What you should never say or do to runners during a race.

I have been taking part in running races since late 2012 – this is soon after I had started running.

And during my runs, I have noticed that volunteers and spectators generally try to be helpful when they are encouraging runners during a race, but sometimes they may not really understand that what they are saying may discourage runners rather than encouraging them.

Here are some of the things that spectators may accidentally say, to discourage runners – when in fact they may actually have good intentions and are trying to spur them on instead.

What should you say to runners during a race?

“You are almost there.”

Runners don’t really like to hear that they are “almost there” unless they are really near the finishing line.

For example, saying this soon after the starting line of a marathon or even at the halfway point, can be quite deflating. This is because you know that you are not
“almost there” so seeing or hearing something like this, only serves to remind runners of how much they still have left to go.

I understand that non-runners and spectators, in saying this, may be trying to spur runners on to keep on going, but somehow, it could come across the wrong way.

“Quit slacking”

Telling runners they are “slacking” during a race, especially those who may be at the back of the pack and are trying desperately to complete the distance, may come across as negative. This is because even though you may have good intentions and are trying to encourage runners to keep on going, when runners hear something like this during a race, it may wind them up and make them feel very demoralised that they are running so slowly.

Never tell runners they are “slacking.”

Don’t forget that not everyone is a fast runner or an Olympic runner, and so no matter how slow some runners are, they are in fact, trying their best. So you should not really be reminding them how slowly they are running.

Though you have good intentions in saying this, it could sound negative.

Instead of saying the above, you could perhaps encourage runners to ‘keep on going’ or offer them a high five along the way.

“You Look Great”

Runners know that they don’t really look great at races; even though you may be trying to tell them that they are.

More often than not, when runners run in a race, they are panting and feel like wanting to vomit, and they are soaked in sweat, their hair is messy and their faces are showing that they are in pain. I don’t think that any runner would really consider that as ‘looking great.’ So maybe saying that they look great, could come out the wrong way to runners.

Instead of this, perhaps you could perhaps tell runners they are ‘doing great’ as this would be more motivating and meaningful for them.

Offer runners alcohol.

Yes, runners may love drinking alcohol and beer; and in fact, many drink this as a celebratory beverage after a run or a marathon. But to offer runners alcohol in the middle of the race, is not exactly the best thing to do. If you want to offer them something during the race, it is best to offer isotonic drinks or flat Coca-Cola as this will give them the energy that they need to carry on.

Spectators should not offer runners alcohol.

Even sweets or gummy bears will be helpful if you want to give runners energy, as these have plenty of sugar – which they will need to carry on going.

But alcohol on the other hand, can dehydrate runners and possibly result in gastric or stomach problems if they are ingested in the middle of a race; as such, this could negatively affect a runner’s race and timing, as a result.

So save the alcohol to give to runners at the finish line – and not during the race.

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