- Assemble your supporters kit. You'll need drinks and snacks for yourself, as you may not have time to find a cafe and races are often early morning before stores are open. Sometimes you'll be in industrial parts of town with no stores anyway. You might also want to pack a few of your runner's favorite snacks, and their preferred sports drink, just in case they decide to use you as a pit-stop. I also strongly recommend you carry some basic first aid for the same reason - during the 1998 New York Marathon my runner was desperate for an indigestion remedy. Ask them if there's anything else they might need; pain relief, dry socks, wet wipes, sunglasses, and so on. I like to have some hand sanitizer too, as you may not see a proper restroom all day. And last but not least, get yourself a rattle, whistle, or some other noise-generator. If you take your duties seriously, you'll be cheering for all the runners, not just the guy or gal you know, and this will be a welcome boost to your tonsils.
- After the race, your runner may be in greater or worse shape depending on how experienced they are and how it went. Don't expect to get too much sense out of them, don't look to them for big decisions, and don't be offended if they talk a load of rubbish at you. Get some photos, get their kit bag, if possible get some liquid or food down them, and get them out of there. I don' t recommend letting your runner drive home, even if they claim they're up to it. It's not unusual for folk to feel faint after 26 miles, so keep an eye on them, and keep reminding them to drink.
- If you see other runners who are on their own and appear to be in distress, don't be shy about asking them if they need any help. A loaned cell-phone, spare water or snack bar can make a world of difference to those not lucky enough to have a dedicated support crew. Don't hesitate to call emergency services if they're not lucid enough to talk to you or sit up.
- And finally, try not to get so caught up in the excitement and pride in your runner's achievement that you sign up for a marathon yourself. I learned this last tip the hard way... the 26.2 mile way. If you'd like to join my support crew, I'd love to see you in Napa in March 2010.
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7 years ago