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Having run the London Marathon twice with varying success when it came to seeing loved ones on the course, and seeing all kinds of anxieties this week in my 15 or so ladies running it next weekend, I thought this post might be useful to anyone running a marathon or going along to support someone that is.

So first things first, just as a little preface to my 5 tips.

It is the runners job to run 26.2 miles, not worry about being spotted along the route. You would be amazed at how much energy this can take up on the day and how much anxiety it can cause on the day. Let the runner get on with their job, and spectators put a bit of effort in and be as helpful as you can on the day to offer them support.

1. Have a Race plan and ask for what you need

As a runner you need to study the route and understand where the good spectator spots are. Tell your spectators exactly where you need to be and why. There is no point in directing them to Tower Bridge, or Greenwich as it just won’t be any fun for anyone. Also with a race plan which includes key refueling, and psychological moments like, the first 5K, or 5K to go, you will know where you will need the boost. Be as helpful and as assertive as you can with your spectators. They will be grateful for some direction.

In 2012 my Mum didn’t tell me where she and my brothers and their kids would be cheering from, turned out it was Canary Wharf…they had been there all morning, but it was so busy and so loud by the time I got there I ran straight past them.

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Mum did a better job in 2016, and I saw her twice on the course, including in the last mile or so when I needed it most

2. Have an understanding of your timings

OK so you can’t guarantee you will stick to your race pacing plan, but some general guidance will be helpful. Many spectators get their spots super early and then get bored waiting or think they have missed you. I once had an interview scheduled with Denise Lewis from the BBC at 1pm on Tower Bridge…I told them I couldn’t guarantee it would be 1pm bang on, but it gave me a target…I think I arrived there at about 1.15

On timings, if you still haven’t worked out what your goal time is, why not have 3, why not have a gold, silver and bronze finish time goal…at least it will be something to keep your brain occupied during those tough miles.

Me and Denise and my running partner Joanne

Me and Denise and my running partner Joanne

3. Share what you will be wearing

With thousands of other runners that look a bit like you, its not good enough to just think they will be able to spot you. Take a picture in your full kit…including how you will have your hair, and share with your loved ones so your spectators know exactly what to look out for.

You could also do a flat athlete picture, where you lay everything out you will be wearing on the floor…although this is more for you to ensure you have everything

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4. Run on just one side of the road

This is so simple yet so effective. Left or Right…choose a side. And stick to it as much as possible. If you know they are going to be on the left side, and you run on the left side, its a no brainer…it increases your chance of being seen by at least 50%. This also prevents you weaving from side to side and possibly risking tripping yourself or other over as you try to move from one side to the other to hug spectators.

Do note however on some sections where there are runners heading in two directions this might be more tricky. This is where a bit of research and planning will help.

In 212 I ran a lot faster than expected and missed people as a result

I’m middle of the road here, but this was through Isle of Dogs by which time the crowd had thinned out

5. Have a code word

Write your name on your vest. But be warned EVERYONE will scream it like you have been their friend for years. It will freak you out at first and even after a few hours you will still think its people you know…it may well be.

In 2012 a lady I once worked with shouted “Julie Creffield” at the top of her voice. She got my attention in an instance. So either get people to shout your surname, or give them a nickname or a code word of some sort.

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No way my mate Natalie wasn’t going to spot me…but imagine how many times her name would have been called in one day

So there we have it, just a few ideas to take some of the stress out of the day.

A few other things your loved ones can do to help?

  • Have water on hand
  • And snacks…tell them what you might like (not jelly babies, there will be enough of those on the course)
  • Take photos and video of you
  • Tell you you look great (even if you don’t)

Finally, remember marathons are overwhelming on so many levels. Sometimes you have to just accept that not everything will go to plan. Yes its nice to see all of your friends on the course, but if you miss them, try not to stress and enjoy the event.

Good Luck….and remember to give us a wave on Sunday. We will be just before Mile 10 in Surrey Quays, on the right hand side of the road…we will be loud and giving out hugs to random fat runners…and thin runners if they need one too…we don’t discriminate.

If you want to join us to spectate check out the info here

To read about my two London Marathon races here they are, 2012 and 2015

Running or Spectating next weekend just make sure you have FUN!!!

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