Readers Roundtable: National Anthem at Races

Does your reaction to a prerace national anthem depend on who sings it? Image via
Does your reaction to a prerace national anthem depend on who sings it? Image via

Two days ago I was standing in Central Park with Honey, packed in like sardines with 5,000 of our closest friends waiting for a NYRR race to start. In the midst of the jumping to stay loose, the stretching, the watch setting, barely anyone noticed as the national anthem was introduced. Back in the middle of the pack as we were we could hardly hear the announcer over one another’s chatter. But then those familiar marching notes strike and the angelic vocal chords of….someone…resounded: “O-o say! Can you see…”

And nothing else much changed.  The jumpers kept jumping, the chatters kept chatting, nobody took off a hat or stopped poking at a phone and someone’s watch was beeping as he clicked through settings.  I couldn’t help it. I started to giggle when I noticed the contrast between the pageantry of the race and the casual attitude of the runners.  Honey and I looked at each other and wondered out loud about the whole scene.

So this week we want to know what you do while the national anthem plays on the starting line. Do you always stop with your prerace nervous routine to place your hand over your heart and sing along or do you continue on with getting yourself race ready?  What do others around you do? Do you think the national anthem should always be sung or played before a race, or do you not care one way or the other?

As always we’ll take your answers in the comments!

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. I stop what I’m doing, take off my hat if I’m wearing one, place my hand over heart, and sing along softly. And always I get a little tear in my eye. Always.

  2. I stop what I’m doing and try to find the flag. I might sing along.
    I figure if someone thought the event important enough to merit the anthem, I’ll honor it.

  3. I shut my mouth, put my hand over my heart, and indicate to those around me to quiet (even if I am pacing). We are blessed beyond measure to live in the country that we live in, and we owe a debt of gratitude to those who fight each day to keep it so. Remember, there are many countries where you can’t safely run a race. Especially as a (gasp!) woman. One minute of your time is hardly too great a sacrifice, or a thank you.

  4. I’ll admit, I don’t usually take off my hat/visor, but I do stop what I’m doing and look for the flag. I think it’s ok to continue to stretch/bop around/etc., but I absolutely cannot stand when people talk through the anthem. It’s not that long, be quiet!

    1. I once heard someone say that the hat rule only applies to men as women risk the chance of messing up their hair. Not saying this is the truth, just something I heard that also made me laugh.

  5. I honor it but don’t get too upset if others don’t because after all, isn’t that what this country is about? Freedom of expression and speech or lack thereof?

  6. My father dedicated his career to this country. We chose to live here . If our anthem and allegiance offends anyone they should move to another country . To take a few moments to stop stretching, hoping, and whatever else you think will make you fast , to show respect to the flag of YOUR country isn’t going to hurt you or affect your pace. No one is ball and chained to this United States of America, if you don’t appreciate traditions then move . We have men and women that die for our freedom everyday, they come back with PTSD for our freedom . Stop being self absorbed brats and show some respect .

  7. I stop and participate, but only the first time they sing it. I have been to a few races where they sing the anthem for every corral!

  8. Too bad no one really paid much attention; I think the announcers mentioned that the guy singing was some sort of Broadway actor. He wasn’t bad!

    I found myself wondering about the history of singing the national anthem at races. I totally understand it at the Olympics when used to honor the medalists, and I guess I can see the relationship between the glory of sport and competition with the glory of a nation. Then, if you guess that there’s at least one 5k every weekend (probably more!) in your state, then that’s a whole lotta Star Spangled Banners!

  9. It IS a whole lot of Star Spangled Banners, Honey! That’s something I thought of this week while I was reading all these comments and wondering why I rarely see anyone like Jen, Liz or Clove at these little 5 milers. I wonder if, by hearing it at every single race, we’re a bit desensitized to them, the way I’m desensitized to a 5 miler (ie, I just caught myself referring to it as “little” when someone else might think it’s quite an accomplishment).

    And it definitely was some Broadway star! I can’t recall who, since I couldn’t hear the announcers, and I couldn’t even find it listed on the NYRR site! Maybe I’ll tweet them and ask how I can find out.