The 10 Spectators You’ll Meet At Every Race

These are the 10 most common types of spectators you'll see along the route on race day.

If you run enough races, you’re likely to encounter the same types of spectators over and over again. Whether they come bearing witty signs, Jell-O shots or a bored smirk, you’ll probably recognize at least a few of these runners at your next race!

Related: How To Be The Best Race Day Spectator

  1. Cute kids in pajamas: Races start early in the day, so there’s a good chance that many of the kids lining the course at your next race are going to be in their PJs–and sticking out their hands for high fives! There’s nothing quite like the little energy boost you get from a cheering 5-year-old.
  2. Person yelling, “You’re almost there!” when you’re nowhere near the finish: You know the drill–it’s mile 20 of your marathon, and someone yells, “You’re almost there!” Maybe it’s even mile 25. As runners, we all know that you’re not “almost there” until you can see the finish line…but clearly, no one passed the memo along to this guy!
  3. The teleporters: You notice a particularly boisterous group at mile 3, and then think you see them again at mile 5. Now it’s mile 7 and you know it’s them. These people are EVERYWHERE and must be cheering for someone around your pace, because they move quickly and efficiently from place to place. It’s almost like they’re cheering for you! Acknowledge their exceptional tracking skills–they’ll appreciate it!
  4. The strong, silent type: A tall, quiet man sips his coffee on the sidelines. He doesn’t clap, doesn’t cheer, and doesn’t high five–until his wife runs by. Then, you might hear a “Good job, babe!” before he heads off to the finish. He then returns to sipping his coffee. This man is my husband, on the rare occasion when I can convince him to come to a race.
  5. Rabid fan: This person is losing their mind with excitement and cheering on each runner like he or she is their best friend. There are high fives, screams of, “YOU GO GIRL!” and more for the entire race. They have energy in spades and are determined to make sure you know that “YOU CAN DO IT!!” These people are the best.
  6. Police officers: While police officers aren’t technically spectators, you’re likely to see them on nearly every race course you run. Make sure to thank them for keeping you safe while you’re running and you’ll likely get a smile and some encouragement in return!
  7. The tailgaters: It’s five o’clock somewhere, right? For the tailgaters, race day is one big party! You’ll find them camped out in someone’s driveway with a full spread of food and drinks, including probably a pitcher of mimosas. Don’t be afraid to ask for one–there’s nothing the tailgaters love more than a runner who isn’t afraid to have a drink on the go! Don’t ask me how I know this…
  8. The bored teenagers: Bored teenagers won’t acknowledge anyone or anything but their smartphones. They’re probably cold, grumpy and hungry. That said, you are probably cold, grumpy and hungry, too!
  9. The creative sign makers: A great sign can turn your entire attitude around on race day–and these people know it! They put their hearts and souls into making clever and creative signs, and it shows. My personal favorites are always timely political signs, regardless of which party at which they’re pointing fun. The one that made me laugh the hardest was one I saw at the Dallas Marathon back in December of 2011, during the primary season. Texas Governor Rick Perry had been running for the Republican nomination for president, but had dropped out the week before. The sign at mile 23 said, “You’re running better than Rick Perry!” Still makes me laugh.
  10. The finishers: The last mile or so to the finish line is always packed with other runners who have finished their races, and I love to use them for inspiration. Check out their medals–that baby is soon to be yours!


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