Tips for Spectators

This post isn’t for the runners. It’s for all of the parents, spouses, friends, loved ones and strangers who want to cheer on the 15,000 runners who will hit the streets on April 12 at 7:30 a.m. for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run  – thank you.
Hilda and Denis DiBlasio are not runners. But they are the best parents I could ever ask for and they were up before the sun on the day of my first marathon, Rock ’n’ Roll USA, and came back down to Washington, D.C. to cheer me on at the Marine Corps Marathon this October. It doesn’t take a runner to make a fabulous supporter, all it takes is being there. For a runner, having your cheerleaders’ support means the world when you’re out on the race course.
cherry blossom spectators
Signs of a good time!
It might seem daunting, but as you spectate, it gets easier. My parents have gone from struggling to decipher a race course map to showing up with what I think you’d agree are award-winning signs. “Toenails are overrated!” or “This seems like a lot of work for a free banana” and a pretty fabulous giant photo of my cat with the word RUN on it – just to name a few.
But if this is your first time spectating, here are some tips to make your day of cheerleading for your favorite runner at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run!
Make a plan. Take a look at the course and talk to your runner about when they could use some support. Pick key locations or mile markers that don’t involve crossing the race course to move between. If you’re positioning yourself near a mile marker, pick a spot 100-200 yards after the actual marker. This gives your runner a chance to register that you’re located nearby and they can start looking for you.
Tell your runner what you’ll be wearing. Chances are, they will see you first. It’s a lot easier for them to spot you in a crowd if they know where to expect you. Meanwhile, you’ll be scouring a constant stream of thousands of runners who all look the same. Let’s face it – we are all opting for in-season neon.
Pick your spots. So where should you go? Study the race map. Looking to stay close to the start and finish? Hang around the Tidal Basin. You can catch runners on their way out, as they come back during mile 5 and still have time to get to the finish. Want the most bang for your buck? The Lincoln Memorial should be your go-to. You’ll see runners come past at mile 1, shortly after mile 2 and looping back after mile 3 giving you plenty of time to head to the finish to try to snag a photo. If you’re up for a hike – head on down to Hains Point on East Potomac Park. This three mile stretch that falls between miles 6 and 9 is a rough one and every cheerleader makes a differences as runners come through the windy turn and push it on home. You can plan to see your runner shortly after the 6 and 9 mile markers if you plan it right.
Cherry blossom map
Pick your best spot
Take public transportation. Take an awesome 10 mile race, add in Cherry Blossom season and top it off with D.C. traffic and parking and you have a transportation-tastrophe waiting to happen. Just stick with the metro. It opens at 5 a.m. on race day and the Smithsonian metro stop (on the Orange and Blue lines) is only about a quarter mile from the race start and finish. Other possible stops include L’Enfant Plaza (Blue, Orange, Green and Yellow Lines), about .8 of a mile from the start; Metro Center (Red, Orange and Blue lines), about .9 of a mile from the start; or Archives (Green and Yellow lines), about .9 of a mile from the start. There is also bicycle parking available.
Bring snacks for yourself. Runners have aid stations to rely on for fuel along the way – but you’ll be standing and walking for a good chunk of time. Take care of yourself! Keep an eye on the weather, charge your phone and bring some snacks and water – you’ll need it after all that cheering.
Download the Cherry Blossom Race Day app – but have a back up plan. Unfortunately, in large crowds, cell phones can lose service. That means runner tracking might not work. Even the best race planners can’t account for service carriers being overwhelmed. I had no issue with cell reception last year – but still, know your runner’s expected pace so if service is poor  you still have an idea of where he or she will be.
Cheer loudly, but don’t say “you’re almost there!” I know it sounds nice, but closing in on the finish, runners do an insane amount on math in their heads. Even though being 11/13ths through the last mile might sound close to being finished to you, for a runner, the hardest part might still be ahead. Don’t mess with the mental system. Unless you’re at a mile marker, steer clear of announcing any remaining distances.
Have a finish line plan. Runners who just pushed themselves to the limit for 10 miles aren’t always the best at improvising on the spot (but they are great at waddling around in circles or laying on the ground) – so it’s best to make a plan ahead of time. Pick and landmark that’s not too close to the finish and meet there.
Lastly, know what a difference you make. Running is hard work, but putting up with a runner can be just as hard. We know our smelly laundry, grumpy tapers and ravenous I-must-eat-everything-in-the-house-because-today-was-long-run-day stints take a toll on our loved ones, but that fact that you still come out to cheer us on means the world. So from all CUCB runners to you – thank you! And enjoy the cherry blossoms.
Natalie,@ndiblasio

nataliediblasio blog

Natalie started running in the second grade and hasn’t stopped since. In her day job, she is a reporter on the breaking news team at USA TODAY. In the way-too-early mornings and shouldn’t-you-be-exhausted-by-now evenings she’s busy running, practicing yoga at her favorite studio, acting as President of the American News Women’s Club or writing for Run Washington, HalfMarathons.net and Runner’s Breakfast. Natalie is a chronically starving marathoner, loud laugher and wannabe triathlete in training for her first half Ironman in June.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Elizabeth is a writing mom on the run and was one of two Social Runners from 2012-2013. Originally from Maryland, Elizabeth now runs up and down the hills of Pittsburgh, PA, where things (like rivers) come in threes. She loves triathlons, has published three books and has three sons! She runs her own writing business and finds that a good long run is often the source of her creative ideas. Elizabeth loves being married to a great runner who was a finisher at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

3 thoughts on “Tips for Spectators

  1. These are great tips! Crowd support makes such a big difference, and having friends or family cheer for you is so much fun! And cow bells. Don’t forget the cowbells!

  2. Don’t forget to read the names on the runners’ bibs and encourage them to keep going! I still remember my first race and I was getting tired after mile 6 and someone yelled out to me, “You’re doing great Erin keep going!” I had no idea who that stranger was but it was a great energizer for me!

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