A blog by runners. For runners.

How to be a good spectator


There’s one main difference that sets a race apart from any other group training run: the spectators. Without spectators, races would be, well, pretty boring. No one clapping. No one screaming your name. No fun signs to read. Just silence.

Spectating is a sport in itself. It requires planning and hard work to do it well. Truth be told, anyone who shows up to cheer on runners is a good spectator and the athletes appreciate you being there. But these tips can kick your spectating skills up a notch:

  • Know the course. Most races have a “spectator information” section on their websites, or at least a course map. Study the map and drive the course beforehand. Knowing the course well is especially critical if you plan on catching your athlete at more than one spot.
  • Tell your athlete where you will be standing. Let your runner know exactly where on the course you’ll be. Tell them mile marker and what side of the road you’ll be on. This will make it easier for them to find you.
  • Sign up for alerts. Larger races offer online athlete tracking services that send you a text message when an athlete crosses certain locations along the course. Some even give the athlete’s pace and estimated finish time. This can give you a better idea of when you can expect your runner to show up. Check out the race’s website to see if this perk is offered.
  • Stand out. Wearing bright colors, holding a fun sign, ringing a cowbell, and screaming at the top of your lungs can make it easy for your runner to spot you. Plus, all of these actions will make your athlete feel extra special.
  • Cheer for everyone. Some races are long and you may only see your athlete for a minute or two. But you’ll see plenty of other people racing. Cheer for them, too! Athletes appreciate support from everyone. Cheers from spectators really help during difficult times in a race. If a runner is wearing a shirt with his or her name on it, scream their name and cheer for them.
  • Have the camera ready. Keep your camera in hand and on at all times. This way if your runner passes by earlier than expected, you can be prepared to get action spots.
  • Plan a meet-up spot for after the race. Once athletes cross the finish line, they may be exhausted and disoriented. The last thing they want to do is spend time on their feet searching for their support crew. Agree on a meet-up location before the race can make finding each other afterwards easy.

Tips for athletes

Runners, take these steps to ensure that your spectators see you:

  • Dress in bright colors. During large races, many runners get lost in a sea of black and white. This can make it easy for your spectator to miss you. Wearing neon or bright colors will help you stand out.
  • Tell your spectators your goal pace. This way, they’ll know when to expect you.
  • Scream your spectators’ names when you see them. If you spot your cheering squad before they see you, get their attention before you pass them.

Written by Jen Matz