The Spectator's Guide to Spectating

As much as we’d like everyone to experience running the Big Sur Marathon, we realize that not everyone is able to line up with us this Sunday. We even understand that some of our readers are (gasp!) not even runners.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be part of our favorite race. It’s actually quite easy to be a spectator. While the runners invest several months preparing for race day, all you need to do is spend a little time learning how to be a good fan. It only takes a few minutes – by coincidence, about as long as it takes to read this column.

Spectators are an important part of the race, and the things you yell have an impact on runners. Although we might not always respond, we can definitely hear you.

Your comments and encouragement can push us forward with renewed vigor and enthusiasm – that’s the good news. The bad news is, if you say the wrong thing, it may plunge us into the depths of despair. (Not to put any pressure on you or anything.)

Whether you are rooting for one particular runner, or just out watching the masses parade by for entertainment, we want to help you scream the right thing. More importantly, we want to make sure you don’t screw up our race. So we’ve created a spectator’s guide for yelling at runners.

First, understand that positioning is key. Most people like to stand within sight of the finish line to see their runners come in. But with so many people yelling, it’s very hard to hear familiar voices – and honestly, at that point, it doesn’t matter what you yell. By the time we’ve reached the finishing chute, we’re pretty certain that we’re going to finish – even if we have to crawl across the line.

If you want your runner to hear you, and really want to assist them, move on down the course. Shouting some encouragement with about a mile or half-mile to go can be a lifesaver at times.

Also, if you’re one of the volunteers or spectators further down the course (like Carmel Highlands or Palo Colorado) with runners passing you on lonely stretches of road, you have a powerful voice! Utilize your position and make a runner’s day.

(On a similar note … we’re making a plea to the power walkers: We both know that Highway 1 is a beautiful, but often lonely road. There are many miles when you walkers are the only spectators to be found. So please don’t hesitate to shout encouragement to runners going by. And in return, we’ll try not to bump into you on our wobbly legs when passing on the right.)

Here then, are our guidelines for responsible cheering:

COMMENTS TO AVOID:

ALMOST THERE! From a runner’s standpoint, this is as depressing as it is common. Here’s the thing - we know how far there is to go, and we don’t consider ourselves “almost there” until we see the finish line banner.

YOU’RE LOOKING GOOD! You lose all credibility by shouting this – it’s the biggest lie a spectator can utter. We know that we don’t look good. (Unless you happen to find sweaty, salty, smelly, drooling, glassy-eyed runners particularly sexy – in which case, feel free to drop us an e-mail sometime.)

ONLY x MILES LEFT! where x is anything over ¼ mile. There is no such thing as “only” in a marathon when it comes to distances. No matter what the x is, we know those last x miles will probably be painful. Yes, under normal circumstances, 2 miles doesn’t seem very far – but after 24 miles of running, it can seem like an eternity.

Plus, people have difficulty in estimating distances. What you think is 2 miles might actually be 2 ½ or 3. There’s nothing worse than hearing, “Only two miles left!”, running for about five minutes, then hearing someone else shout “Only two miles left!” Runners have nightmares about that sort of thing.

THE BEST THINGS TO YELL:

GO MIKE! GO DONALD! This happens to be our favorite one. A personal touch is always nice – so if you know a runner’s name, shout it out as loud as you can. If you don’t know the name, then shouting a bib number is OK. You can also yell something from their shirt like “GO Monterey!” or “GO Canada!” or “GO Team!” (for Team in Training shirts).

In fact, here’s a fun game you can play: when a big group of runners approaches, just shout common names at random. There must be a Mary or Bill or Jose in there somewhere. You might give someone a nice surprise.

YOU RUNNERS ARE AWESOME! or WE ARE PROUD OF YOU! are great things to yell. They sound nice, and since you’re just saying what you feel, there’s no way for us to cognitively disprove it.

GREAT BUNS! We’ll be honest – this took us by surprise last year when some female walkers shouted it to us as we ran past. But then we spent the whole year remembering it fondly. So obviously this is a pretty cool way to leave a positive impression.

(We know some women will be offended if this is shouted by men - but believe us, the men enjoy this kind of yelling from the women.)

BEER AND SOUP AT THE FINISH! Most runners will warm up to any mention of the comforts awaiting them at the finish line. Just don’t tell them how many miles away it is.

So there you have it – now you can go out and make a difference when watching the Marathon this Sunday. Have fun, do some cheering, and appreciate the huge number of runners going by. They’ve worked hard to earn the honor of you shouting at them.

Good luck to everyone who is racing on Sunday. We’ll see you at the finish line.

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