BOSTON (CBS) – If you’ve never run a marathon, or any race for that matter, you might not know that crowd support means a lot. But as with everything, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. Just as a good fan can keep the energy high and help the runners cross the finish line, a bad fan can ruin the experience for everyone. So what are the best ways to show your love for the runners? Check out our guide to being the No. 1 spectator at the Boston Marathon.
One of the best ways to support the marathon runners is to help out during the race. While it’s always nice for a runner to see a familiar face in the crowd, it means even more when fans give up watching and become part of the race. Races, no matter how big or how small, only function with many hands helping out. People of any and all skill levels are needed for all kinds of jobs. Handing out water, helping runners find their spots, and many other small but important jobs help the races go off without a hitch. The Boston Athletic Association, which organizes everything from the Boston Marathon to smaller 5Ks, uses thousands of volunteers at its annual events. Click here to learn more about all the volunteering opportunities.
Many fans choose to stand silently by the sidelines and watch the race. And that’s fine. But if you really want to keep the energy high, make a little (or a lot of) noise. Most runners, particularly near the end of the race, aren’t going to be focusing on picking faces out of the crowd. With so much focus on the finish line, the best way to make your presence known is by making a little rhythmic noise to help bring them home. Clapping or short chants are great ways to support the runners.
Maybe making noise just isn’t your thing. A good alternative is to make a sign or banner to hold during the race. As with chants, short and sweet is usually the best way to go. Make your sign too busy and most of the runners will be by too fast to read it all. If you’re coming to support a particular runner, make sure to show them the sign beforehand so they have a better chance of noticing it in the crowd.
That’s right, it’s not just the runners who need to make it through the race. Good spectators come prepared with a way to keep themselves hydrated and happy, too. Plan for the weather, whether that means sunscreen or an umbrella. Know the race route and be aware that security officers will be doing some bag checks. And, of course, don’t forget your camera so you can take pictures of the action and of the runner you’ve come to cheer.
Be aware of new security rules which restrict liquid containers to one liter. Spectators are also being discouraged from bringing coolers and backpacks. Opt instead for clear bags, to make things easier on everybody. READ MORE: 2014 Marathon Security Rules
If you’ve come to support a loved one, make sure that person knows you’ll be there. The course – especially near the end – is very crowded. If you’re hoping to see the runner after they cross the finish line, make a plan before the race. There will be clearly marked family meeting areas beyond the finish line (MAP). Full of people, press and, of course, very exhausted runners, that may not be the best place to say congratulations. With increased security, you may want to pick a specific meeting spot outside of the restricted area.
Have fun cheering on your favorite runner at the Boston Marathon this year!
Renee Mallett is the author of several books about art, culture, and New England. She was the owner and director of an art gallery and has written about arts and entertainment on a national level for several print and online journals. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.