The Boston Athletic Association estimates that approximately one million spectators line the historic course each year. With about 35,000 runners entered, there are roughly 28 spectators to every one runner—and this number is likely higher, as everyone registered does not necessarily run the race.
With that many people lining the course, you can see why it is just as important for spectators to prepare for race day as it is for the athletes themselves. We have put together a list of the top tips for spectators to remember that will be sure you give their runner that extra kick they need!
Map Out Your Cheer Stops: Just as a runner studies the course map, it is important for spectators to do, as well. Talk with your runner: where on course do they think they will need the most support? Planning ahead so your runner knows where to expect you gives them that added motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Can you be at multiple points on course? Point-to-point courses (like Boston) require some additional planning, but it can be done.
Have Supplies For Your Runner: You can never be too prepared. It is always good to have a bag for your runner—complete with clean, dry clothes for the end of the race—for any of those ‘emergency’ needs should they arise on course. Water, shot blocks or Gu, vaseline and band-aids are just a few of the essential items to make sure you have on hand, should your runner miss a water stop or need some quick aid that doesn’t require the on-course medical tent.
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Make Sure You’re Seen And Heard: This isn’t like junior high, where your child is embarrassed by your yelling and waving goodbye from the car at school drop-off. Make sure your runner knows you are there! Many spectators will make customized shirts, signs and have plenty of bells or noisemakers so their runner—and the thousands of others out on course—feel love and support on race day. This is a huge accomplishment! Cheer them on in style.
Prepare For Photo Ops: You can take great photos of your runner, even with an iPhone. When planning out where you’ll be on course, it is best to let your runner know what side of the road you plan to be on. This will help when passing off supplies or taking photos. For the best chance at great photos, you should try out some test shots on other runners as they pass to get a feel for positioning. Also, wait until your runner fills the frame completely of your camera so they are not too far out of the shot.
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Designate A Post-Race Meeting Area: The end of the course can be chaotic as runners get their medals, pass through the finisher’s chute and begin to reunite with loved ones. Choose a post-race meeting place in advance in case of spotty cell service and unexpected swarms of people. You meet up safely at the end of the race and can effortlessly head out to celebrate your runner with some fuel in the form of food and drinks!
Ashley Lauretta is a health and fitness journalist living in Austin, Texas. Assistant editor at LAVA Magazine, Ashley also regularly contributes to Women’s Running, Active.com, LIVESTRONG.com and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.