I am one of the very fortunate women to have a husband who goes out of of his way to support my running lifestyle. Oftentimes I have to ask him “are you sure you want to come to yet another race?” The answer is always, “yes, let’s go”. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the rare times I will leave my kids overnight. I think he likes a little kid free trip from time to time. He has many of his own passions, one is writing at his blog. He is a very deep thinker and has incredibly interesting posts on a variety of topics. Check him out right here at Underwater Samurai.
He has been supporting me now for so long he has become quite the expert on how to help me along the course of a marathon. I feel like he is a magician showing up at spots along the course, handing me fuel, fresh water bottles and many cheers of support. I have always been so curious as to how he does it, so I asked him if he might want to write a guest post. He was happy to. So, here are Rob’s 10 tips to support a runner on race day:
To be clear, I am not a runner — I just support one. As the husband of Runwiki, I’ve learned a lot over the last year about how to support my runner. This post shares those lessons and I hope that all of the other runner support staff out there will chime in with their own tips and stories.
Ready? Here we go!
1. Learn the Route. Runners need stuff — food, water, Gu, encouragement. To give them that stuff, you need to be on the course. But, when you’re not running, being on the course is a bit of a challenge. You’ve got a lot of considerations: parking, intercept routes, water station spacing, and more. It takes a plan — and the first step in making this plan is learning the course. Most marathons make it easy for you, and have a race map. But, even so, you might want to scout ahead when in a new area. And ask around about particulars for the start and finish — especially parking.
2. Find Two Restaurants. That’s right, two! The first is for the pre-race dinner, the second is for the post race crash. If your runner is like mine, the first restaurant will be a pretty nice one with a good source of carbs (Italian or Mexican), the second will be some kind of horrible fast food (we’re partial to Hardees/Carl’s Junior for the post-race feed). Regardless of your runner’s preference, be prepared. Reservations recommended!
3. Pack for Speed. You may not be RUNNING, but you will be running, know what I mean? It’s surprising how much you have to hustle to keep up with a marathon runner on the course. I highly recommend running shoes and athletic clothes. As a matter of fact, on the Shamrock Marathon I wore my rollerblades! Also, be sure to have a comfortable backpack that can hold some stuff. I use a Maxpedition Monsoon Gearslinger bag.
4. Be Noticeable. Since we’re talking clothes, be sure to dress in something noticeable. A bright colored shirt, or one with a unique emblem or something. At the bigger races there are thousands of people — make sure your runner can find you in the crowd.
5. Pre-Race Prep. Before you go to sleep the night before race day, get your gear in order. Pack the bags, have the drinks in the fridge or freezer, food organized and in the pack, and have your clothes laid out (make sure she does, too). These races always start at O’dark-thirty, so prepping before hand makes sure you don’t forget anything and you get on the road quickly. The goal is to be up and out the door quickly while forgetting nothing.
6. Comm Check! A smartphone is absolutely essential! It’s got all of your social media, phone, web browser, GPS, stopwatch — it’s an all-in-one! It doesn’t matter which make or model, but have one and keep it with you. More and more races are transmitting splits via Twitter or MMS, you can download the course map to the phone, plug in specific coordinates to the GPS. And with the camera/social-media combo you can keep everyone back home informed of your runner’s progress.
7. Record for Posterity. Runners spend a lot of time and training on a marathon — it is a huge, life changing event, especially the first one. I’ve heard it compared to a wedding or the birth of a child — it’s that huge. Take pictures! Get it all, everything from the pre-race dinner to the grand finale. And, if your runner is female, make sure you get pics of them in their running outfit BEFORE the race starts when they’re all made up and smiling.
8. The Right Place at the Right Time! Domino’s may have 30 minutes to deliver, but you’ve got a much smaller window — make sure you are there! During the race, your primary responsibility is to be at the right place at the right time with the right food. Go over the course map with your runner and plan out the food/drink drops. Make sure you have both salty and sweet foods in your pack, your runner might change their mind during the course. Have your drinks made and, if necessary, labelled. Some runners want different mixtures at different points in the race, so discuss ahead of time with your runner and be prepared.
9. Finish Line Prep. Runwiki makes up a separate bag for when she’s done with the race. Fresh clothes, recovery drink, snacks, massage roller, and shoes. Find out what your runner wants, and make sure it’s there waiting. When the race is over, half the time the runners aren’t thinking straight, they just need their stuff. Make it easy for ‘em.
10. Post Race Processing. Marathons are tough! Mentally, physically, and emotionally. And if your runner is competitive, that quest for the PR is a huge deal. Time, pace, place, qualifiers — it’s all an emotional roller-coaster. Be ready for anything! The important thing at this part of the race is to have empathy with your runner — if they’re happy because they got their time, be happy and enthusiastic. If they missed their goal, be supportive. Now is not the time to be analytical about the race and problem solve — do that later. At the finish line, just be there. With the finish line bag — best not to forget that…
There’s my words of wisdom, what tips do you have to add?
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