I cannot tell you the number of times I cringe when I hear someone ask me “How far is your marathon?” (A marathon is 26.2 miles, people!!! Any other distance is not a marathon.) or when a friend knows I ran a race over the weekend and they ask “Did you win?” (Wow. I’ve never heard that before. And I really thought I had a chance at winning.)
Every runner has heard annoying comments and questions like these, and recently this list of “What Not to Say to Runners” has been going around.
After I shared this on Facebook, my sister commented, “Maybe you should start a list of what TO say to runners.” I think she was joking, but she makes a good point. I have many non-runners in my life who want to be supportive, but honestly just don’t know what to do or say to show their support.
So, here is my initial list of things to say to your favorite runner, which should be timely for those of us running the Chicago Marathon next weekend.
- I hope you had a great run/race. Not “Did you win?” “Did you PR?” “Did you run a million miles?” Just acknowledge that you know they went for a run/ran a race and if they want to tell you about it, you’ve just opened up that window.
- I know you have a long run in the morning. Want to eat some pasta, not drink, and go to bed early tonight? If you have a friend or loved one training for a marathon, you’ve probably figured out that during training season, they can be pretty lame on Friday nights. Rather than either tempting them to go out or avoiding inviting them to hang out, try inviting them to do something low-key so they can still have an enjoyable Friday evening without feeling lonely, tempted, or that they’re missing out on all the fun.
- Want to meet for brunch after your run? Yes, we know you’ll still be sleeping while we’re out running double-digit mileage. But, you like brunch when you’re rolling out of bed, and we like brunch when we’re sweaty, tired, and famished. Share in our weekend running routine by meeting us out for brunch after our run, and give us something to look forward to.
- How are you feeling? Running, especially when training for a distance race, can be a huge physical and emotional roller coaster. Some days we feel great. Other days we are sore, tired, and cranky. Sometimes we feel super confident. Other days we feel emotionally exhausted, full of doubts, and frustrated that a “short” run was harder than it should be. We also know that non-runners are sick of hearing us talk about running, and we try (not always so successfully) to not talk about it too much around you. But sometimes we just need someone to ask how we’re doing. And listen.
- I’d love to come cheer you on on race day. Most runners, unless it’s their first or very important race, will not ask you to come out and cheer. But we secretly want you to. There is nothing quite like seeing a familiar face along the race course to keep you going when you’re just about ready to give up. Even seeing strangers cheer for other people can help push you along. The importance of spectators is something I never fully understood until I was in the position of the runner. But take it from me, cheering for your favorite runners means more to them than they will ever fully be able to express.
- Can I bring you anything for after the race? If you do go out to watch a race, figure out what your runner might want afterwards. Everyone wants/needs something different. For some, it’s an ice cold Gatorade. For others, an ice cold beer. Some people want something sweet. I might want a juicy cheeseburger, or a chocolate milk. Maybe it’s a sweatshirt for after the race, when the sweat starts to dry and they’re freezing cold. Or maybe it’s a pair of flip flops because all they want to do is take off those darned shoes. It’s even better if you can figure out what your runner wants and surprise them. But even if you have to ask what they might need, they’ll appreciate the fact that you’re willing to help.
- Does the race have runner tracking? A lot of the big races have runner tracking you can set up to receive text or email alerts when your runner crosses the start, finish, and several checkpoints in between. Even if you can’t make it to the race, it’s a nice way to show you care about the race and want to follow along from home. (Bonus tip: If you do follow along via runner tracking, sending a “Congrats” text when they cross the finish is a great idea. When your runner picks up their phone from gear check — or if they have it with them — it’s really exciting to get lots of congratulatory texts right away.)
- Can I give you a massage? This one is more for the significant others out there. (Or generous friends who want to treat their favorite runner to a spa gift card.) But pretty much every runner will want a massage at one time or another, and most of us are too broke from all the running shoes, apparel, and race entries to also splurge on a massage after the race.
What other things do runners want to hear from their non-runner friends?