Have you ever cheered for someone at a race? I have! My husband Clayton, an avid runner, has participated in countless races: 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers, half marathons and marathons. And if I'm not running in the races with him, I'm cheering for him.
I'll never forget rooting for my husband when he ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2008. I was six months pregnant with our daughter and I had to fight through crowds and jog to three different places just to catch a glimpse of Clayton. I was exhausted, starving and thirsty by the time I saw him at the finish line. In fact, it felt like I had run a marathon!
I've learned over the years that cheering for loved ones at races takes preparation, energy and a little creativity. I employed many of those lessons recently when my husband ran in the Big Sur Marathon, and I thought it would be helpful to share them with you in case you end up supporting your loved one at the next race:
1-Before the race, figure out the best place to cheer for your friend or family member. I do this by checking out the race's website, which sometimes has recommendations on where spectators can safely root for racers. I also go to the expo, typically held the day before the race, and look for the "information booth" manned by volunteers. I asked a volunteer at the Big Sur Marathon expo where to cheer for Clayton and she gave me a map and told me where to park and the best place to watch the race.
2-Timing is everything. In order to figure out when you have to be at your cheering station, you should ask the race participant what his or her estimated pace and finish time will be. But some races will also allow you to sign up online to get text messages when your loved one crosses certain points in the race. I recommend doing both if possible so that you know when to raise your sign and start yelling.
3-Speaking of signs, it's always good to have one when cheering for someone at a race. A sign will make it easier for the race participant to spot you in a crowd. Plus, the sign is bound to make him or her smile.
My daughter and I have made many signs over the years for Clayton. But it was fun to design a custom sign online recently. BuildASign.com, an online retailer of custom signs, offered me the opportunity to make a custom sign for free. After looking at the company's website and learning from this CNN video how the company gave away 10,000 welcome home banners for U.S. troops, I knew BuildASign.com was a company this military wife could work with.
Designing a sign at BuildASign.com was easy. I also liked customizing the sign with my choice of message, color and graphics. Clayton hates when people pass him in a race, so I thought it would be fun to have a sign that said: "Keep Running Clayton & Pass Somebody!!!" A graphic of runners from BuildASign.com emphasized the point. Because I walk a lot on race day, I needed a lightweight sign. But I was overwhelmed by the choices of sign materials I could choose from. Thankfully, Jarrett Houston of BuildASign.com stepped in to help. Knowing I was making the sign to cheer for Clayton at races, Mr. Houston recommended I choose corrugated plastic. He was right. We took the sign to the Big Sur Marathon last weekend and the sign was light enough for my daughter to carry and waive in the air. More importantly, my husband smiled when he saw the sign and it gave him the boost he needed to sprint to the finish line.
4- Pack a bag! Sometimes you can end up standing around for a long time before you see your loved one in the race. Pack a bag with drinks and snacks to keep you hydrated and energized. And don't forget a camera to capture the excitement of the race!
5- Pick a meeting location in advance in case you get separated after your loved one crosses the finish line. Large races with tens of thousands of runners have very large corrals that separate racers from spectators at the finish line, so it may be a while before you can link up again. Good options to meet include any conspicuous area in the post-race festival, or even better, the alphabetized meeting area many races have. If my husband doesn't run with his phone, he borrows one from a volunteer to let me know where he is as a last resort.
Have fun at the races!