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Supporting a marathon runner's goals

Marathon runners are hard core. They train for months, sometimes years, to hit the pavement and run an uninterrupted 26.2 miles. They wake up at the crack of dawn to train, they abstain from fatty foods and alcohol, and they sure don't scoff at blisters.

The rest of us are simply supporters of marathoners. And while you may think you're doing your job by standing on the sidelines holding a sign and cheering as those runners race past, you can do more than wait on the side of the road.


We surveyed seasoned marathon runners throughout the country to find out how they'd like to be supported before, during and after a race. Who knows, your role might inspire you to take to the roads someday.

Before the race


Be supportive of sacrifice.

"I give up alcohol so I don't have to deal with morning hangovers — and being tired sucks the fun out of training. I also give up dairy, wheat and fried food, which I've found slow me down and don't agree with my stomach when I'm running long distances. I also don't go out much before races because I need to get to bed early in order to train well in the morning. Please be supportive and understanding of my sacrifices, and don't give me a guilt trip when I can't go to your party or to your dinner because it interferes with my training." — Amanda Leigh Stoffey, who has run six marathons, in Boston, Phoenix and Chicago

Make Rice Krispies treats. "Everyone likes to carb-load with different foods. For me, it's Rice Krispies treats, which are easy to digest — and the sugar is a quick energy boost. I also like bananas, peanut butter and coconut water. Having these on hand at home makes it easier for me to get ready for my race." — Stoffey

Remind me. "Training is the toughest part of the marathon for me. So when I start to doubt myself, or when I start to get fed up with training, I need you to jump in and remind me of all the reasons why I'm getting up for super-early morning runs, why I'm exhausted all the time and why I push myself to keep going through the freezing temperatures, the rain and the snow when I could be sitting at home in bed nursing a hot chocolate." — Alucia Rae Scalzo, who ran three marathons, in Philadelphia, New York and Minnesota

Understand that this is short-term. "Leading up to the race, I may be crabby. I may not have the same energy as I had before and I need you to understand that this is just a phase. A marathon really changes who you are for those few months." — Bayly Bulkeley, who ran three marathons, in London and Berlin

Make the sacrifice with me. "There will be many days when I will have to skip the party. It would be really nice if you can stay in with me once in a while, so I don't always have to be alone after my run." — Bulkeley

Gather your support system. "The most important thing I need is a great support system, so let your friends know ahead of time how much it would mean for them to cheer you on. My husband rented a special camera lens so he could take great pictures. I didn't cry when I crossed the finish line, but I did cry when my husband met me afterward, because he had been so supportive." — Akiko Tarumoto, who ran three marathons, in New York and Chicago

Do short runs with me. "I run alone most of the time, but during marathon training, it was great to have someone offer to run some of the shorter distances with me, or to offer to meet up and finish a long run together." — Tarumoto


During the race

Don't count miles. "Whatever you do, avoid telling me how many miles I have left. Saying, 'You're halfway there,' or 'Only 10 more miles,' can be nerve-racking. I'm acutely aware of where I am in the race, my pace and how I am feeling." — Megan Farley, who ran nine marathons, in Boston and Chicago

Bring a bag. "Get ready for me to hand you random things that I no longer want to carry." — Farley

Carry spares. "Please carry extra gels and Shot Bloks in case I need more when I see you on the course. Sometimes, they're hard to come by when I'm running. Find out what exactly I may want to eat, drink or wear so you can have a backup waiting for me when I see you." — Jessica Bertoglio, who ran five marathons, in Boston, Chicago and Minnesota

Join me. "I love to sweet-talk one or two of my friends to jump in and run with me between miles 18 and 25. It really helps me get to the finish line. I know this is frowned upon in many marathons, so either be sneaky about it or check with the marathon organizers prior to the race."

— Farley


Let me know exactly where you'll be. "If you're there, I want to see you. But there are usually thousands of supporters there. So before the race, let me know which mile you'll be waiting for me, and which side of the street you'll be on. Even better, ask me which mile I want you there, since there are some miles where I know I'll need the support more than others." — Farley

After the race

Bring me clean clothing. "I'll probably need a change of clothing and new shoes after the race, and it would be really helpful if you gather that ahead of time, so I don't have to go home when I want to be celebrating." — Vanessa Jasek, who ran four marathons, in Arizona and Chicago

Ask me for my list. "Everyone needs different items after they finish the race. My list includes Gatorade, Clif bars, Clif shots, pancakes, a T-shirt, fleece jacket and running pants." — Eric O'Connor, who ran 12 marathons, in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and San Francisco

Rub my feet. "They're sore. They've be pounding the pavement for more than four hours. They probably look pretty gross. But it would feel so good if you gently gave me a foot massage."

— Scalzo


Pick me up. "I may be disappointed in my time. Please remind me that I just ran 26.2 miles, which is a pretty cool thing."

— Scalzo

Upcoming marathons


Oct. 9

New York:


Nov. 6

Las Vegas:

Dec. 4


Jan. 15, 2012



Jan. 29, 2012

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Los Angeles:

March 18, 2012


April 16, 2012

San Francisco:


July 29, 2012