Marathon season is well and truly upon us. Every weekend my Instagram feed fills up with pictures of kit, nervous faces and, later in the day, some pretty epic bling. It's a massively exciting, and I love seeing other runners smash their goals and achieve what they never thought possible!
There's no doubt that marathons are hard. Physically it's a push to keep your body moving for 26.2 miles (at least, often you end up running further), but it's the mental game that's tougher. Which is where supporters come in. I honestly I don't think I'd have got through my last two marathons without support, and I know I'll need it again in Edinburgh. The role supporters play is invaluable, nothing lifts you quite like seeing someone you love cheering you on, spotting a funny sign out of the corner of your eye or giving a high five to a little girl who thinks you're a superhero! Even a stranger shouting your name can be the little lift you need to get you out of your head and back to smashing your goals.
Because my own marathon isn't for six weeks I'm all about supporting right now, and I can't wait to join the rest of the crew at mile 21 of London Marathon next Sunday to put on a party! Some of my best memories have been made on the sidelines of marathons, and even if you don't know any runners I can guarantee that nothing beats cheering the masses on marathon day. So, from the perspective of a supporter and a runner, I thought I'd share my top tips for marathon supporters!
One of my biggest motivators during runs is knowing when I'm likely to see friends and family who are coming to support, and I don't think I'm the only one - the picture above is of the moment my friend Matt saw his wife during last year's Brighton Marathon! Before Paris Marathon, my parents and I sat down with a course map and worked out where they'd be so that I could look out for them. I remember seeing them at mile 17 and it was just the lift I needed. Some marathons are more 'supporter friendly' than others - because of the way Paris loops around the city it's fairly easy to cross paths with your supporters at a couple of point. It's also possible in London, particularly between Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs/Canary Wharf. Edinburgh looks like it's going to be a little more challenging as the route heads out of the city and along the coast towards Musselburgh, but I'm sure we'll work it out!
Track Your Athlete
Lots of the bigger marathons now have apps that allow you to follow the progress of your runners - during Paris Elle was live tweeting my progress as she followed me on the app! If this isn't an option, Find My Friends can be a handy way to check where your runner is at, either to make sure you cross paths or so you can message them encouragement! I wasn't able to make it down to Brighton this weekend to support my friends running the marathon, but it doesn't mean that I wasn't supporting! Messages from friends and family are awesome when you're finding things tough, and it's really lovely to know that you're in the thoughts of someone who can't be there. Just don't expect your runner to reply.
Make Sure You're Seen
Even if you plan ahead and virtually stalk your runner it can still be hard for them to spot you at a big, noisy event, so make sure you're easy to notice! Whether it's a minion balloon (that kept whacking me in the face) or some smart-arse signs (like the one above!), the more eye catching your set up the better. Of course you could go full Run Dem Crew complete with megaphones, boom boxes, confetti canons and creative signage! One tip however, don't make a sign that asks people to hit it for 'power' and then position yourself up a kerb...people will wipe out and that's devastating to watch.
Stay Until The End
It can be tempting to rush off when you've spotted the person you're supporting, but please try not to! The back of the pack is where it's at, and the people who are completing their marathon over a longer time still need your support (despite being total bad asses for being on their feet for the longest time!). So stay, cheer, make a tunnel of love and give those people the same experience the elites get.
What's your advice for marathon supporters?
*images: my own, Mike's and via Chasing Lights Collective