Train Like a Mother: Best and Worst Things Heard at Races

A great thing to hear at the end of a race--or to say to your legs + lungs during one.

If it’s Friday, that must mean it’s time for another installment of Take It From a Mother, the excerpts that didn’t make it into the bright—and I do mean b.r.i.g.h.t.—orange book we like to call Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. This was a tough one to dump because the good ones were so good, and the bad, so bad.

Take It from a Mother: What is the best or worst thing you’ve heard said at a race?

“I overheard a police officer working my 12K say something about ‘a few stragglers coming.’ Gee, thanks.”
—Anjeanette (despite the negative comment from the man in blue, ran her first 12K race with a smile on her face)

“A father, in front of me, told his son, just behind me, that he could not let a girl beat him. I thought that was tacky." (Ed note: we agree.)
—Autumn (dreams of running in the English countryside)

TLAM: It's what's for breakfast.

“Just past the starting line, I heard my own mother yelling, ‘You only have 12.9 more miles to go.’” —Christy (repeats “It’s now or never” to motivate herself to get out the door)

“After a race, a young man thanked me for pushing him to run harder. He may not have wanted to finish behind an older woman, but he made me smile because we helped each other to the finish line.” —Gina (proudest racing moment: running the See Spot Run 5K with her husband and 3 kids)

“During my last leg of Hood to Coast, someone yelled ’only two blocks to go’ when really it was almost a mile. I wanted to cry.”
—Jessica (a doctor who gets up at 4:00 a.m. to run the roads of Billings, MT)

“An overweight lady in her late 50s/early 60s running the home stretch of a race was yelling, ‘I did it! I ran the whole thing! I made it!’  The crowd went crazy for her as she finished. She set a goal, and everyone there saw her accomplish it.”
—Jill (dream running date: an oceanside run with a shirtless Ryan Reynolds)

“A woman yelled for my attention, and when I looked her way, she said, ‘I love that smile on your face right now. Great job.'”
—Julie (counts backwards from 120 to push through a rough patch; that doesn’t work, walks for 60 seconds to power the rest of her run)

“Our two kids ran onto the course to finish a marathon with me and my husband. It was a great moment until we heard, ‘Here come Peter and Michelle. It looks like they have their grandkids with them, or maybe 3 generations.’  I guess we looked pretty bad, but, at 33, I don’t think we looked like grandparents.”
—Michelle (“My kids think of me as a runner. It is all they know, and I am proud of that.”)

“’Go Shorty!’ And I’m only 5 feet tall.”
—Karen (paints her toenails black before a race because she thinks it makes her run faster)

“Around mile 11 of my half-marathon, some dude started running by me and told me, ‘You’ve got this…you did this!’ It helped.”
—Darcy (after she fell down the stairs and dislocated her shoulder, she couldn’t run for two months)

“I don't like it when people yell at you to go faster. At my first and only half, there was this woman barking at people to pick it up around mile 11.”
—Lindsey (would rather shove a hot fork in her eye than run on a treadmill)

“I hate hearing, ‘You’re almost there.’ I want to yell back, ‘No kidding. I can add!’”
—Melanie (speaks for all mother runners here)

 Now we're taking it to you mothers: What's the best or worst thing you've heard at a race?


54 responses to “Train Like a Mother: Best and Worst Things Heard at Races

  1. At my first half (and only so far) the marathoners ran the same route for the first 3 miles or so, then split off. At that point there was a woman holding a sign that had an arrow pointing our way that said “Crazy” and an arrow pointing the marathon way saying “Insane.” Made me smile.

  2. At about mile 5 of Chicago’s Hot Chocolate 15k, I overheard a girl ask the guy she was running with, “So, how long is a 15k?” The guy replied, “I don’t really know, I think it is like 10 miles or something.” To which the girl said, “No, I think it is like 7…we’re almost done.”

  3. Worst Thing: I scheduled back-to-back 5k’s for my boys to run with me. After the first one, I asked my 14-year-old if he was going to run the next day. He replied “I stopped three times to throw-up in the woods”. I guess that would be a “No”.

    Best Thing: Same races, second day. My 17-year-old, who runs about an 19 minute 5k, stayed with me the whole way, walking and jogging. I kept telling him he could take off but he kept saying “I’d rather run with you, mom”. It doesn’t get much better.

  4. My friend Bobbi and I ran a 10 K Turkey Trot together. We were right behind a couple of ladies and one of them was telling the other about how she was unusually and joyfully reunited with her bikini waxer. It was the funniest 1.5 miles I’ve gotten the chance to eavesdrop in on.

  5. Worst thing – “you can do it.”. I may look bad but I can definitely do it. How about a “you look great” even if I don’t?

  6. A sign that said something similar to :

    A day will come where you will not be able to do this race….this is not that day.


  7. One of my favorites: “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”
    and I love seeing kids with signs that say “Go Mom”. Even if they’re not my own children, I run a little faster thinking of my babies.
    My husband is making a sign for my next marathon that says “It’s okay to poop your pants”. I’m pretty sure that’s not for my benefit, just to make people laugh.

  8. Last year’s Susan G Komen 5k-
    Funny: You run like a GIRL!
    I loved it and all the other “girls” running with me did too!
    Inspirational: the women’s choir at a church on the route sang as we all ran by. I never thought I’d ever clap to music while I ran but I just couldn’t help that AMEN moment. 🙂

  9. I saw some great signs at the Disneyland Tinkerbell Half that really motivated me:

    One was a proud husband with a very young baby in a stroller. The stroller had a sign on it that said “Run faster, Mommy! My diaper needs changing!”

    Another sign said “There has GOT to be a better way to see Disneyland!”

    And my favorite was a sign thanking the Team in Training Runners from a Leukemia survivor. I saw her at three separate places during the race.

    Oh…and there was a group of about a hundred women from the Red Hat Society dressed in their red and purple cheering and shouting and holding signs. That was awesome.

  10. While running my first marathon I saw two rather “tipsy” male spectators with a sign painted pink and decked out in glitter that read “Run Bitch Run.” I actually found it hilarious and it kind of became my motto for the rest of the day…..I’m sure some may find it to be on the “worst things” list, though. ; )

  11. Signs at the Philly Half:

    1) I will chafe your nipples for free.

    2) You trained longer than Kim Kardadhian was married.

    Laughed at both!

  12. One of the most amazing moments I have ever experienced at a race- I was running the Charleston (WV) Distance Run, a 15 miler. There is also a 5K run with it. The two races start at the same time but on different sides of the road. There was a gentleman running the 5K with a sign on his back that said “today is my 80th birthday”. As he ran, all of the people on the 15 mile side STOPPED and applauded as he came through.

    Favorite race sign: at my first marathon there was a lady holding a sign that said “In our minds, you’re ALL Kenyan!”

  13. During the Monumental Half in Indy this past year I saw a sign at mile 10 (the hardest one for me!) that said, “If you run faster, you’ll be done sooner!” That really helped and made me smile! I even told the guy how much I liked his sign!! 🙂

  14. I run a 15k every fall and there are several constants each year – not things *said* necessarily but things *present* that I love. 1) Guy who just plays drums at the same spot every year (its not a race with a lot of spectators and it goes through a rather rough part of town). 2) Young woman (kid) who plays her bagpipes in the same spot of the cemetary that the run goes throug (with her mom standing by) and 3) a series of little signs in the historic neighborhood that the run passes through each with some pretty silly factoid about the history of the town/neighborhood. All are so key to making the race fun and the miles go by faster. I wish I could than these people / musicans / sign makers personally.

  15. My favorite ever sign was on the Chicago Half Marathon course, about a third of the way through it: “Don’t Poop (tons of blank space) Out.” Haaa. I’m 5.

  16. Ashley – I saw the same sign in Austin! The woman next to me told the guy it was wrong on so many levels. Overall I LOVED the crowd support on that course. Thanks especially to the spectators holding the “Go Sharon Go” and “Go Mrs. G” signs. Even though I knew they weren’t specifically for me, they made feel good and run faster.

  17. At the R&R in Savannah (which was FABULOUS!) there were a couple of ‘real’ racers who’d gotten a late start, so they were having to run through all of us in the slower corrals. I actually heard them say OUT LOUD that, “Next time we should run with a cattle prod.”

    However, at my second half marathon, the Critz Tybee Runfest, three weeks ago I was trying to figure out which direction we were heading at the moment (at around mile 9) and an older woman chimed in that we were heading toward the beachfront. She proceeded to share how many half marathons and marathons she’d run in over the last thirty years. WHAT an inspiration!! I want to be that woman one day. 😉

  18. From one volunteer to another at my goal race: “Are they supposed to run this way or that way….?” It made a difference for me since I wanted to see what time I achieved running my first 5k!

  19. Iin 2004, i ran the baltimore 1/2 marathon with one of my best friends Dorine. It is a VERY hilly course and at the top of one of the last – and longest – hills, there was sign that said, “Go Skinny Bitches Go”. That totally re-energized us. Fast forward 6 years, Dorine and I ran the Marine Corps Marathon – our first – and a good friend showed up at mile 18 with the same sign. We knew it was for us and it had the same effect of energizing and inspiring us to finish, which we did in just under 5 hours. 🙂

  20. I saw this on a sign during my first marathon and know its a quote but don’t know who said it.

    Pain is just fear leaving your body.

  21. “I hate hearing, ‘You’re almost there.’ I want to yell back, ‘No kidding. I can add!’”
    —Melanie (speaks for all mother runners here)

    That is the BEST!

  22. At a 5k race last spring, my very own father yelled (as loud as he could), “Deborah Ann do you know that the leaders are probably already finished??” I was at the one mile marker. Needless to say I no longer let him know my race schedule 🙂

  23. My first 5k was on Mothers Day a few years ago. I don’t have any biological kids but I do have one terrific stepson. Most of the volunteers were wishing us all a Happy Mothers Day but one young lady near the finish line was all inclusive! “Happy Step Mothers Day! Happy Foster Mothers Day! Happy Grandmothers Day!” I’ll never forget her.

  24. At my first half, a fellow mother runner held up a sign that said “run like a mother”. I flashed a thumbs up and a huge smile and sped up a little more. After the race, I learned of this book and community etc. Haven’t looked back since. 😉

  25. This was way back in jr high running cross country, but it was the one I remember most. I was having my best race ever- I had passed all the people I normally ran even with and breezed by another girl who was normally way faster than me but had a bad side-stitch. I came around the last turn knowing my standing mattered more than ever, and I had a chance to be the key to winning the triple match, but I had NOTHING left in my tank. As the guys’ team was cheering me in, they all suddenly started yelling and pointing behind me that someone was coming up fast! Out of nothing I started flying that last 150 yards- I sprinted like I had never sprinted before, and I crossed the finish line screaming and collapsed on the other side. A couple of the boys grabbed my arms to haul me back onto my feet, and as they surrounded me laughing and slapping my back, I looked back to see there was no one behind me for over 200 yards. I think I took a swing at one of those guys.

  26. my 2 favorite signs (so far) “Making this sign was hardwork too!” and “Hurry up honey, the game is on”

    Like it or not, they made me smile.

  27. I ran the Las Vegas Rock n Roll half marathon in Dec 2011 with Team Challenge and it was so awesome seeing so many orange running tops out there…people noticed us in those tops and we had so many people cheering for us! At around mile 10.5, the San Diego Team Challenge running coach saw me and ran about 1.5 miles with me…I was hoping to run 1 hr 35 min in this half and at this point I was pretty darn tired, but he really motivated me and I ended up running 1:33:37!

  28. On Michelle’s comments above — Hilarious! That made me roll with laughter. What were they thinking? 33 is a little young to be grandparents, unless by a blended marriage.

  29. i couldn’t decide where i stood on this one during my half at Austin last weekend–tacky or funny? Or so tacky it’s funny?

    A man holding a sign that said,

    “Free Nipple Massage at Finish Line.”


  30. My husband and myself were running in a 5k and pushing the kids in our double stroller. This one lady yelled ” The family that runs together stays together”. It made me feel so proud to be able to do something healthy and fun with my family!

  31. My first half marathon was kind of a surreal experience, but the things that motivated me:

    * sign that said “Run, Forest, Run!” (a favorite movie in our house)
    * sign that said “Do it for the Facebook photos!” (HA! We had been uploading all morning!)
    * seeing my kids about .1 mile from the finish, and the astonished look on my daughter’s face. She said, “I didn’t expect to see you so soon!” and that was all I needed to power it to the finish.
    * seeing my BFF (non-runner) just a little bit later, and hearing her cheer, “I knew you could do it!”

    Worst things:
    * weenies riding their bikes along the course (to cheer on their friends) and getting in the way
    * weenies crowding onto the course near the end of the race

  32. The clip from Jill you posted above made me cry. I love it! I always love it when people say “You look great” especially b/c I am pretty sure I don’t. Things I hate are volunteers that smoke on course.

    1. Hey Jen , that was actually my comment. I still get teary eyed when I think about it. I felt so proud of her. I was more proud of this complete stranger then my own PR that day. I was cheering her on and clapping and screaming for her like she was some huge Olympian. I only wish we can all have that kind of moment of our own.

  33. Best:
    The guy who came back 3/4 of a mile to finish a 5K with us in the back of the pack (my first year of running, training on flat land and it was a hilly course). . turns out, the guy was a local college track coach. SO much better than the “volunteers” who stood around until the shelter since it was sprinkling.

    Worst: “Just another hill’ and “last hill” during the MIDDLE of a 13.1 that was practically ALL hills. I glared at her and said, “DON”T LIE, it’s not nice”.

    Motivation for me: The local firefighters run the town’s celebration day in full gear—being just *slightly* ahead of a fireman wearing full gear and breathing mask who is, ha ha, breathing down your neck, motivates you to run faster.

  34. My designated race shirt doesn’t have my own name for people to cheer. It reads “Hugh Jass”. I love the humor and immaturity of strangers along the course screaming “Go Huge Ass!” Especially when their cheer is immediately fallowed by a look of “wait, what did I just say?” It takes my mind off the miles.

  35. At a women’s only race the kids mile was going to start in 2 minutes. Standing in line for bathroom, woman came up with her daughter who quickly needed the bathroom (she was about 8, seemed an emergency) before she did the kids run. Mom asked everyone if they would mind her cutting ahead, 30 of us said no, fine. 1 loudmouth byotch started complaining. We all talked over her and let the girl go. Realized that not *all* women runners are like US 😉

  36. At my first half marathon, while in line for the port-a-potty, one of the NYRR volunteers asked if he could cut in front of me so he could get back to his station. I was incredulous because I thought the volunteers were there to help you, not get in your way. Normally, I am a very “nice” person but thankfully, I had the nerve to say no.

  37. At my first half marathon walk, The marathoners were starting to come back along the same path (opposite side of course) and people started cheering. The crowd was amazing. Then, the lead bad mama came into view and I noticed she was clapping. She started cheering all us half marathon walkers. It was such a lovely feeling that I could do anything. I was tired, my feet sore bordering on numb but I felt like I could fly.

  38. During the entire last half mile of my first half marathon, the man beside me said, “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” just over and over and over. He inspired me to speed it up just a little bit to get away from him. I honestly think he was delirious!

  39. At my first marathon, at mile 24, I was cooked, done, finished, over. A young policewoman in dress blues, ran up beside me and said, “you can do this, I’ll run with you”. It was pretty hot for Kentucky in April, and she was in full uniform, she ran about a block with me, with a big, smile on her face, and frankly, if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have finished. I wish I had the wherewithal to remember her name, badge number or something to send her a card, note, to thank her, no matter what, I haven’t forgotten!

    1. Great story.
      I experienced similar support years ago on my second marathon’s course.
      Still can recall a girl shouting in the crowd “run sister!” she also joined me for a few meters giving me power to finish with a smile of my face:)

  40. He said nothing. He did nothing. But the top HORRIBLE thing was the race “official” at the top of a killer hill at mile 23 a marathon who was supposed to point our way to a turn… standing there, bored, smoking a cigarette. CLASSY!

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