August 24, 2014

How to support your runner

(Click here to skip down to the tips for supporting and encouraging your runner)

I spent pretty much all day cleaning the house and packing for our vacation. But I knew that my little younger brother, Nathan (I really need to quit calling him my "little" brother, haha) was going to be running his furthest distance to date: 15 miles. Now, I just wrote yesterday about my ridiculously humid run, and how I ran out of water. I ended up calling my mom to bring me some water. I certainly didn't want Nathan to deal with that today.

I sent him a text to ask what time he was planning to run, and he said 4:00 pm. So I asked him for his route, and told him that I would plan to meet him at around mile 6 and again at around mile 11, with ice cold water to refill his water bottle. He hasn't slept much in days, and ended up sleeping through his alarm this afternoon, so he got a late start. He called me at 5:00 to say he was going to eat a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then head out. He ended up starting his run at 5:15.

It was hot today--around 80 degrees when he started, but the humidity was awful, and a lot of his route was with full sun exposure. So I tried to think of everything he might need--I packed a 32 oz. water bottle full with ice, and then topped with water, so that it would be super cold. I grabbed a Gu and a pack of Shot Bloks. Finally, I got my secret weapon: a popsicle.

When I ran the Chicago Marathon, a spectator happened to be handing out popsicles at the 18th mile of the race. I grabbed one as I passed by, and the only way I can describe it was that it was PURE BLISS--it was heavenly. In that moment of the marathon, there couldn't have been anything else that would have satisfied me the way that popsicle did! I think of that often, and how I'd love to be the spectator handing them out one day.

Anyway, I bought some popsicles so I could bring Nathan one. I used an insulated bag to put everything in, and added a few cold packs to keep everything ice cold. I checked Nathan's route, and figured out a good spot to meet him, which was around mile 7.

When he got there, I poured the ice water into his hydration pack, and unwrapped a popsicle for him (I always look for mango popsicles, because I think that's what I had in Chicago, but I can't find them; so I got cantaloupe and honeydew melon ones instead). He said he was doing good, but the first few miles were bad. He had thrown up his PB&J sandwich after a few miles--probably from eating too soon before the run in the heat.

He said he still had Gu, and he was pretty sure he'd be good with the water he had until he made it to my parents' house (he was running from his house to my parents' house, which is exactly 15 miles). I just told him to call me if he needed anything. I picked up some beer from the store on the way home, so I could put it in my parents' fridge for him. (There is nothing like a cold beer after a long, hot run! It's secondary only to a mango popsicle.)

My mom suggested that we take the kids to cheer him on a few miles away, so the kids made signs, and we started driving to where we expected him to be. At the last minute, I decided to stop at home, and throw on my running shoes, so I could run the last few miles with him. After a quick pitstop, we found him running about 2.5 miles away from my parents' house. We got out of the car, and the kids brought their signs next to the road as Nathan came by.

I joined him for the last part, and I'm not going to lie--running a 9:50-ish pace actually felt really difficult today, even though I was only doing 2.5 miles! I felt bad for slowing him down, but he didn't mind. Probably because he knew I had cold beer waiting for him at my parents' house ;)

It was great! I finished the run with Nathan, and he crossed a new milestone off his list. We sat on the back deck by the lake and had a beer, before he had to go so he could take his girlfriend out for dinner.

When we were in the car to go cheer on Nathan, my mom said that she never would have thought to do this when I was training for my first marathon, because she just didn't know about how to support a runner. My sister and her husband said something similar when they were training for their first marathon--that they had no idea how hard it was, or how big of a deal it was, until they did it themselves.

If they had known, they would have done whatever they could to support me when I did my first. So today, I had the idea to made some suggestions for non-runners to support their friends or family members that are training for a big race:

*Keep in mind that a new distance is a very big deal to the runner! Their first 5K, 10K, 10-miler, half-marathon, 14-miler, and each distance up from that. The 20-miler is something that most runners feel very nervous about while training for their first marathon, but is a huge accomplishment. Every time we hit a new furthest distance, it's exciting.

*Offer to help however you're able to during their long runs. Long runs can be really tough, mentally and physically. Run a few miles with them, or meet up with them halfway to give them water or cheer them on. Seeing a familiar face midway through a run is awesome, and gives us a mental boost!

*Go to a race to cheer on your runner. You can make a sign, bring a cowbell, bring a cooler full of popsicles(!), hand out candy (Twizzlers are easy to grab and run with), and yell and cheer for all the runners. Some people don't have friends/family there to cheer them on, so it's nice to have crowd support. The louder the better!

*This may be a little overboard (and we don't "expect" it), but having a party or even a small get-together after a big race like a marathon would be really special. Running one's first marathon is a REALLY big deal, but non-runners usually don't realize just how much it means to the runner to have lots of support during training, during the race, and especially celebrating afterward.

*Calling or sending a quick text to say "Good luck at your race today!" or "How was your race today?" goes a long way, too. It makes us feel good to know that you care enough to remember that we had a big race that day.

Stephanie is running a half-marathon this morning!

*Finally, runners like to talk about running... a lot. As a big race approaches, it may be a little annoying to listen to it all the time, but try to remember how much it means to him or her. Running a first marathon is a huge event, so it's only natural that we want to talk about it. I try not to bore my non-running friends/family members with running talk, but when I was training for my first marathon, it pretty much took over my life for a while.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas for helping to support your runner!

Well, we are leaving for vacation tomorrow, so I am not sure when my next post will be. I will have very limited internet (and no phone service) in Punta Cana, so I may not write for a while. It's going to be strange going off the grid like that, but I'm looking forward to doing pretty much nothing but relaxing on the beach!


  1. Great post! And Punta Cana sounds wonderful right about now, enjoy it!

  2. Fantastic post! I ran my first 20 miler yesterday. Not only was it my longest run to date, it was under "excessive heat warning." I started my run at 4:30 AM to avoid a lot of the sunlight hours. It was tough! I couldn't agree more. Being the only runner in my family, most people don't understand. I almost feel like they have no concept of how far 20 miles really is! They certainly don't have a concept of what it really does to your body.

    Good for you to support your brother! I love how you and all of your siblings so strongly support each other!

    Have a wonderful vacation!

  3. I love this post! It may be my favorite one you've ever written! I am just starting to get into the whole running thing but I have a lot of runner friends -- one is running his first full marathon at the end of September and a few others are doing the half marathon. This is all great to know!

  4. Awesome post. Most of my friends and pretty much none of my family are runners, so I was thinking about how I needed to talk about this kind of thing. I did finally tell my husband that I'd like him to be at the finish of my upcoming half-marathon.

    Those long runs do suck...11 miles today, and after 8 miles I really could've used a pick-me-up.

    Have a great time on vacation!

  5. Thanks for sharing the ideas. And it's so,easy to take it and "hint" to our supporters. :) have a super vacation!

  6. I hope you have a wonderful vacation! Enjoy!

  7. You are so thoughtful and amazing! This is a great list of ideas. I am sharing this with my husband and other friends who are beginning runners.

  8. This was a great post! Thanks for the tips. Enjoy your vacation!


  9. Great read on a Monday Morning

  10. We have some runners in the family, so I'll be sharing your post! Super helpful information!!

    Have a great trip!

  11. I love everything about this post. Family members/friends/spouses/whoever really don't know how to support a new runner if they've not been in that position before!

    Awesome tips. And you are awesome for all the support you give to the runners in your life!

  12. I hope your trip was/is awesome. (I'm not sure when you are getting back.) I want to bookmark this post . . . I was going to run my first marathon this October, but plantar faciitis had different plans for me. However, I still have that goal in mind for sometime in 2015 and I would like to share this post with my family. None of them are runners and I have had pretty much no support for any of my milestones. A marathon is such a big deal, I want them to celebrate with me.


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