Watch it! 9 tips for being a race spectator

Why do we run races?

What sets them apart from a bog standard training run, enough to persuade us to part with our hard-earned cash and queue for twenty minutes to use a toilet that smells like a family of clowns died in it?

Is it the medal? The goodie bag? The cheerful bonhomie and good-natured rivalry with our fellow runners? The fact that nobody really takes any notice of how many safety pins you take from the registration desk and, if you’re careful enough, you can turn a tidy profit?

Well, it’s all of those things, obviously.

But the thing that really separates a run from a race is the crowd. No matter how nervous, unprepared or biblically hungover you are, the cheers of a fervent crowd can pull you through the miles. So, if you’re planning to go along and watch a race this weekend, why not familiarise yourself with this handy guide…

  1. The first runners to come past you will be the “elites”. These are top athletes, who thrive on adversity and love to push themselves to the very limits of physical exertion. Help them to do this by pelting them with onions as they run past, and changing the course markers so that they end up taking a detour through a haunted swamp.
  1. It’s quite common to offer snacks to the runners as they go past. However, the usual fare of jelly babies, bananas and water can get a bit boring. Why not mix things up with candy floss, whole pineapples, flaming Sambuca, tins of corned beef or a deadly Japanese puffer fish.
  1. Loads of runners like to use the race as an opportunity to raise money for some really worthwhile charities. If you see a runner wearing a charity vest, be sure to stuff a massive handful of loose change into each of their hands as they go past.
  1. If you’re going to do number 3, remember that charity donations are tax deductible. Insist that they stop and write you out a receipt before carrying on their way. Don’t worry if they seem confused, irritable or bordering-on-violent; that’s just dehydration.
  1. If the race route goes past the front of your house and it’s a hot day, you might want to consider offering the runners a cooling spray from your garden hose. However, if one of the runners happens to be the witch off of the Wizard of Oz, your good intentions could prove fatal. Don’t risk it.
  1. If the race route goes past the front of your house and it’s a cold day, just turn your heating up a bit and open some of your front windows.
  1. If you cheer, whoop, shout encouragement or whistle, many runners will respond with a smile or a wave. But If you moo at them, they’ll just avoid eye-contact and silently chastise themselves for not going through with that restraining order.
  1. If you’re going to hold up a placard, make it something either inspirational (“soar like an eagle”) or quirky (“bet you wish you’d pooped before you started”). A sign bearing the motto “Steve, your wife is sleeping with her yoga instructor” is neither of these things.
  1. If you see a runner who appears to be struggling or suffering the effects of exhaustion, it’s vital that you grab them as they go past and bundle them off the course and into the boot of your car, where they can stay safely locked away until after the race has finished, in order to avoid distracting or demoralising the other runners.
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