The London Marathon is one of the most iconic sporting events in the British calendar. Every year tens of thousands of people race the streets of London, many in fancy dress to raise money for charity, and to achieve something many people will never do, to run a marathon.
One thing which makes the London Marathon so incredible is the atmosphere from the supporters, with an estimated 750,000 people cheering street-side last year! The race literally would not be the same without the spectators. Long before I ever got the chance to run the event for myself I joined the sidelines and helped add to an atmosphere which is truly electric. There really is no-where like London on marathon day.
Whilst the atmosphere is incredible, being a cheerleader for the London marathon is tough work.
I’ve shared my top tips for supporters to being the best cheerleader there’s ever been:
1. Plan the cheer spots in advance – this is critical for spotting the person you’re supporting and it’s important it works both ways. Not only do you need to know where they will be, so you need to find out roughly what time they expect to finish in so you can calculate when to expect them at certain points. The thing a lot of runners forget is that they need to know where you are, IN DETAIL. The course is relatively wide so if you runner is going to run on the left-hand side and you’re cheering on the right they won’t be able to see you easily or get over to say hello.
My tips for location are to avoid the start line, you see such a small snippet of the race there and your runner is unlikely to need your cheering at the start. Your runner is unlikely to need you for the first few miles. Canary Wharf used to be a good spot but it is really busy now. Plus for runners the atmosphere is electric here to they won’t need your extra support.
One cheer support which has worked well for me and my family is slightly after Rotherhithe station, which is Mile 11. You’ll want to tell your runner that you’ll be on the left as the run past, as this means you can jump back on the tube easily and head to Canada Water.
As a runner, I always really need the support around miles 15-18 so if you can find a good agreed spot in the Canary Wharf area that can work so well. Especially, because you are perfectly placed to hop back on the tube and take the Jubilee Line over to Waterloo.
Spectating from Waterloo Bridge is my absolute favourite as it means that you’re above the course and the runners run past underneath you. It is a perfect spot for your runners to see you and they will really need the boost at that mileage.
2. Let your runner know what you’re wearing – everyone focuses on what their runner is wearing and knowing what to look out for but does your runner know what you’ll be wearing? Will you have a banner, or balloons? As a runner it is hard to search a see of people and if they know you’ll be in a bright green T-Shirt that will really help.
One year my mum had a bright purple coat on (it was boiling heat but like any great mum she stuck to the plan) and I was scanning the route as I got to the spot and just as I was giving up hope I saw her madly waving, wearing her purple coat!
3. Don’t plan on seeing your runner for anything important - for some races it’s possible to give your runner sweets or extra fuel. Make sure they aren’t relying on you for anything they need. All going well you will see your runner, but you might not so you don’t want the pressure of having anything they might need.
4. Speak to other spectators - literally this makes such a difference. As a spectator you’re all looking out for your special person and it can be a bit of wait. With more eyes searching for runners there is more chance you’ll see them. I’ve been supporting before where the people who are supporting next to me have really helped me to find the person I was waiting for. Plus, the London Marathon is like a wall of noise, so when you all cheer together it’s incredible and helps your runner to spot you.
5. Cheer like you’ve never cheered before - even if you don’t know anyone running the marathon, supporting is an experience like no other. Most people have their names on their tops so you can cheer people on by name. Literally shout their names at the top of your lungs. Tell them how proud they’re making their family, the charity they are running for. Shout about how all those Sunday morning long runs were worth it and they’ll never have to do one again. If you’re supporting anywhere after 20 Miles every cheer and kind word means the world, it’s that little boost that can drive someone home and get them to keep going.
Supporting for the London Marathon is hard work - be sure to wear comfy clothes especially comfy shoes, take water, snacks and sun cream. Great ready to use a loud voice and share a happy heart. There truly is no better time to be in London than on marathon day!