DEAR RACE SPECTATORS: You’re wonderful. Really, you are. But please be careful what you say.
One of the things I enjoy about running races are the people who come out to watch us and cheer us on. I’ve written before about how encouraging runners are to each other, particularly with ultramarathons, but the folks who gather at the start and finish, and stand along the course clapping and urging us on, uplift and energize us. And the signs posted along the route can be very entertaining. (See below for some examples.)
But just a word of advice, please, if you watch a race. There are some things people say with the best of intentions, but really don’t help much. One of the biggest offenders, at least according to runners, is the infamous YAT (“You’re Almost There!”). Infamous because veteran runners hear it at just about every race. Problem is, it’s almost never true.
Fellow blogger sarahdudek80 (“Running on Healthy“) posted this about the YAT recently. She points out that mile 20 of a marathon may seem like “almost there” to spectators and people who’ve never run one, but I can assure you that those last few miles can seem like forever.
I’ve also heard YAT at the 2-mile mark of 5K races. I really feel bad for occasional or first-time runners busting their butts who hear that. That final mile is one-third of the race, which can be another 10 to 15 minutes of pain and strain. You’re welcome to lie to me by yelling, “Looking strong!” when I look like crap, but if I can’t see the finish line, don’t tell me I’m almost there.
But it’s a little thing. We runners really appreciate spectators and their efforts at encouraging us. The positive effects we get from them far outweigh the negatives. In that spirit, here are some of my favorite spectator signs that I was able to capture. These are all from races I actually ran, but enjoyed what I saw enough to slow down or stop and snap a picture.
I’ll kick off with my all-time favorite, from the starting area of the 2011 Chicago Marathon, my first 26.2. I think of this slogan all the time when I’m doing a particularly challenging event, and it never fails to pump me up. (The first line reads, “There Will Be a Day When You Can No Longer Do This.”)
Here are a couple from the 2012 Ann Arbor Marathon:
This is from the 2012 Martian Invasion of Races half marathon. And yes, I did set a PR!
This is actually from my 600-mile bike trip, but I’m counting it:
(In someone’s yard just a mile from my house.) An auspicious sign! (yes, pun intended)
And finally, from the 2014 Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50K:
See you out there! And bring signs!