How to Support a Marathoner


We’re only a week out from the Chicago marathon. If your friend is among the 40,000 runners approaching the start line next week, we’re here to help you be the best friend and spectator ever. Here are five things you can do to support a marathoner leading up to race day.

1. Help your runner embrace the taper

In most training schedules, mileage peaks three weeks out before the big day. The following weeks leading up to marathon day consist of shorter runs and built up nerves, also known as the taper. Many runners have mixed feelings about tapering. Some embrace the shorter mileage after months of hard training, while others get nervous they aren’t doing enough. A week before the marathon, a lot of runners experience “taper madness” and start to second guess their training.

To help your friend avoid taper madness, embrace it with him. Assist in the sacred act to preparing the running playlist for race day or go to a recovery yoga class together. Offer to hang out and watch movies or cook dinner together – pretty much do anything to get him out of his own head and worries about race day.

2. Join team #CarbLoad

You don’t have to be a runner to be able to eat like one. Offer to help make a pre-race pasta meal or take your runner out and treat her to dinner. If you’re going the restaurant route, reservations are recommended – especially if it’s the night before a big race when many runners are in town. While you’re at it, feel free to distract your runner by discussing (greasy, fatty) post-race food options (and it doesn’t hurt to make a reservation for that, too).

3. Offer to go on a shake-out run

A day or two before race day, many runners go on a short run to shake out their limbs and their nerves. This run is only a handful of miles (usually 1-3) and is slower than race pace. If you’re feeling up to a quick pre-race jaunt, offer up your morning to go on a shake-out run with your friend.

Before my first ultramarathon, Kristen volunteered to wake up early on a Friday morning to run a few miles with me. We jogged along the lakefront path and she helped calm my nerves and reignited my excitement about race day. It was exactly what I needed from a friend. If you’re willing and able, a shake-out run is a fun way to help your friend prepare for the big day.

4. Keep it positive

At some point, your crazy runner friend is bound to experience some self-doubt, especially if this is his first marathon. It’s easy for this self-doubt to spiral into excuses and worries, and when this happens, be prepared with positive responses. For instance, when your friend says, “I just didn’t train as well as I should have,” consider responding with, “you did a great job in your training, and nobody follows it perfectly. You’re going to do great and I can’t wait to see you cross that finish line.”

Focus on the achievement instead of any shortcomings and keep things on a high note when you can.

5. Do your spectating research

Your runner has a lot to think about on race day, from what she is going to wear to how she is getting to the starting line. The last thing on her mind is planning your route to spectate. The more questions you can look up and get answers to yourself (race websites are a great place to start), the smoother it will be for everybody on race day. Most races also have runner tracking, which will help you stay on track with your runner’s progress.

Before race day, come up with your post-finish line game plan (including where to meet and if they want you to bring anything – like a bajillion ibuprofen) and give them an idea of where you will be on the course. It’s usually easier for your runner to find you at a pre-determined intersection than it is for you to see them in a sea of runners.


Do you have any other suggestions? Share them with us in the comments!

Endurance Move

About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.