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 Spectator Support

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Spectator Support Posted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 5:43 pm 

How do you feel about having a lot of specators along the course cheering you on as you run/race?

As I lined up in the coral just before the start of the NYC Marathon I was talking to two other runners. One of them stated that he believed strongly that it's much harder to run well in a Marathon like NYC with the distraction of the crowd than in a smaller marathon where you can focus better on your pace. It has always seemed to me that good crowd support helps the miles go by faster and thereby helps you run a better.

BUT, though I enjoyed the crowd during the early miles of the NYC Marathon yesterday I found that as I started to get tired the crowd noise and music started to annoy me. I distinctly remember coming around a corner in Queens where the crowd was roaring and there was a heavy metal band cranking away. I felt very irritated by all the noise. I could hear everyone cheering and yelling and the band playing and all I could think was how much I wanted it to be quiet. It was almost like I was experiencing an axiety attack.

I had this same experience last year when I was running on a "broken" foot (and a blister on the other one) and was in great pain during the entire marathon. I figured I felt the way I did last year because I was so incredibly uncomfortable for so much of the race. But this year I started feeling irritated well before I really started to struggle.

But I know that I've run in many other races this year where I really enjoyed the spectators. But unlike NYC, these races didn't have people lining the roadway 3-5 rows deep.

For the first time ever I ran with my name on my shirt. I've always felt a little resentful of the runners who got there name cheered. And though I had intened to have my name on my shirt in previous marathons this was the first year I actually got around to doing it (actually my daughter did it for me). It was really great to hear my name and know that people were supporting me. But by the time I entered Central Park at the 24 mile mark I felt like I just wanted people to leave me a lone and let me finish the race.

This was such an odd experience and one I hope I get past real soon.

So what's your oppinion or experience with crowd support? Have you ever experienced anything like what I've described above?

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Spectator Support Posted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 7:19 am 

I've done 1 small marathon and 3 giant ones (NYC and 2 Chicago). I for one like the million spectators more than the 100 that watched the small race. In all three of my big ones, I had eperiences where the crowd helped me. In two of them I hit the wall big time and had times where I'd come around the corner to booming cheers and noise that re-sparked my adrenaline. In New York it was hitting 1st avenue, then again in Central Park. In Chicago it was in Chinatown. In my last race i didn't hit the wall, but was starrting to fade. There were a lot of cheers for the pace group i was in. People would go nuts when they saw the pace leader carrying the 3:10 sign. It really was a boost. You felt like you had fans just for you and they reminded me of what I was trying to do and kept me focussed. In a way, i didn't want to let them down and kept pushing as hard as i could. I think in all 3 cases i would have faded more if it weren't for the crowd support. in the case of the smaller race, i would go up to 5 miles without seeing a spectator, and an obligatory clap or 'way to go' was about all i'd get from a family waiting for their mom or dad to come by. you can really feel alone at times.

i also think there are two kinds of spectators. the ones you know and everyone else. i get a huge boost when a freind or family member spots me and goes nuts for me, more so then the anonymous crowds. which,.along wih your point about putting your name on your shirt, reminds me of a thought i had while i was watching in new york sunday. i too have never put my name on my shirt. i theorized that when i heard my name, that i would know it was someone that knew me and that i should look, otherwise how do you know if it's one of your firends or some stranger that read your shirt. you could spend the whole race turning your neck or you could ignore your mom. while i was in new york, i saw the italy or mexico or france singlets and thought that was a great way to get chears for you from strangers and specific ones from your loved ones via your name. i found myself looking for chicago shirts in the race and thought next time i do a marathon i will wear just that, represent where i'm from on my shirt and save my name for people that know me.


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Spectator Support Posted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:50 am 

Interesting. I'd never really given it a thought. Having recently experienced 2 completely opposite scenarios (a 25k trail race in the mountains = ZERO spectators, and the Malibu triathlon 2 weeks later with thousands of screaming lookee-loos), I can honestly say they both have their positives and negatives for me.

Dashing to the chutes during the tri with a sidewalk lined with people going berserk was a real high, and my last mile of the run I probably ran in under 7:00 (fast for me) because of it. But damn, the solace of the trails, the sounds of nature at work, the blanket of silence while running in the middle of nowhere, it got me into a trance almost, and my mind let go. Of course, at the last aid station, with 2 miles left, the workers were screaming and cheering for us, which was SO motivating after all of that dead silence and alone time.

Maybe I'll load the sounds of cheering crowds into my iPod for my upcoming 50k trail race to pump me up when I need it?


South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Spectator Support Posted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 10:08 am 

I think you touched upon something that came into play for me during this last Marathon. It was nice when the noise subsided and there weren't as many people along the course. And then it would ramp up and be really exciting. But then there were points where the crowd noises lasted too long and I needed a break from it and when it didn't happen I felt uncomfortable with it.

I think this was important at the NH Marathon. I'd go for a mile or two, or more, without seeing any spectators and then see just one or two. And because I was pretty much running alone their cheers were genuinely for me and it really made me feel good; much better than the cheers I got at NYC where as soon as I heard my name yelled out the same person would yell out other names too. So it wasn't quite as personal.

On a slightly different topic: I think the legend about the loudest crowd noise being on 1st Ave just after you get off the 59th St. bridge is a bit over hyped. This year, and last year, I noticed that they weren't nearly as loud as I remember them being when I first ran the Marathon in 2001. I think the BEST crowd support comes from the people lining the road through Central Park. What makes it great is not only the crowd but the entire setting. You're in the park, the crowd is about 3-4 rows deep and everyone of them seems to be yelling and cheering. It's awesome...especially when you're feeling strong enough to really appreciate it.


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Spectator Support Posted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:45 am 

Definitely - when it's a "personal" cheering, it's really uplifting, versus the white noise of a crowd generally hollering. A little goes a long way, I suppose.

I've heard that Central Park is a really uplifting stretch! A friend ran NYC 2 years ago (I think) and she said it blew her away, how each person there seemed to be screaming and whooping it up.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Spectator Support Posted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:35 pm 

I don't have too much basis for comparison, since all the marathons I've done have had "medium" crowd support. For the most part, I do find having significant crowd support to be a boost, though. In those places where I've run a few miles of a marathon in total silence, I did feel like I was lagging a little bit.

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