Tuesday, May 24, 2011

the art of spectating

during my adventures in boston, i met red and spike. since red and i are both broken we were forced to spectate the 5k rather then run it. as we were walking to our spectating spots red asked me if i had heard of spikes spectating abilities, which i had not. simply put, out. of. control. i kindly asked spike if he would write a guest post for you. he agreed....without further adieu, i present spike and the art of spectating.

I love to spectate.  I’d like to tell you I do it because, as a runner, I appreciate how awesome it is to have a positive spectating experience; but that would be a huge lie.  Whilst running I am almost completely oblivious of most spectators, what they are yelling, or the signs they may have made.  So, that altruistic motive is right out.

I do it because it amuses me.  Seriously.  Sad...yep.  But honest.  I just blurt out things I think are funny.  And, because some people who have spectated with me find the things I blurt out humorous, I’ve been asked to do a guest post about it.  I hope I don’t fail.  There is nothing worse than being introduced as ‘this hilarious person’ only to be asked on the spot to be funny—and then fail. 

So, with failure to be funny looming, I’ll begin.  

How does one describe the process of being a witty idiot?  Well, just think about things runners think about, and then say something somewhat related and somewhat absurd.  Example: most runners are trying to P.R. their race, so anything that has to do with obtaining a P.R. is excellent fodder.  I like: “Beat your P.R. like it was a piƱata!”  Or, perhaps: “Break your P.R. the way old men break wind…recklessly!”  As you can see, the trend here is to use an exclamation point at the end.  So, tip one; say it with meaning.  

Each race provides an opportunity to customize your cheers.  The first thing one could ponder is the name or theme of the race and poke fun at that.  At the Martian Series of Races I was fond of: “There are aliens behind you and they have probes…run faster!”  After finishing Boston and meeting back up with the Redhead, I told runners: “You are not hallucinating, there is a unicorn ahead!  Go get your unicorn!”  During the Cleveland Marathon (and half) I yelled: “At least you are not running the Detroit Marathon (or half).”  I can do this because I’m from Detroit.  Had anybody else shouted that and not been from Detroit, they would have found themselves in a fistfight.  Therefore, tip two; make fun of Detroit, aliens, or unicorns.  

An important footnote (man do I wish blogger allowed real footnotes): the surroundings of where you are spectating are also great places to find inspiration.  At Martian there were cones along the last .1M of the route.  So, I suggested runners “Help the city save money by picking up a cone and carrying it to the finish line!”  While in Cleveland, we were directly across from the Carol B. Stokes Federal Court House.  I used a bullhorn to go all ‘Mr. Tour Guide’ on them; informing participants they were running past the Carol B. Stokes Federal Court House.  I would then elaborate by shouting “Court was not in session” and that “Judges are nude under their robes.”  What is important here is that you should lie if you are uncertain of the accuracy of your statements.  Telling runners “there are 3,612 bathrooms in the CBS building” is perfectly acceptable even if you are off by two or three restrooms.  This leads us to tip three; lie like a rug.

When you see the runner(s) you are there to spectate you can cheer wildly.  But I prefer to yell: “That is my friend Beth!  Hey, my friend Beth is in front of you!  Go pass her!”  Then I let Beth know: “Beth, they are coming for you!”  However, perhaps you could go with something more encouraging like: “You look better than a new pair of snow tires!”  These things will undoubtedly lift your runner’s spirits.  Therefore, tip four; talk about something you would like.   

Every runner knows that finishing is the hardest part.  So, a good spectator should recognize this fact and provide helpful information to motivate the runner.  And I’m not talking about yelling: “You are almost there!”  Please, this information is useless and vague at best.  I like to tell runners there is “Free water at the finish!  Literally, almost unlimited amounts of free water!  All you can carry just ahead!”  Near the finish line, this really gets the racers going.  I also encourage runners to finish by letting them know there are also “Free bananas at the finish.”  And, even though it is cruel (see tip # 3), I’m not above telling runners: “There is almost no water left!  Run faster to get the last cup!”  This leads us to tip five; provide helpful information.

Signage.  The Redhead is better at this than I am.  She comes up with amazing phrase that are short but effective (example: “Light it Up!).  She then writes it in large easy-to-read-as-you-run-past letters.  I prefer to put something more longwinded on the sign, cramming letters in like Japanese subway riders.    Example: “It’s about glory and points for the Playmakers race series.  If they look like they might be in your age group, pass them.”  Or, for a women’s only race: “The Jingle Bell 5K lacks balls, and that is a good thing.”  As discussed above, you can incorporate parts of the race into your signage.  At the Mason State Bank 5K a hill comprises the last .2M of the race.  This resulted in: “Welcome to Heartburn Hill.  The younger cousin of Heartbreak Hill.”  Soooo, around the bend ends up at tip six; use a pencil to write in your slogan before you begin with a marker to ensure proper spacing.

Lastly, make up random things.  I’m fond of telling runners: “You are so close to finishing you can practically make out with it!  Go make out with your marathon!”  Or perhaps: “The people behind you are slower than you!”  Plus, the old: “Kittens are faster than tomatoes!  Are you!?!”  And thus, my last tip; make parents with children around feel a little uncomfortable.  

I hope you find this helpful. And remember, there are kittens in hot pursuit.        


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