Cheering for the Team: A Cheer Guide for Spectators

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Cheering for the Team: A Cheer Guide for Spectators

By: Kim Bergeron, Pace & Mind Runner

It takes a lot of determination, focus and strength to get through a race. At one point everything will hurt, you may doubt yourself or start thinking about dropping out. One thing that help runners get through it all is the support the immense boost you get from being cheered on by complete strangers. As a runner I am always grateful for the people who travel, wake up early and share their energy with us crazy people. But when I’m not running, I have an opportunity to give back and be that person trying to motivate my fellow runners. As the spring racing season is well under way, here is a guide for race spectators to make the most out of your experience.

Call out their name

Most races print out the name of the runner  or the name created by them directly on the bib. Call it out with some words of encouragement., e.g. “Go! Carl”, “Keep running Mary!”, “Way to go Hot Dog Man!”

Bring props

Anything that is colourful or makes noise works: balloons, inflatable cheering sticks, whistles, flags, banners. You may want to try cowbells or horns, but remember the noise will follow you in your sleep that night. Also, runners love to read signs along the way to break the monotony. Make your own poster with a message you would like to see yourself if you were racing such as “Looking Good, You rock”, “Don’t quit, you got this”, “Pain is temporary, bragging rights are forever”, “You look hot when you are sweating”, “There’s beer at the finish line”, “If you collapse I’ll pause your Garmin”.

Here is an example of a cheer sign by my team mate Christa Davidson using one of Coach Rejean’s classic quotes:

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Prayers won’t help you now.

Cheering squad

The more the merrier. Make a party of out this for yourself and bring some friends, your dog, your neighbours kids to cheer along with you. If you are an injured runner, take this opportunity to win a PB in cheering! Be loud, be visible, have fun. I’m fortunate to run with a crazy group of ‘hooligans’ at Pace & Mind who are all about supporting each other.

Plan ahead

Figure out each runners goal time to be on the look out at the right time. You don’t want to assume someone is running slower and think you’ve missed them. Then you may start to worry for no reason that something happened. Keep in mind it may take a few minutes for a runner to cross the starting line depending on the size of the race, make sure you account for this in your calculation. Or simply be on the lookout for the pacers.

Lace up

Since the race course can be very long, allow enough time to go from one cheering zone to another. Even better, if course allows it, bring your own running gear and try to catch the runner at different spots. This will give them a surprise motivational boost if they don’t expect to see you more then once during the race.

It’s not over until it’s over

Unless you’re right next to the finish line, don’t yell, “Almost there”, “Not far to go.” or “Run faster”. Trust me, runners don’t want to hear that phrase unless they are about to cross the finish line.

It’s also not a good idea to yell out a specific distance such as, “5k to go,” unless you’re 100% certain that the number is the correct distance to the finish line (if you happen to be standing next to a km marker, for instance). Giving out the out wrong information, will only frustrate, confuse, or disappoint the runner you are trying to motivate.

Treats at the end

After passing through the Finish, runners are usually high spirited, exhausted and very emotional. Bring them treats, towels, their favorite drink along with lots of sweaty hugs and high fives to celebrate. Better yet, plan a party or a greasy meal that afternoon to acknowledge their accomplishment.

All throughout the race, runners will push through their limits. Seeing their faces with a determined, defeated or enthusiast look can only inspire you. They may not acknowledge you but they know you are there and certainly appreciate it. Cheering for the team is crucial to making the experience of the race memorable for the runner. If anything, you’ll have a good time as well doing it and know that next time they’ll be cheering for you.

About Pace & Mind

Pace & Mind is an advanced coaching service for runners. We offer advanced and highly customized 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon coaching for runners to improve their performance both on and off the road. Our coaching is based on the principles founded by Head Coach and Co-founder Rejean Chiasson, a Canadian marathon champion, 4x half-marathon medalist and NIKE+ NRC Coach. He is supported by our Online Run Coach, Kate Van Buskirk, an internationally accomplished track and field athlete, bronze medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Brooks Elite Ambassador. Unlike traditional ‘cookie-cutter’ or ‘clinic’ approaches to coaching, our Coaches first assesses, then customizes each runner’s training program based on:


Coaching programs are powered by TrainingPeaks software to ensure data accuracy. No runner’s program is the same and it constantly changes season by season, cycle by cycle. Our Coaches review your plan in detail each week, then adjust based on your progression and listens to you in terms of changes in nutrition, mental state and cross training efforts. Each runner also receives a cross-training plan and a racing singlet as part of the program.

You have one life to live. Run for your life.


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