Ask-A-Salty: Should I Ask My Friends to be Spectators?

Got a question? Just ask!
Got a question? Just ask!

We recently received a question from Jess, who is ready to race her first Ironman very soon!  (Major kudos to you!)  She has a very supportive spouse who has been with her every step of the way and plans to be there for every minute of the race.  She is wondering if she should also enlist the support of her other friends to help her through the day.  Here’s her question:

I have a big race coming up – my first Ironman. I’ve worked really hard training for it over the last year.   My question is about spectators – the race is in my home state, about an hour from the town where I live. My parents and siblings will be out of town that weekend. My husband will of course be my main cheerleader!  However, I would love to invite my close group of friends to come watch (and hopefully cheer me on!). Is it selfish to invite other friends to come spectate? Is it weird? No one has offered or even seems interested. I have attended gallery openings, public readings, concerts and other events for these friends, which I kind of view as the equivalent. What would Salty do?

First, congrats on deciding to take the ‘plunge’ and do your first Ironman!  Speaking from experience, it is truly something that you cherish as you complete each stage of the race, and don’t be surprised if you have a few tears as you run those last two miles.  They just start without any warning!

Now, here’s what I think:  absolutely, you should ask your friends to watch!  Participating in an Ironman is a challenge that few people are willing to take on, and having all the support that you can on the course will help you get through the day.  I’m not going to lie…it will be a long day and very tough, but knowing that your husband and friends are there will help keep you going.

Explain to your friends what the race is really like, and how they will see the human spirit flourish throughout the day, not just with you, but with many athletes on the course. It’s very inspiring and amazing to see the athletes experiencing a triathlon.   Do they know how many hours you’ve put into training?  Do they understand the distances of all three sports?  Perhaps if they aren’t sure of what the event really is, they aren’t sure if they should come watch?  Is it possible they may think you don’t want them there since you haven’t asked?  In my experience, I have found that many people simply don’t know what the event is really about, other than it’s a lot of miles covered within one day.  And even though it’s early, you’d be surprised how many people are willing to come cheer for you!

If you are able to go over these questions, and they still seem uninterested, consider a few other angles:

  • If they are reluctant because of travel, offer to take them out for celebratory drinks or food sometime after the race, or if you can swing it, offer to help with travel costs.
  • If there is a point during the race – let’s say mile 16 on the run as an example – that is really hard for you, explain to them that seeing a friendly face cheering your name will help pull you through those tough times.  When I did IM Florida this past year, I knew my parents and family would be at certain points on the run course, and every time I passed a mile marker, I would think to myself,  “…just one more mile til I see my mom…”  Even though I know I would only see her for a few seconds, having that focal point to keep my mind off things.  It makes a huge difference!
  • Make sure they know they don’t have to be there as early as you do!  Having people cheer for you toward the end is where it really counts anyway!

I/We really hope that you decide to ask your friends to help cheer you during your race.  If they do decide to spectate, make sure to tell them to expect some walking and a lot of standing around.  They may run into issues with road closures, so make sure they are prepared for that.  Colorful outfits and lots of noise is always great!  If they can hold signs, encourage that.

Ironman Finish
Vanilla and Mr. Vanilla even stuck around until midnight to cheer on the final finishers after her Ironman Florida race!

Here at Salty Running, we talk a lot both in our posts and amongst ourselves about the importance of having a support network when going after those race goals and PRs.  Whether it’s family, friends, significant others or co-workers, it means a lot to have a support team in your corner.  It can really mean the difference between a mediocre training session and a great one, or between a sub-par race and the most fantastic race you’ve ever run.

And if they can’t make it?  Tell them it would help to know they were following your progress online, or ask them to meet up afterward!  And know that Ironman races bring out the best spectators and feed off that energy.  People aren’t just there for their athlete, they cheer for everyone!  And of course, make sure to share our spectating advice with your husband, who you know will be out there.  And don’t be afraid to have him invite his friends too!

Good luck!  Let us know how it goes!!!

Do you ask your friends to come to your races?  Have you ever been hesitant to do so?

Native Ohioan now living in Boulder, Colorado. I love to run, tri, train, eat good chocolate, drink good rum, and laugh (a lot). I am a CPA by trade and work for Newton Running.

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