Does My Cowbell Annoy You? Tips for Race Spectators

I’m not racing tomorrow. This is the first time I haven’t raced South Riding Triathlon in 3 years and it feels strange. But, at the same time, it gives me a great opportunity to cheer on my TPR teammates and I will be out in full force on the bike course with my flag and cowbell, at the bottom of a short hill that comes right after a turn, and you bet I’ll be yelling at people to move it! There will be some “motivational” chalk messages on the road to help those who need the extra boost, too.

Because spectating is a sport in itself and there are some who could do with training, here are my six tips on how to be a good race spectator.

1. You Don’t Know Me But Cheer for Me Anyway!

Some spectators only cheer for their “person.” They make a special sign, drive goodness-knows-how far to the race site, stand for possibly hours, all to say “Go, [insert name]!” when said person passes them. The rest of the time they stand, silently, staring at the other racers, occasionally muttering “when will he be here? I think I see him! Go!…oh no, that’s not him…maybe a few more minutes…” Seriously, how boring must this be? As a racer, I find it slightly annoying but mostly funny to pass these types of spectators. They can’t be having any fun. So, if you’re coming out to a race to cheer on your person, cheer for everyone else, too. We really liked to be cheered on by people we don’t know. Makes us feel like celebrities!

2. Lie To Me

I know I look like shit. I know I’m sweaty and gross and have drool coming from my mouth and look like I’m gonna pass out any minute, but lie to me and tell me “looking good!” or “looking strong!” Because it really makes a difference. You may step back while saying this so you don’t have to smell me.

3.  Stay the Hell Out of My Way

I mean this in the nicest way, but please, stay back. If you get too close I may freak out, especially if I’m on the bike, and you don’t want to be responsible for a wreck. Also, please don’t run across the road right in front of me. If it’s late in the race I cannot possibly swerve to avoid you, as my body refuses to respond to sudden commands, and if it’s early you’re gonna cause me to break my stride and that’s equally dangerous.

4. Make Some Noise!

I love cowbells, so ring yours to your heart’s content. In consideration of fellow spectators who may not like them so much, I recommend switching locations from time to time. At Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in April there was a man with a very loud gong near the end of the race and all I could think was, “Dear God, those poor people standing near him!” So be loud and proud but move around!

5. Please Don’t Use the Portapotty Prior to the Race

Look, I know you have needs, but if at all possible, please could you hold it until the race starts? You’ll have the potties all to yourself then. It’s really hard to wait an eternity in line only to see a non-racer emerge from my special pre-race place.

6. Thank You.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being a spectator. You have no idea (well, maybe you do) how much spectators mean to racers. Without you it’s just like a training event that costs money. So please keep coming out, cheering for us, waving your signs, ringing your cowbells, and banging your gongs. I love it.

Do you have other tips for spectators? How about tips for racers? 


  1. I couldn’t agree more! Well, except for the ‘lie to me’ part…please don’t tell me I’m fast when everyone has just passed me. Tell me I look strong instead, or that I’ve got this, or something. I love noisy spectators 🙂

    Oh, one thing I love: offer me a high five! It has magical energetic properties!
    TriGirl recently posted..I’ve Never Had the Best Sense of Direction: ChelanMan Sprint Tri (the swim)My Profile

  2. Definitely agree about the high-five! And Nos. 2 & 5 can’t be emphasized enough!
    Dave N. recently posted..Leesburg 20K Race ReportMy Profile

  3. I love these tips! It drives me crazy when people wait for the one person they know to start cheering. And staying out of the way is critical too!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Two magic words for running (and life)My Profile

  4. Love it! I agree with it all except I hate when people tell me I look good or look strong when I’m not having a good race.

    I love reading all the funny signs, let’s my mind wander. And with the bathrooms, let runners go in front of you before and during the race!

    • Racingtales says:

      Thanks, Jen. Seems you’re not the only one who doesn’t want to be lied to…I guess that’s just me! Yes, funny signs will have me giggling for ages…

  5. Love, love, LOVED reading these tips! So funny, yet so true. And to all the race spectators that have high-fived my sweaty self during a race – thank you!
    Gina @ Noshing on Asphalt recently posted..Week 7 Training Recap, a Winner, & IsaacMy Profile

  6. Great tips! I came upon a non-cheering bunch at a race recently. It was SO weird to have them sit there in silence as I ran by. Geez! Love me some cowbell!

    • Racingtales says:

      Yes, it’s definitely weird, like you’re not really there. What’s worse is when their person is right behind you and they start hooting and hollering as you go by and you realize it’s not for you!!!

  7. I love this! Seriously, why come and just cheer for 1 person. You’re there, so cheer for everyone;) Totally agree about the potties!
    Hikermom recently posted..Motivation MondayMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Thanks, Rachelle! It certainly seems a waste to me, when people cheer only for one person. Mind you, I have a sore throat from cheering for everyone yesterday!

  8. After a 5k last weekend, I thought about the cheerleaders along the route. We need more of them!

  9. Great advice! I ran my first half in April and didn’t expect the impact the spectators would have on me during the run. A huge amount of support and motivation. I loved reading the signs people created…my favorite… “You trained longer than Kin Kardashian’s marriage!!” hahaha 🙂

    There was one lady who wa cheering everyone on so passionately. I saw her twice on the course and she was exerting just as much energy as us running. But she was offering high fives and was a huge help at mile 11 for me and I have no idea who she was.

    • Racingtales says:

      That’s a funny sign! So true that spectators can make all the difference; the energetic ones are amazing!

  10. Haha – love this list. One race I kept hearing people cheering and actually calling my name – they were all reading names off bibs. It was so wonderful. Gave me the biggest smile.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Hitting the Wall & Spaghetti Squash and "Meatballs"My Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      The first time I had a bib with my name on it (MCM 2006) someone called out my name and I turned around to see who it was! Total stranger! It was odd at first but now I’m used to it – although it still makes me feel like a celebrity!

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