Tips for Race Spectators

Yesterday I ran with a running friend and we talked for a while about the strange world of running, and, specifically about the spectators at running events. As in running, good race spectating takes some practice. Here are my tips for good road race spectatorship:

1. Cheer! I know this one seems obvious, but I have determined that most race spectators are there to see their sister/dad/cousin/boyfriend’s roommate run, but there are likely lots and lots of other runners (most of whom have no one at the event) who would like you to cheer for them. Rather than standing on the side of the road mute and looking bored until your runner comes along, cheer, or at least occasionally clap, as runners go by. If a race prints names of runners on the race bib (hint: it’s usually below the number), use names. It’s pretty cool to hear someone I don’t know cheering for me by name. If you don’t want to cheer, bring a noise maker of some kind and make some noise.

2. I’m not “almost there”. I appreciate the “almost there” sentiment, but unless I’m .1 miles or fewer (read: can see the finish line), I’m not almost there. This is particularly true if there are 10 or more miles to run. Runners like to hear encouraging cheers and, to many non-runners, I’m sure our language is very strange. It’s not as if one can yell “defense” or “nice play” at a race. What do runners like to hear? This varies by runner, but I like “stay strong”, “nice work”, “you’re awesome/cool/amazing”, and “looking good/strong/fit”. The old standby of “woohoo” also works. I once ran past a group of high school cross country runners cheering at a race. Their cheers of “I know it sucks, but you can do it”, and “work hard” were very encouraging. Ask the runner in your life what they like to hear. Chances are that will work for other runners, too. A special note from my speedier friends – runners at the front of the pack like to know where they are. For example, the first lady might not know that she is the first female. If she is, tell her. The second female might like to know how far ahead the first female is from her current position (i.e. “second female, first is 10 seconds”). It is useful to tell front-of-the-pack runners where they are in terms of time and place. The start of a race is chaotic and runners beyond the first likely don’t know who or how many are in front.

Almost there!

3. Runners like funny signs. Consider making a sign for passing runners. This saves you having to cheer or clap all the time and gives the runners something to look at. When racing with friends, we enjoy reviewing the signs that caught our eye after the race. Little signs are fine – just make sure the size of font is appropriate for the speed of the runners so that we can read it while we pass.

4. Please don’t cross the race course right in front of me. Please, please don’t cross the race course right in front of me near the finish line. A friend once ran into a spectator just feet from the finish. Don’t let this be you. Wait  to cross, cross on corners, and please move quickly out of the race course. Keep these simple rules in mind when you leap out into the race to take a picture of your runner. No one likes dodging you and your pictures will look terrible with my ear in half the frame.

5. It’s ok if your kid wants a high five, but don’t expect every runner to offer one. I see lots of kids on race courses who want a high five from the runners. This works and I’ll give kids a high five if I’m close to the child and running a long race (thus not going too fast). Your child probably won’t get too many high fives in short races, as runners are just moving too fast. Keep an eye on your cute kid to avoid runner-child collisions.

There you have it – my top 5 tips for road race spectators.

So, runners and spectators, what other tips do you have? Share your best race signs and spectating tips in the comments.


Mini Race Recap: RTOG Trail Run

I spent the last week in Michigan, vacationing with family. Not one to miss a running opportunity, I tweeted to Derek, the Michigan Pace Per Mile Reporter. He suggested a Michigan Half Series race for the weekend I would be in town. I checked out the race. It was a trail race! And, in Mt. Pleasant, where I went to undergrad. Yay! I signed up right away and secured a running friend.

On Saturday, May 26, 2012, my friend from high school and I ran the RTOG Trail Run. The race took place in Deerfield County Park in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Deerfield Park is a great park facility way out in the Michigan countryside. It was one of my favorite running destinations in undergrad, so I was delighted to be back. The race was organized by Hackett Event Management. Ryan, the race director, organized a great race. At race time the weather was rainy, cool, and wet. It had been pouring all night, with thunderstorms and heavy rain. It was muddy, and rained off and on throughout the race. Trail runners are a hardy crowd, not easily discouraged by mud and rain, so there was a nice sized group at race time – and even some day-of-race registrants. You can count on trail runners to be out there sloshing along in all conditions.

In this mini race recap, I’ll present the highlights from the 2012 RTOG Trail Race.

The trail was excellent! Deerfield Park has miles and miles of wonderful trails. The ones Ryan selected for his race went past the mighty Chippewa River (a favorite tubing location due to its clear, cool water), around a marshy area, and through fern-covered forest. The trails were well groomed, sandy, and easy to navigate. My friend, a road runner, did well on the trail. It wasn’t technical and we were able to run two across nearly the whole time.

The event was well organized. Despite crazy rain and lots of mud, the trail was easy to find and navigate. There were very clear trail markers at every turn, and helpful signs along the straightaways to let runners know they were on the right track. The event included a 5k, 10k, and half marathon distance races. The 5k was one loop on a trail, the 10k was 1.5 loops, and the half was 3.5 loops.

At the loop intersection a very friendly and supportive volunteer helped runners navigate the loops, making sure everyone headed in the right direction at the right time. This race was well-marked for a road race. For a trail race, it was outstanding! The courses passed through a nice covered bridge, up a few decent hills, and through a variety of different running surfaces. The terrain was varied and interesting.

Ryan himself greeted finishers at the finish line. Despite having three events with the same start and finish, he had it all organized well. At the finish, there were snacks (bananas, water, energy drink, hot dogs, and the best monster cookies EVER). For age group winners there were nice prizes of gift cards to a local running store. Everyone who entered got a sparkly headband.

Did I mention that they had the best monster cookies ever?

All in all, I loved the RTOG Trail Run. I would recommend Hackett Event Management and the Michigan Trail Series to anyone who lives in the central Michigan area (Bay City, Midland, Mt. P, Saginaw). There are several races, both road and trail, coming up. Find out more on the Michigan Half Series website or Facebook page.

Results of the RTOG Trail Run can be found here.

CT Pace Per Mile Report: June Bugs(?)

In this Connecticut Pace Per Mile Race Report for June 1 – 11, 2012, I am featuring several races across the state that will be perfect for enjoying this nice summer weather. Hopefully we will enjoy a few more weeks before the mosquitos, black flies, and other summer pests arrive.

Twilight Trail Run, Groton, CT, Friday, June 1, 2012, 6pm – The 12th annual Twilight Trail Run will benefit the Women’s Center of Southeastern Connecticut. This trail race (run and walk) proceeds through state parks. The field is limited to 400 people and walkers must be able to finish their race by sunset. There are two races, a 7.4 mile loop through Bluff Point & Haley Farm State Parks and a 3.2 mile loop on Bluff Point State Park Main Trail. The Bluff Point State Park is a coastal reserve area, so the scenery will be nice and parking will be ample. The first 350 preregistered participants will get a race t shirt. Registration is $23, with limited race-day registration. There will be awards and refreshments after the race for everyone who participates.

Amica Iron Horse Races, Simbsury, CT, Sunday, June 3, 2012 7:30am – This event features a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids’ fun run. Sponsored by Hartford Marathon Foundation (and all that comes with that) and benefitting Purple Heart Homes, this is a popular early sumer race. The Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon is a scenic two-loop course which begins and ends in the center of Simsbury. The 10k and 5k courses also go through scenic Simsbury past farmlands, quaint shops, and typical New England scenery. Pre-registraton is encouraged, as this race will fill up. Prices are $80, half marathon; $40, 10k; $35, 5k; $10, kids’ fun run.

Blum Shapiro 5k, Cromwell, CT, Saturday, June 9, 2012, 8am – The HMF folks will be busy because they will also be hosting the Blum Shapiro 5k, which benefits Camp Courant. Held in conjunction with the Travelers Championship, this 5k race is run along the Cromwell roads that line the fairways and greens of TPC River Highlands. In addition to the usual t shirt, all participants will be given one ticket valid for any one day admission to the 2012 Travelers Championship.

Celebrate West Hartford 5k, West Hartford, CT, Sunday, June 10, 2012 8:30 and 9:30am – Part of the Celebrate West Hartford Weekend, this event features a 5k and a kids’ fun run. The kids’ race starts at 8:30 and the adults run at 9:30am. The 5K scenic, flat course begins on Raymond Road (the start line is at the parking lot of Whole Foods), winds through West Hartford neighborhoods and ends on Burr Street near West Hartford Town  Hall.  The event includes competitive and non-competitive divisions and a half mile kids’ fun run through Blue Back Square. Registration is $25 ($5 for the kids’  fun run) per runner until June 1; $30 for registrations postmarked or received after June 1.

Looking for races in another location, or interested in races other than those I have featured? Check out The Race Robot, a runner-created resource. Also, consider adding your reviews if you run one of the featured races. The feedback will help us all find great races.

CT Pace Per Mile Report: Mid April Races

In this Connecticut Pace Per Mile Race Report for April 9 – 16, 2012, I am featuring some excellent races to get your spring racing season off on the right track.

April 14:

Hebron Road Race, Hebron, CT, Saturday April 14, 2012 , 9:00am – This race begins and ends at the RHAM high school gym, so parking should be easy. The race course features rolling hills run in a loop around scenic Hebron and past the town green. It will be run entirely on paved roads. The registration fee is $24 and all pre-registered runners will get a race t-shirt. Registrations after April 8 must be hand-delivered to the Hebron Parks and Recreation. On-site registration is also available. Chip timing will be provided by The Last Mile Racing, ensuring professional timing. Just a note – this race is for runners only, so walkers may want to try another option.

Salem Road Race, Salem, CT, Saturday April 14, 2012, 10:00am – The 19th annual running of the Salem Road Race will be sponsored by the Salem Lions Club. It will take place in Salem, an historic town. The race organizers describe the course as challenging, so runner beware. The course will be closed to traffic, a definite plus. The registration fee is $20 and online pre-registration is accepted until April 10th. On-site race day registration is available. A limited quantity of t-shirts will be available for purchase on race day for $10. There is a maximum family registration cost of $50, so family groups are welcome. Runners and walkers will enjoy a post-race pancake brunch.

April 15:

Sprint into Spring, Middlefield, CT, Sunday April 15, 2012, 8am – Benefitting the Middlefield Lions Club, this race features a 5k and 10k distance. Walkers and family groups are welcome. The race organizer had this to say about the race: “Our race will be in beautiful town of Middlefield CT and it will be a scenic race with some great vistas, especially a gorgeous view of the mountains including the soon-to-be-reopened Powder Ridge Ski Area.We will give our first place medals to men and women in each of five age groups for the 5K and 10K (20 awards total).  We’ll have music and food for the finishers, as well as a kids’ race.  It’s our first time, so we want a good start, but we’re convinced this will improve over the years!” The 5K course is a single loop and the 10K is two loops, and both will end at Peckham Park. Pre-race registration is $20 for the 5k and $25 for the 10k (race day registration is $25/30). T-shirts will be provided and there will be post-race entertainment and photos by Capstone Photography. A printable registration form can be found here.

Looking for races in another location, or interested in races other than those I have featured? Check out The Race Robot, a runner-created resource. Also, consider adding your reviews if you run one of the featured races. The feedback will help us all find great races.

In my next report, I will feature some end of the month races. If you’re planning ahead, consider one of these:

April 21:

Belltown Spring Sprint Road Race

April 28:

Animals for Life Run for Rescue

Glastonbury River Run