How to Cheer at an Ironman Triathlon

>> Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Facebook friend who's ran a number of running races (including at least 1 marathon) did her first triathlon this summer. She did the Life Time Fitness Minneapolis Triathlon with me. (Well, not WITH me... I don't think I even spotted her out there because it's such a big race.)

Anyway, she asked me a question:

I gave her a few (boring) tips on how to spectate at IM WI.

Then I thought about what "Ironman cheering advice" I had for her. I felt like I didn't have anything great to tell her. Here's what I said:

- Pick out specific people. It's great when I hear "I LOVE YOUR YELLOW SHORTS!" Cheer for "guy in green," "miss pink shoes," and "mister white calf sleeves!"

- Don't lie. When someone says "800 meters to go" and I know that I just passed the last mile marker and it's more like 1200 meters to go, I get annoyed. [That's less of a big deal in an IM.] Say things like "nice work," "you can do this," "keep it up," etc.

- Lighten the mood. Dress funny. Cheer like a crazy person. Use humor.

I felt dumb that I didn't have any other good advice for A.W. on how to cheer at an Ironman.

So what advice do you have for her? What are some good tips for cheering at an Ironman?

Just leave a comment with your 2 cents. Thanks everyone!


My Boring Triathlon Blog 7:57 AM, August 28, 2012  

How about holding up a big sign that says:


Melissa C 8:13 AM, August 28, 2012  

I just did my first IM over the weekend. Having music and funny signs was the best. I seriously started to cry when I heard Eminem towards the end of the bike and LOVED hearing Eye of the Tiger on the run. Someone had some really lame music (IMO), but you know what, it was still music! I did like it when people cheered for me by name or number. It helped a lot. Noise. make it. Also, cheer or clap for everyone, don't just wait for your person to come by. Also, if you have the means to commondeer a large flashing traffic sign that has text on it where you can spell out a message to your athlete, DO IT! My neighbor had someone do this for her. It made me laugh. It flashed between "turn left ahead" and Go "Jennifer H #343"!

Carolina John 8:40 AM, August 28, 2012  

Kelley wished that she had prepped more. Bring a chair. Pick your spot next to the finish line early. She was more worn out at the end of the day than I was.

Amy 8:42 AM, August 28, 2012  

I love funny signs like ... Worst parade ever. But I hate when people say "you look great!" because I know I look like crap if I look great I'm not working hard enough.

Matty T 8:45 AM, August 28, 2012  

"If an Ironman was easy it would be called Your Mom"

Amytrigirl (aka Amybee) 9:06 AM, August 28, 2012  

Steve --

THANK YOU for reminding people to not say things like "you are almost there" or "so close now" etc.

Until I see the finish line banner at any race, I'm never "so close" -- especially at IM.

I knew people meant well when they told me in 2010 at WI that I was "so close" to the end, but what they didn't know is that I was only on the 1st loop (of 2) for the marathon course. I wanted to punch them, but, frankly, didn't have the strength. (not really. only written for dramatic effect!)

Stuff like "hang tough"; "you got this", "keep it up", "great work" are all good.

It is also nice for some people to be out on the very quiet stretches after 9:00 pm (when most people go to the finish line). Breaks up the monontony for us slower folks.

Hope to see you, Sarah and Henry in Madison on September 9th!

Stephen 9:25 AM, August 28, 2012  

I like hearing my name called out when I go by. Anything positive on the run helps. The bike is tougher because we wiz by so fast. More cowbell!

Christina 9:43 AM, August 28, 2012  

Cheer for everyone. Those people out in the middle of the course just cheering for everyone going by were great. Heck, even just near turn arounds. Just because someone running by on their own isn't the friend you are cheering for doesn't mean you should just stare. Every bit of motivation helps.

Definitely bring a chair, that's something my fiance and mom were wishing that had remembered.

Steve Stenzel 1:35 PM, August 28, 2012  

Oh yeah... a couple of you have mentioned a chair. That's a GREAT idea! I've always said that it's more work to cheer at and IM than to do an IM. Pharmie and I were SORE after we volunteered all day during IM 2009. (We were wetsuit strippers, then worked in T2, and finally worked at an aid station on the run until 10 pm - then we headed to watch the finishers!)

beingbelly 3:46 PM, August 28, 2012  

I spectated IMAZ 2009 - spectating an IM is an event in and of itself. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Bring clothes that will make you comfy before, during, and after the race if you won't have time to get back to your lodging. (In AZ, that meant a jacket and hat and gloves for the morning and evening, even though the day was warmer.) BRING FOOD. BRING WATER. KNOW WHERE THE BATHROOMS ARE! Charge your camera batteries. (i still feel bad about that one.)

signs like: "Run like your pants are on fire" and "You put the iron in Ironman" are great and not specific for your athlete, so you can entertain everyone. Figure out from the race map where to go, and let your athlete know where you're going to be - and then be there. for imaz, i knew where a lot of the spectators would be, and chose to distance myself by about 1/2 mile - it meant that john could actually pick me out of the crowd, which helped both of us.

I always love it when I hear "look at her! she's still smiling!" so it's great when you can pick something like that out and encourage someone. Have a great time!

Anonymous,  3:56 PM, August 28, 2012  

I, personally, hate cowbells and drunk people smoking and trying to hand you beer.

Keith 9:26 PM, August 28, 2012  

It's very situational what I want to hear during a race. Often I focus and don't pay much attention to the crowd, so when someone gets in my face it's annoying. I don't want to do the high five thing. I'm not a big fan of "good job" or "good work". I go to my job and work for a living, and get paid well for it. A race is not a job.

Advice? Find out what the people near you are saying, and say something different. Do something to acknowledge the racer, wave, make some noise, wave your sign. I'll always remember bikini girl on the way up Richter Pass, waving and smiling and kind of dancing on the spot in a distracting sort of way. That and the team cheer from the black and yellow team. They cheered everybody on, and went crazy for their team mates. That was great.

Brandon 10:04 PM, August 30, 2012  

At the Boston Marathon, I picked out specific shirts I saw and cheered specifically for them. For example, if I saw a college shirt I would yell "GO UNH!" or "YEAH GOPHERS!". Yelling a race number at mile 25 of a marathon does no one any good.

jennifer 11:59 AM, September 04, 2012  

In Nice last year and this, the cowbell was great, and those two blow up plastic sticks you hit to clap are great. You save your hands from clapping all day. Bring sunscreen, aspirin, and water. Check out the three courses before hand so you can find a spot for each. You may want to run back to transition and yell through the gates and take pictures. Definitely change places on the run course if there are gaps in the crowd so you can fill in. If you meet other spectators, find out their racers' name/number so you can keep yourself busy watching for them and cheering too.

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