross in a pack of people or walk directly across the route. Runners will not see you and if you collide you can seriously injure someone. Cross one at a time, diagonally towards the runners so you are looking out for them.  Hopefully you will not have to cross the course at any point, but if you do it's up to YOU to watch out for the participants.

Bring Emergency Provisions
If your runner knows you are on the course and have emergency provisions it can be a great weight off their mind, even if they do not eventually need them. A small pack with extra band-aids, blister gel packs, vaseline, a power bar, a decent tasting energy drink, fresh socks, rubber bands, a hat and some Ibuprofin for afterwards can save a runner from a lot of pain and frustration. They may breeze right on by you, but in case of emergency you are their hero.

Ouch, That's Going To Leave a Mark
When you and your runner are reunited post-race remember that this person just went through a very emotionally and physically draining event. Your proud vigorous hug may be met by both people falling over on the floor. Let them set the pace for physical contact and give your runner some recovery time.

Celebrate Good Times
Your runner has most likely been training and sacrificing for quite some time. After the race is the time for them to celebrate their success and also enjoy some of the spoils of victory with their supporters. It's a good idea to make reservations at a restaurant or bar for the runner and their friends prior to the raceday. After running that many miles they probably are not going to enjoy standing around waiting for beers or mimosas and food.  Most local businesses are going to be happy to accommodate your large party if you give them forewarning, even if it isn't a location that takes usually reservations. Ask for the owner or General Manager and see what you can plan. Often just asking the hostess is not enough.

After Care
The day after the run your friend is going to be sore. REALLY REALLY SORE. Even through the Ibuprofin soaked next day haze it's great to let them relive their experience as many times as they want. It's a big event. And when they add the coveted 26.2 or 13.1 sticker to their car make a big deal out of it. This is a major accomplishment but it's worth it. And give yourself a pat on the back for being a darn good friend!

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