I ran my first marathon on Sunday in the Twin Cities, and it was exhilarating. From the moment the gun went off until the second I crossed the finish line, I engaged fully in the experience. The race marked my 11th timed race (last year’s Sandy’s Donut Run was just an excuse to eat a donut immediately after running) since I took up the sport four years ago.
Running 26.2 miles offers plenty of time to soak up your surroundings; a beautiful course winding around lakes and down tree-lined streets provided plenty of gorgeous scenery.
But no matter how beautiful the landscape was, I focused more on the spectators along the route. I found myself pleasantly surprised by the sheer volume of supporters who cheered for runners, and I discovered myself being buoyed by their encouragement. Often, that encouragement came from signs those spectators held, and I laughed to myself on more than one occasion when a particularly clever sign caught my attention.
Making signs to support runners doesn’t involve much: tagboard, markers, and a dash of creativity. Here’s my take on the types of support signs you’ll see at a long-distance race:
From the “Worst Parade Ever” to “Run Faster I Just Farted” to “Smile If You Peed A Little,” these signs are common along every race route. They don’t require much creativity, and while some runners may get a kick out of them, they aren’t the best use of a tree and Sharpies.
Also in this category: “This is a lot of work for a free banana” and “You are nowhere near the end.” I’m running 26.2 miles; I don’t need a reminder of how crazy this seems… because I already know.
My favorite sign along the route was “If Donald Trump can make it to the primaries, you can make it to the state capitol.” I actually burst out laughing when I saw this one (I also spotted it early in the race, when my spirits and energy level were soaring.)
Don’t forget about “You Are Running Better Than The Government.” I’d never seen that sign before, so I had a good chuckle about it.
I also got a kick out of the “Runners Lives Matter” because it flew in the face of the Black Lives Matter protest that had been announced early in race week. Oh, and I can’t forget the sign that read “Why not run 26.3 miles? Because that would be crazy!” Excellent point.
I saw many signs that shouted “Your perspiration is my inspiration” or “We are so proud of you” or “You are amazing,” and they truly lifted my spirits (until the next hill, that is. No sign was going to make me feel better about a hill at mile 23.) Even if the sign included someone else’s name, I didn’t mind. Spectators may think they are supporting only one runner, but every runner feels encouraged after seeing those signs.
My husband race-chased the entire marathon, and he said he saw one woman visibly touched when she saw the sign he was holding that read “Your Strength > This Slope. You Rock”. Because we do.
The Oldies But Goodies
This is where I place “Go Random Stranger Go,” “All Toenails Go to Heaven” and “Chafing the Dream” because they are common but unoffending. As I just mentioned, I can look at a sign with someone else’s name on it and feel cheered for. When I see “Go Random Stranger Go,” I know I am that random stranger, and I’ll take it. Additionally, combining positive thoughts with the stark reality of the havoc running wreaks on your body is a goodie in my book.
I also loved “Humpty Dumpty Had Wall Issues Too.” The dreaded wall is the bane of a marathoner’s existence, and anything that encourages you to push past it is gold. Plus, it’s funny.
These are my favorite because they can be so unexpectedly touching. When I saw “You Can Run Slower Tomorrow When No One Is Watching” I thought, Yes, I can. I never have to do this again. Tomorrow I can lay on the couch and watch Netflix all day, but right now, I am running this marathon.
I also loved “Dreams Come True in 26.2” and “Running Requires a Crazy Person, But Running a Marathon Take a Special Kind of Crazy.” Running a marathon hasn’t been a dream of mine, per say, but it ended up on my bucket list in 2012 shortly after I became a runner. And do I think that running a marathon is crazy? I sure do. But it’s also the most gratifying, gut-wrenching, I-can-do-anything-I-put-my-mind-to kind of crazy. That’s the best kind of crazy in my book.
I saw “Remember Why You Are Running” just before I hit the mid-point, and thinking about all the reasons I started running in the first place pushed me the next couple of miles. People run for many reasons: to lose weight, to feel great about themselves, to prove that they can do it, to inspire people, to inspire themselves…I run for all of those reasons. And that reminder was exactly what I needed.
I saw the sign that read “When Your Legs Get Tired, Run With Your Heart” early on, but I didn’t really think about it until after mile 19 when I was crossing the bridge into St. Paul. My legs were beyond tired at that point, and my feet were screaming for me to stop moving, but I pushed forward.
I gave my heart to this race back in February when I signed up for it, and I left a piece of my heart on the sidewalks around Fargo during every long run when I would have rather been sitting at home with my family watching Thomas the Train. I refused to listen to the voice in my head telling me to stop.
And I’m proud I didn’t. Because of all the signs I saw along the route, the best sight was the faces of my family members cheering for me as I crossed that finish line.