Friday, April 17, 2009

3 Days to Boston Marathon: Find Your Runner

We've been so focused on the happenings on the Boston Marathon course come Monday, we never really covered the action on the sidelines. Until now that is.

When I first started planning my 15-day countdown to Boston, I ran through a rough list with my husband and being the good idea-generator that he is, he threw in a couple of thoughts that I neglected more by accident than anything else. Aside from cheering for my friend running the Army 10-miler a few years back, I'm usually the one running the distance race and having my family searching for me. So in an honest-to-goodness afterthought, it was someone else who reminded me to talk about the spectators. And not just how the runners appreciate their support, but how the spectators can find their runners on the course and how they don't have to camp out in one spot all day even though it is a point-to-point course. While the odds aren't guaranteed that a spectator will spot runner and vice versa--I ran right by my mom and husband in 2007 and there have been times at the Chicago Marathon where I saw family and they didn't see me--there are a few ways to at least attempt a successful rendevous along the route.
  • Plan an approximate meeting spot ahead of time. We scoured information in 2007 trying to find a good place for Mom and husband to travel to outside the city and still be able to make it back to the finish line before I finished. But when they didn't make up their minds when I left for Boston Common at 6:30 a.m., I only knew they'd be out there but had no clue where. Needless to say, I either ran right past them or was on the opposite side of the street when I went by and we both missed one another. The following year, I knew my parents would be somewhere around mile 16, so while my feet were aching, I used searching for them to distract me from the pain.
  • Know your clothes. If runner and spectator know what each other is wearing, it helps when spotting one another. Granted it becomes more difficult when you're looking for a red jacket and it seems like nearly everyone is wearing that color to stand out, too.
  • Dress for the elements. The last thing a spectator wants to do is bail out on the runner and have to leave the course from cold, rain or over-heating. During the Nor'easter weather, we spent as much time at Wal-Mart selecting ponchos and waterproof shoes for myself as we did for the my two spectators. Garbage bags can only hold out for so long especially for a spectator, and wet feet are a huge concern, too.
  • Balloons, signs, cow bells. Paraphernalia always works as a link between runner and spectator. Works better than listening to shouts for your name--at least for me, nothing sounds like "Go Kate!" after a few miles. Again, it's a good distraction to be looking for those signs on the sidelines or checking out the unique balloons selected to grab a runner's attention.
Need more tips? Check out a few of these suggestions from The Boston Channel, which also explains some of the road closures and public transportation station closings.

As for where to watch, my mom tells a good story about how to get around on race day and swears it's all about the timing and outsmarting the crowd. But I'll save that for another post with good places to watch, or what worked for them. Photo grabbed from playvein at flickr. Posted by Kate


  1. Your mom must be an expert on race-watching. I would love to hear her tips! Oh and good luck to Liz today!

  2. haha, yeah I've dragged her and my dad to a bunch of races. they became pros at Chicago but then had to tackle a new monster in boston. I'll definitely try to get some more tips out of her, the only problem is she was reluctant to share a few because she didn't want to give away her secret and the others she swore she got lucky on. They've definitely missed me running by before--and when I took her tips to the Army 10, I missed you :(



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