Lies, Lies, Lies

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Yesterday I got to do one of my favorite things, stroll around the city and listen to “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” I’ve said this before but this radio show is one of my favorites. I get into the news quizzes and answer questions out loud without realizing it and I probably look like a nut walking around laughing to myself.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when one of the quiz questions happened to be about running. The question was, “In the interest of runner’s safety, the Baltimore Marathon has banned spectators from doing what at this weekend’s race?”

The answer is something that I had recently mentioned to my husband. What is the most annoying thing that you should never say to a person running in a race? Never, ever shout, “You are almost there.”


Yes the marathon had requested that spectators not shout those words. They wanted to help keep the runners from sprinting towards the end too early.

Peter Sagal is the host of this show and is an experienced marathoner. Here is what he had to say about this: “At all the big marathons, and I’ve experienced this, thousands of spectators line the streets supporting the runners. And we love this – they support the runners by shouting obvious lies at them. They yell things like “almost there” when you’ve got 10 miles to go. They yell “looking good” because the truth is ‘Dear God seek medical attention now,’ is not encouraging.”

I was laughing pretty hard at this and replayed it for my husband when he arrived home.

This past summer he trained for the Chicago Marathon. He worked pretty hard and was looking forward to trying to beat his time from over a year ago. For the previous race we both had trained really well and went in hoping to finish under 4 hours. We both surpassed anything we expected and finished nearly a half hour under our goal. I was so excited for him to run Chicago because he had trained well and was looking great. I saw him on the course at mile 10 and he was running strong.

As I was running with my athletes and helping them along the course he called me. I thought for sure he was calling to tell me that he finished. Instead he called to let me know that at mile 18 something popped in his hip flexor and he was really struggling. He was going to finish but would have to walk the rest of the race and didn’t want me to worry.

I was heart broken for him. It was so frustrating to work that hard and get that close to the finish and have a surprise injury like that come out of nowhere. He had never had ANY issues with his hip flexor. But as is the nature the marathon, you never know what will happen out there.  So he walked the rest of the race…or should I say he hobbled.

Chicago has incredible amenities along its course. There are 20 aid stations that span 2 blocks each. Each aid station also has medics and massage therapists. Every time he approached an aid station medics would come to him and ask if he was okay. Most were very helpful and once they knew it was nothing threatening they would offer him some Biofreeze or Tylenol and send him on his way.

But at a few aid stations he encountered medics who would shout, “Keep going.  You’re almost there.” He said that it happened first at mile 20 and he found it so frustrating. He wasn’t even close and at the rate he was going it felt like forever until the finish. One medic at mile 25 yelled, “You’re almost there you have less than a mile.” He wanted to shout at him and tell him he had OVER a mile to go.


The night before the marathon I spoke with the athletes on our team and reminded them that one of the most important things that you can do during any race and especially a marathon is stay in the moment. Stay in the mile you are currently in and don’t worry about the next one or 10 miles from now. One runner later told me she used that as her mantra and would think, “22, 22, 22,” and then, “23, 23, 23.”

I know, and we all know, that the spectators are a huge part of what makes the marathon doable for us. They pull us through some really hard parts of the race when we really need to dig deep. But when someone tells you that you only have one more mile to run I want to ask them to run the mile with me. Most non-runners find a mile to be the longest thing they have ever had to endure. Usually they start asking me how far they have gone just a quarter of the way in.

While I appreciate the Baltimore Marathon’s efforts to keep spectators from shouting such frustrating words, I also find it quite amusing. All I can think is that some frustrated former marathoner was definitely behind that idea.


What do you think of this?  Good idea?  Silly idea?  What would be the best sign you could see on the course?  Personally, food and drinks motivate me 🙂

A special congrats to our friend Angie who did the Avon Walk For Breast Cancer this past weekend.  Talk about endurance!  She walked 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday for this great cause.

40 thoughts on “Lies, Lies, Lies

  1. I hate it when people say you are almost there. In the Twin Cities guide, there were suggested sayings, however, that would have made me punch a baby if they were told to me. I don’t remember what they were, but seriously, I would physically injure someone. The Punch Here for a Power Up is always a good one, I feel.

  2. WWDTM is my favorite! I know I look like a moron shouting answers and laughing out loud when I run, but I don’t care.

    As far as the topic, I think it’s a silly idea. Runners know we aren’t almost there, and spectators are really just out there with good intentions. Making it a rule or whatever just makes me roll my eyes.

  3. Tell your husband I am so sorry!!! I felt so bad for him as I was reading this. Marathons are so hard because all your training leads up to one race… Race day in the marathon is a whole different story! How did the rest of your group do? I know you coach a lot of people…

  4. Yesterday I heard those shouts of encouragement. A few times me and the runners around me would laugh or grumble. Almost there, and we’re not even at the 13.1 mile marker yet? Cow bells are nice.
    I spectate at a race on occasion and I know how hard it is to keep those bells going. Your wrist gets tired after an hour or so!
    At a certain point in the race I don’t think any of the signs or shouts register. When I’m digging deep just to keep going, it’s all just noise.
    Cheers – Andy

  5. I don’t like the “almost there” shouts or signs much, although I do like seeing people spectate so I don’t want to seem ungrateful. My favorite sign from the race I ran yesterday was “All this for a free banana?” Anything that makes me chuckle during a race is motivating because it flips my mood to a positive.

  6. Great post!! I really did not know how frustrating that phrase is until I ran my first 5k! I would love to see silly signs though, or anything encouraging like “Just keep going” or “it doesn’t matter how far you have left, just keep running!” Fans are great, but not when they make you mad!

  7. I also hate it when people say you’re almost there or give you incorrect mileage. This weekend at Nike Women’s, this woman kept shouting, you’re at mile 7.5, you’re halfway there, when, in fact mile 7.5 is well over half of a half marathon.

  8. At mile 4 at Twin Cities someone had a sign that said “22 miles to go”. I didn’t really care but a couple of guys got really irate and told the spectator that his sign wasn’t cool. I think give the spectators the benefit of the doubt. They don’t have to get up early on a Sunday to cheer on strangers! Oh and a couple of years ago we went to a live recording of WWDTM here in SLC. It was awesome.

  9. Hey girl!! Great post!! Honestly, when I was in so much pain at Crawlin’ Crab, I had a few people shout, “You’re almost there!” and no, I don’t necessarily like hearing that, but I understand spectators are out there with good intentions trying to show their support, so I don’t get mad. xoxo

  10. This post was thought provoking for me. When I ran my first half marathon, a big part of the problem was that I thought I was further along than I actually was for most of the way, because of the race signage also catering for other distance races using part of the same course. This resulted in constant disappointment and me having all of my gels in the first 8km! For my second one I used a GPS app, and what a difference it made being able to realistically manage my own expectations!

    They say running is just as much about mental fortitude as physical fitness, I guess this is further testimony to this. In this way such signage or comments saying we are nearly finished when we are not is most certainly detrimental.

    My favourite race signs I remember said: “Chafe now, wine later” and “the faster you run, the firmer your bum!”.

    I think what I want to see are signs, or five year olds giving out high fives, or cute dogs…that make me smile. A smile is much better fuel than false hope!

  11. I was JUST talking about this earlier today! We were camped out at the end of the course (like mile 13 for the half and just past the 26 marker for the full) and my friend was asking me if it was okay if we yelled that people were almost there. And I was like…well yeah I think so because you can see the finish line from here. But someone told me I was almost there at like mile 24 back in May and I started crying because I’m sorry…NOT almost there.

  12. Well, I agree that I never appreciate the “YAT” but if you’re running a marathon, you have at least trained enough to know where you are and push past it. What really gets me are the people who shout that at mile 2 of a 5K. I feel sorry for the casual or first-time runners who hear that and believe it.

  13. Love this post! I don’t get too worked up when people tell me I’m almost there, especially when I know I’m not, but I can see how some would get a little annoyed if they heard it over and over lol

  14. I understand it when people shout that out. I feel the need to do it only when the person is in their last mile though. It’s what I say to myself in that last mile too – “1 mile to go. Just 1. Almost there. 1/2 mile. Almost there. Just a 1/2 mile. 1/4 mile! You can do it! Jesus H Christ SHUT UP!!!” Yep, I yell at myself all the time from beginning to end if I start counting down miles like that. So frustrating. But I wouldn’t want people yelling out I’m almost there if I’m not. How annoying!

  15. Someone shouted “You’re almost there” at me on mile 10 of my most recent half marathon. I said, “No I’m not!! I still have three more miles! THREE!!” and I held up three fingers to make sure they understood. I was smiling, though! 🙂

  16. In the UAE we don’t have a huge amount of spectators on the runs that I do… yes they are out there and it’s great, but it’s nothing like what I read about in races around the world.
    However, saying that, my favourite part about the half marathon I do each year is when I’m coming in to the finish with about 2 km’s to go and the elites are standing on the final corner (my favourite one because as you turn that corner you can see the finish line!) and they are all cheering us on.
    It gives me goosebumps now just writing about it 🙂

  17. I just read the mantra “Stay in the mile you are in” and think it is brilliant! It is so easy to get sucked into how far you still have to go. Congrats to your hubs! I know it is heart breaking to miss a goal, but way to go! I hope he is healing well!

  18. Also, I hate the “You are almost there” shouts, when clearly, I am not. I for some reason, really appreciate the “I know this kind of sucks, but you are doing it… just keep doing it” types of encouragements.

  19. Pingback: Spectators: Well-Intentioned Lies, and Positive Signs | RUN BIKE THROW

  20. I agree with this complexly. At my first marathon someone shouted less than .2 miles to go where in fact I had .5 miles to go. Even though it doesn’t seem like that big of a difference as you know at the end of a marathon this distance is EXTREMELY different. Longest .5 miles (but I thought .2 miles) of my life ha!

  21. LOL LOVE this!! I HATE when people tell me almost there and I get excited and then look at my watch- since when is 4 miles, “almost” there! I feel so bad for your friend though! How horrible! Love reading your marathon tips- getting prepared for next weekend 🙂

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