How to Make Amazing Race Signs

imageMiles to go until the finish line, exhausted from all the miles you’ve already run, you wonder how you’re going to finish. You hear the cheers and claps from spectators and you pick up your feet a little faster. If you’re like me, though, your favorite type of support from spectators is a great race sign.

A race sign that makes me smile and laugh and, for a brief second, forget the pain I’m in. When I’m tired and losing motivation on the course, seeing someone who took the time to make an incredibly creative and witty race sign, reminds me that running is fun and motivates me to finish strong.

Conversely, lame signs make me sad. Why take the time to make a race sign if you’re not going to do it right? Here are some tips and ideas on how to make great race signs for your friends, family, other loved ones, and, the best of all, for all runners.

Race Sign Format

If you want to make a sign, you want it to be seen by really tired, possibly angry and out of it people, and if you want it to be seen by said pre-zombies, you better make it stand out. Here’s what you need to do:

1. High contrast. You want the words or photos to stand out from the background, so that means you need high contrast, which makes a sign easy to read quickly. I can’t tell you how many signs I never read because the person chose low contrast colors. If in doubt, use a white background with black letters. Works every time. You might be thinking, “But it’s boring!” What would you rather have? No one being able to read your sign? If you must use colors, think neon on a neutral background or opposites on the color wheel (e.g. orange letters on a blue background).

2. Big Letters. This is one of those times where BIGGER really is BETTER. Bigger = READABLE.

3. Thick Letters. It’s not just the inches, but the thickness matters too. Thicker = READABLE.

4. Block Letters. If you’re making block letters, fill in the space. Otherwise it’s hard to read.

5. Keep it Brief. Brevity is the soul of wit. You’re not writing War & Peace here. You can to get your idea across in as few words as possible. Think about your message and see if you can pare down the words.


What to write for your sign? You can do the oldies, but goodies like:

Run like you stole something!

Your feet hurt ’cause you’re kicking ASS-phalt!

Chafe now, drink later!

I prefer topical signs for their wit and relevance. When I make signs, this is where I go for race sign inspiration:

  • Current Events. This is by far my favorite way. I go for what’s in the headlines:


At the 2015 NYC Marathon, I made these Trump signs that were a YOOOOGE hit!
  • Pop Culture. Reference to a summer blockbuster or a hit song can make your sign:

    This is Where the NYC Marathoners Come From.
Cheddar Bay Biscuits for carb-loading WIN!
This one needs a little formatting help, but you get the idea: Cheddar Bay Biscuits FTW!
  • Go Local. Use something unique about the location of the race:

    A Local Helpfully Points Out a Faster Way to the Finish Line
    A Local Helpfully Points Out a Faster Way to the Finish Line at the Brooklyn Half.
  • Interactive. Giving and receiving high fives aren’t the only ways to interact with spectators. Make a sign or even a giant cardboard wall that inspires runners to participate in something other than wallowing in self-pity.
Permission granted from
Taking a beer shot while running is fun (as long as you're gunning for a PR)
Taking a beer shot while running is fun (as long as you’re not gunning for a PR)
This might be too interactive.
This might be too interactive. And he failed the block letters lesson.
  • Memes. Honestly this is probably the most fun way to make a race sign. There are so many memes and you can do so much. I made a bunch through Meme Generator. It was way too much fun. I should have been working instead.


Stalker SR


What kind of race signs do you like the best? What are some of your all time favorites?

I'm an academic, a runner, and a New York cliché. I write about the science of exercise, training, and the culture of running. My current goals are a sub-23:00 5K (achieved on 4/22/17 with 22:48) and a sub-1:45 HM (achieved on 10/1/17). Now what?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I love this post! My favorite race sign of all time is no longer topical, but still makes me smile: “If Britney can make it through 2007, you can make it through this race.” Other faves include “Blisters are Braille for awesome” and just plain, “Suck It Up, Princess”. The latter is one that my friends hold at races all time, but it’s extra funny/effective if you have a child hold it or prop it up on a stroller.

    To add to your list, I don’t like ones are too gross, as in taking the innuendo or the toenail talk too far. I’m already pushing it to the limit, so I don’t want to toss my cookies thinking about chafing, blisters or toenails. I also like series of signs that build on each other, if you have a group somewhat spaced out.

  2. I really loved the “Not Impressed” signs with McKayla Maroney in 2012. It was hysterical when I saw it at Mile 12 of the marathon portion of an Ironman (I was spectating).