You’re almost there! (and other annoying phrases)

Last week when I was helping course marshal the GOTR 5k here in town, I was trying to come up with words of encouragement for all the girls as they passed by. It brought to mind all of the words we typically hear when it’s us out there racing–the good and the bad. Here then, my list of things to say and not to say to runners as they make their way through a course:

Bad things to say:

  • You’re almost there–really, this has to be the worst, especially if it’s far from the truth and you know it
  • Less than a mile–often they’re wrong
  • It’s all downhill from here–not always
  • Looking strong–if I’m not, I hate this

Good things to say:

  • Go get that guy/girl in front of you
  • Looking strong–if I am
  • Way to move
  • Keep it up
  • You’ve got this

What would you add to this list? Which phrase motivates/annoys you during a race? 

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  1. says

    The most annoying “you are almost there” comes from hikers going down while I huff and puff up. They always underestimate where the top is. One time it took me almost an hour to get ‘there’. Ugh!!!
    Ewa recently posted..My MomMy Profile

  2. says

    Haha I really dislike the “it’s all downhill” especially when you know the course and know there is a 16% incline hill just ahead…
    I’m a big fan of the cowbell. And random high fives from strangers, especially if they are good looking 😉
    Middleaged Runner recently posted..Multi tasking like a boss.My Profile

  3. BDD says

    I prefer something funny when out on the course, make me laugh or chuckle or just smile, something to help with the pain. My favorite has always been “Worse Parade Ever”

  4. says

    It’s nice when people let you know your place! I often don’t know if I’m 4th or 5th, etc, and I love to hear things like, “Fourth female, third is less than a minute ahead of you”!
    Gracie recently posted..Half price Wednesday!My Profile

  5. says

    We were spectating a marathon in Denver a couple of years ago and were about three miles from the finish. My kids kept yelling “You’ve got this, you’re almost there.” I kept telling them NO you absolutey cannot say that. The last three miles of a marathon are so long they feel like three years and those people are going to come back and slap you.

    So true what you say!!

    If possible I try to pick out something unique about that person and yell it out so that it doesn’t sound so generic – Like “Nice job guy with the mowhawk and jean shorts! You’ve got this!”
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..Should We Push Kids to Run?My Profile

  6. says

    Whenever I’m cheering for runners I can get really nervous about what I say! I’m also a fan of “You Got This!” and “Keep it Up!” I have to admit, I usually like “Looking Great!” cause even if I don’t, it usually puts a smile on my face. But I will ONLY cheer “you’re almost there” if the finish chute is within 50 feet!
    lisa @ early morning run recently posted..Simple PleasuresMy Profile

  7. says

    Haha! Yes, I have definitely been told all of the bad ones before at races by spectators. LOL

    And I don’t think anything related to being “almost there” or “almost done” should be said unless there is at least less than 1 mile left… but then again depends on the race. Don’t yell that to me at Mile 2.1 of a 5K!
    Holly recently posted..CLE Half Training Update: Home StretchMy Profile

  8. says

    I hate the phrase “you are almost there”. It makes me want to scratch their eyeballs out when I hear it. It is the worst phrase ever!!!! My favorite phrase is “you got this” or a funny one is “your feet hurt from kicking your ass”. :-)
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..St. George MarathonMy Profile

  9. says

    I really hate “almost there.” Someone told me that at mile 10 of my last half, which was not going well, and I almost punched the person.

    I spectated the NJ Marathon earlier this month and a guy next to me had a sign that said “26.2, because 26.3 would just be nuts.” It got a lot of chuckles from the runners. I also thought it was great toward finish line when a guy’s hammies cramped up super bad like a hundred yards away from the finish and the crowd was going crazy chanting for him. He finally hobbled to the finish, people were going nuts.
    Jen recently posted..Annnd, I’m backMy Profile

  10. says

    Yeah not a fan of “almost there” especially when it is followed by a snicker!! When I ran Boston some of the college kids were pitting runners against each other. It was hilarious!! They would say things like, “You’re not going to let that girl pass you are you?” to a guy or “She looks stronger than you”!!
    Fancy Nancy recently posted..Three Things ThursdayMy Profile

  11. says

    Agree 100% with your lists. That “all downhill from here” is probably the one I hate most. I also hate it if people try negative talking to encourage me when I’m really in bad shape. Once in the last 15 miles of a 100 miler where I really suffered, a guy kept telling me I’m too slow and too tired and too weak to ever make it. He was trying negative encouragement. I hated it! But then again maybe it worked…
    Johann recently posted..A Nice Trail Run!My Profile

  12. Minda says

    Well…I honestly dislike people complaining about how they are cheered on.
    I volunteer at our local marathon and only recently have learned that some of the things I say encouragingly are considered “taboo”.
    At first I felt bad. Then, I thought, “You know what? I got my butt up and out of bed to come guard an intersection as a volunteer to make sure you don’t get hit by a car or turn in the wrong direction. Meanwhile, I’m still taking the time to try and cheer on every person that goes by and, to keep myself from having to hear myself say the same phrase over and over and over again, I mix it up. Sometimes a, ‘you’re almost there!’ slips in. And, relatively speaking, the 21st mile is ‘almost there’ in 26.2. It may not feel like that when you’re running it. But, dang it, I’m trying my best too and who are you to complain about the people who are cheering you on?? I’m not standing there saying, ‘Dang, you look awful. Maybe you should just quit.’ And there are plenty of runners at mile 21 who do look truly awful that I COULD have said that to. So, maybe stop being so sensitive about the actual words, appreciate that people are trying, and put your energy into moving instead of complaining.”
    ….that said, I will try to avoid those key phrases in the future. :)

  13. says

    I really dislike “you’re almost there” as well.

    When I did the RnR USA half in March, a spectator yelled that “mile marker 10 was just around the corner” and I was like “OMG, really?? did I miss a mile marker??” First of all, it was about 3/4 of a mile away, and second of all, it was mile marker 9. That woman won a prize for the WORST POSSIBLE THING she could have said.

    And, @Minda above – wow. calm it down. I definitely think it is helpful for people who spectate at races to know what really motivates runners and what doesn’t. You might be ‘doing your best,’ and of course you are, but wouldn’t you like to know what ‘the best’ is?? Geez.
    Kim recently posted..Ouch, My FootMy Profile

  14. says

    I love when I am nearing the finish and people yell “GO!” or ‘Finish Strong!” or ‘You’ve Got This!”

    I hate, hate, hate when people tell me I am “almost there” unless it’s less than a quarter of a mile to the finish…someone said that to me at mile 6.5 at the National 1/2 Marathon (right as your are cresting that horrible hill) and I almost pulled him on the course to run the rest with me!
    Jessica Karazsia (@irun 26at8) recently posted..Do the KIND thing – Want a free snack?My Profile

  15. says

    Mile 17 or so of the Portland marathon there was a young couple cheering people on; the girls sign read, “That looks hard!!” a few yards away her boyfriends sign said,”That’s what she said.”
    So cliche but I just cracked up! Awesome! Helped me relax and laugh a bit.

    I hate “you look strong” when I know they are lying! Please don’t lie!
    Fueled by Spite recently posted..Dodging bulletsMy Profile

  16. says

    When I ran my first marathon, there was a man towards the finish who said “only 2 more miles” even though I was about 100 yards to the finish. I thought that was the stupidest thing someone could say. Obviously he had never run anything close to a marathon.
    hikermom recently posted..Workout WednesdayMy Profile

  17. says

    I like to plant myself at the last mile of my son’s cross country meets and my favorite thing I like to say is, “One more mile, Stay Strong”, or “Keep fighting”. I think this is the point where it gets tough an hearing, “You’re almost there” does nothing but promote dread.

    I had a friend pace me the last couple miles in Portland and I was not feeling well – AT ALL. When she said, “Only 8 laps around the track left” I seriously wanted to punch her. 8 laps around the track seemed like eternity.
    Jill recently posted..Two times the 5k funMy Profile

  18. says

    I only tell people things that are true. If they really are almost there, I tell them that. If I know it’s not all downhill from there, I tell them it’s mostly downhill, haha! I’m really bad at being creative in what I say so I yell out a lot of “great jobs” and “awesome jobs.”
    Kristen (The Running Mom) recently posted..Back to it!My Profile

  19. says

    Such a great topic. I am a cheerleader by nature, and I’m always wanting to encourage fellow runners. Sometimes, it bites me in the butt – my husband hates it, so I have to be tough and tell him to move his ass or I am going to beat him across the finish line…stuff like that…it doesn’t come naturally. Other times, it’s appreciated, so it’s great to know some of the things that people really like.

    Most often, I say what I need to hear – “You’re amazing!” “You’ve got this!” “Leave it all on the course!” are my faves.

    Best run sign? ATL Publx M/HM – “Run Faster. I Just Farted.” Seriously? Cracked me up.
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  20. says

    I love seeing babies and little kids holding signs (worst parade ever always makes me grin!) – and little kid high five’s are stellar. Dislike “you’re almost there” and other random shouts…nice to hear “Hey purple sock girl, you got this!” or something similarly direct. :)
    Andrea recently posted..WIAWMy Profile

  21. says

    I HATE any reference to how much distance and/or hills are left.

    One of my fave sayings I’ve seen on a sign is “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking so much butt” LOVE IT!
    Samantha recently posted..Seek the Peak 2012My Profile

  22. says

    Last year I did a race where random strangers kept yelling my name. I’m a quiet person who doesn’t always like a lot of attention and it was starting to make me feel a bit paranoid. Until I remembered that my name was printed on the race bib. And all of a sudden I didn’t mind any more.
    Char recently posted..Hope On The HorizonMy Profile

  23. says

    Probably one of the things that stuck out the most that was said to me in Boston (as I felt like death) was “you don’t want to be right here, you want to be over there. It is better over there”

    Also, around this time, some other guys where cheering “Whoo Hoo, go 6pack ab lady!” I got excited for a moment, thinking they were talking about me (with a squishy I gave birth to 2 babies stomach full of water that looked BAAAD in the finish photos), but then I looked over my shoulder and saw the REAL 6 pack ab lady. It did give me a boost to try to stay IN FRONT of her

    Otherwise, you nailed it!
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  24. says

    During my recent first half marathon on Sunday there were 3 people dressed as sheep just before km 18, and they had a cute huge sign that said something about free hugs from sheep… it gave me such a lift as it was so funny and they were darling!

    And I also liked the clapping and the ‘way to go’ callouts and also the loud rock music that people had on their car stereos along the way.

    And I did like that one man said ‘only 2 – 1/2 more km and you are done’ cause he was right!

    And I also like that I have now run a real race and can comment on posts like this one!
    Elle recently posted..And on Monday We CelebratedMy Profile

  25. says

    I have a hard time cheering racers because I choke up EVERY.SINGLE. TIME! It just gets me those people fighting so hard and just being there.
    That said,
    I really hate the “your almost done” comments. Sometimes 5 yards feels like 5 miles so its all perspective. I do like when people have cowbells or call me out by name but usually its just barefoot girl and I know they mean me :)
    Angie Bee recently posted..I heart my treadmillMy Profile

  26. says

    Love this list! The “worst parade ever” sign always makes me smile – but mostly if it’s some little kids holding the sign. At my last half, the kids holding it looked miserable, which only added to the awesomeness.

    Almost there and this is the last hill (when it’s not) annoy me. The only phrase like that made me laugh was at Knoxville when someone was holding “This is the easy hill!” and the person next to them was holding “They’re lying”. LOL.
    Mandy recently posted..Rainier Training: 50 LBS!My Profile

  27. says

    C’mon… These poor spectators, they are only trying to give support, how are they suppose to know that “looking good” or “you’re almost there” will irritate you?
    I know I’ve done that. I was pacing my friend for her trail race, while I was running into the aid station to meet her, I see these poor souls that has been running for hours, I just wanted to say something to them… I didn’t know it would upset them.