I’ve been cheering at a lot of races lately, and I love it. There’s always a little twinge of “oh I wish I was running” but I’ve found if you really commit to cheering on your friends and other runners you will enjoy the day as much as someone who ran!
Here are the top tips I’ve figured out to make for a great day out.
Plan ahead and make a sign
If the race is abroad I grab some flipchart paper that can fold up in my suitcase, if it’s closer to home it’s better to make a sturdy one that you can holds up better against the elements.
Plan your route
I have found it’s better to skip the start and pick 2/3 places to catch your friends along the route. The starts are often “runners only pens” and always crowded so you’re not going to get much value for your company. I’ll usually walk close to the start with my friends and then wish them luck as I go get a coffee on my way to the first cheer point.
I also take a photo of the route map on my phone so it’s easy to access (don’t count on having internet at busy races).
Share your plan
Runners have their own plan for the race but I like to let my friends know approximately where I’ll be along the route so they can look out if they need it.
Enjoy your day
Get a coffee, pack some snacks, get your own run in between cheer points, get your bike out, whatever you want to do for the day with a bit of planning you can have as much fun as the runners.
Everyone loves photos of themselves running. Even when they’re complaining about the “bad” ones, trust me. I always try to take a few photos of my friends running buy on my phone’s camera burst mode so I can send them the good ones. My friend Laura boasts that hers are always better than marathonphotos 😀
Be a minimalist
This tip is from my friend Katie. After a few great races cheering friends on we kept adding more things to bring. Props, signs, cameras, food, balloons, and cowbells, forgetting we still only had 2 arms to hold all these with. Now, if I’m bringing I sign I usually leave the cowbell at home, but it all depends on the event. At the London Marathon I was in the second row of spectators on a packed Embankment route. At Hackney Half I was the only person around for miles so had some room to spread out and be heard.
Please. Cheer. Everyone. On. (this is where a cowbell comes in handy if your voice is tired) If you’re waiting for friends you can still send some smiles and well done, great running, keep it up, looking strong-s out to the runners passing you. It helps so much and selfishly you might get some thank-yous back, but it’s the ones who don’t react that sometimes need them the most and take it all in.
At the London Marathon and Hackney Half I walked past the organised cheer stations of Run Dem Crew/London Brunch Club long after the race finished and there was confetti, posters, food packaging, etc. all over the streets. If you have time to organise a cheer station then you have time to organise a clean up after. Bring some bin bags and take 5 minutes to pick up a few things each. Litter is litter even if it made for a good instagram photo. If you are cheering yourself, bin your rubbish or pack it out.
I gotta pee
Pee before (while getting your coffee is a good time) and pee far away from the race. Please don’t use the portaloos on the race route. Obviously things come up (being pregnant I am much more sympathetic of this than before) but do your best to leave the toilets for the runners who, trust me, need them more than you.
Like the start of the race, I tend to stay away from the finish lines. They’re always too busy and I like to think the runners enjoy my cheers a bit before the finish when there isn’t all the cheering and official race stuff to get them over the line. Plan a place to meet after the race, if it’s a big race sometimes it’s just easier to meet at a local pub, or if it’s smaller you can probably find your runner lying on the grass metres from the bag tent.
After cheering the Hackney Half on Sunday I had to have my own jasyoga reset session & epsom salt recovery bath. I had a great day out, got my own exercise in and totally enjoyed being a part of all these runner’s great day.
Great tips Laura. It’s been a while since I’ve been on cheering duties but my husband has a couple of events coming up that I’m not doing so my cheering game will have to be on point!