If you've spent the last three months tripping over discarded running shoes, listening to injury concerns and ignoring the search for kit at unearthly hours of the morning, then the chances are you're a long-suffering supporter of a marathoner. Your final challenge: to get them to the start line of the London Marathon, cheer them on the way round, and be there with a smile and a gentle hug at the finish. Here's how to do it:
How to help your runner before the race
During the 24 hours before the marathon, some runners are excited, all are nervous, and some are downright terrified. Do whatever you can to keep them calm. On the eve of the race after a delicious, well balanced meal, settle down with a film and make sure your runner spends the evening with their feet up.
For the morning, set your alarm as well as theirs (you can never be too careful) and regardless of nerves get them to eat that all important pre-race breakfast. Also, make sure they have their race number and timing chip when they leave the house – without them, they won't be able to run and record a time.
How to be a great spectator
Loud cheering aside, being a spectator can be quite hard work as you rush about so take that into account when you're getting ready. Pack light, dress accordingly and remember to take all your rubbish with you. It's not just the runners who need to make themselves visible so get out your brightest T-shirt/hat and make yourself obvious so your favourite runner can spot you.
If you need any sign inspiration, we have picked 23 of our favourites.
Where's the best placed to stand at the London Marathon?
Deciding on the best place to stand depends on many factors, so we’ve created the following guide to cater for every taste.
The best place to stand if you want to…
...escort your runner to the start
Get yourself to... Cutty Sark (mile 7)
Race-day support comes in many guises, and some runners will really benefit from being escorted to the start. If that’s the case, then Cutty Sark is a walkable distance from all of the start zones. Plus, it’s one of the iconic sights on the marathon course and always has a party atmosphere. Warning though: it will be very busy down there.
Why I choose it: ‘Yes, it’s an extremely popular place to cheer and this will put many spectators off, BUT if you’re heading to the start with a nervous runner, Cutty Sark is a walkable distance from all of the starts and you’ll probably have around an hour to get there, at which point it’ll still be pretty quiet. It’s a good idea to give your runner a rough idea of where you’ll be (on the left by the mile six sign) so they’ve got a rough idea where to look. You can also walk from Cutty Sark to the Greenwich Foot tunnel, cross the river and catch your runner at around 17 miles when they reach Mudchute.’ Jane McGuire, former deputy digital editor
Transport: Cutty Sark DLR or Greenwich
...get a front-row view
Get yourself to... Deptford (mile 8)
This comes around mile 8 of the marathon, so your runner should still be looking and feeling good. Better still, the relative lack of spectators at this point means you should be easily be able to spot your runner as they go trotting past. Grab yourself a coffee in the Waiting Room Coffee Bar, just south of the route.
Why I choose it: ‘When I go to the London Marathon, I want a front-row view. Somewhat needily, I also want my shout of encouragement to be noticed, rather than be lost in the cacophony of noise in places like Tower Bridge. Your support means more in Deptford.’ Rick Pearson, senior editor
… enjoy a double-whammy
Get yourself to… Canada Water (mile 9, 11)
Wide roads, not super busy and a chance to see your runner twice – it’s a wonder more people don’t base themselves at Canada Water. In addition, there’s a Decathlon store nearby – so you can grab your runner an energy gel if they need one or, alternatively, purchase yourself a reasonably priced tent. You’re also within walking distance of Bermondsey, home to some of London’s finest artisanal boozers. Only have time for one? Go to the London City Runners’ HQ, London’s only dedicated running pub.
Why I choose it: ‘For the ambitious and willing to rush, Canada Water offers the chance to see runners at mile 9 and 11, depending on pace. Once you’ve negotiated the station, head towards the Surrey Quays Road (walk past the Decathlon and other shops and then turn left). Mile 9 is a pretty wide vantage point, so pick a spot and, once you’ve seen your runner, head back to Canada Water and then continue on up Lower Road to the roundabout, which is mile 11. Unless the person you’re tracking is FLYING, you should have enough time to see them at both markers.’
Ben Hobson, RW digital editor
Transport: Canada Water
…embrace the noise
Get yourself to... Tower Bridge (mile 13 and 22)
There’s no doubt about it, Tower Bridge is one of the most spectacular parts of the marathon route. The popular 1.5-mile stretch between Tower Bridge and Limehouse also provides the chance to see your runner twice. Runners go both ways down this section – heading east at mile 13 and west for the finish at mile 22. The downside is, it’s incredibly busy. If you do opt for Tower Bridge, get there early.
Why I choose it: ‘I love watching the marathon from outside the Royal Mint, just where the runners turn right after running over Tower Bridge. Not only do you get to see your people twice (once from a distance at mile 13 and once close up at mile 22) but you get to see the professionals without having to get there super early. The atmosphere is great and your friends only have four miles to go when they see your cheering face. You’re also close enough to the finish line that if you pick somewhere near the Strand, you can head straight to your post-marathon pub and beat the runners there.’ Samantha Cowley
Transport: Tower Hill
...visit the farm
Get yourself to… Mudchute (mile 17)
Taking the kids to cheer on a parent? Sweeten the deal with a quick visit to Mudchute Farm, close to mile 17 of the marathon. It’s a little quieter round here, too, so your shouts of support will be appreciated by runners starting to enter the ‘pain cave’.
Why I choose it: ‘Mudchute is amazing for spectating – a lot of the charity cheer points are there, it’s also at a bit of a lull in the crowd so you can always get a spot, and it’s a point where runners find it quite tough. It’s great to help them get a smile back on their face.’ Alice Miller
Transport: Mudchute DLR
...experience the loudest cheer zone
Get yourself to… Limehouse (mile 21)
Run Dem Crew have made mile 21 at the London Marathon their own. For pure volume and excitement, there is no better cheer zone on the entire course – and it comes at a time when most runners need a lift.
Why I choose it: ‘I would definitely recommend checking out the Run Dem Crew mile 21 cheer zone. The energy is electric: music, confetti... Anyone who has run the London Marathon will know how hard things can get after 20 miles, so mile 21 is a great place to show support and offer that pick-me-up that runners need to get them to the end.’ Max Owen, aka rapper Linguistics
...see the sights
Get yourself to… Westminster (mile 25)
The London Marathon course keeps its greatest architecture for the final couple of miles. While the magnificence of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben may be lost on runners who have ventured deep into the pain cave, it’s undoubtedly one of the most exciting points from which to spectate. Cheering on from here also means you’ll be reunited with your runner fairly quickly after the finish. Just remember the golden rule: you walk to where they are, not the other way around!
Why I choose it: ‘To glimpse the whole spectrum of human emotion, head to mile 25, around Westminster. Here, giddy ecstasy meets pain and exhaustion as runners turn right at Big Ben and realise their 26.2-mile efforts are almost at an end. For the best spot, get down early and secure your place just past Horse Guards Road, opposite St James’s Park, and encourage weary legs to keep going for another few hundred metres.’ Isaac Williams
How to find your runner at the finish of the London Marathon
With 40,000 exhausted runners all looking for their families and friends, the finish area of the will be heaving. It's always a good idea to agree a meeting point before the race, and stick with it.
When you find your runner they may be delirious at having completed the race, devastated at having missed their target time, or just too tired to communicate. Don't bombard them with questions or give them the bumps. Gently encourage them to drink and eat whatever they can manage, and undo their shoelaces – it's a surprisingly difficult job for someone who's run 26.2 miles. If they are in real distress find a St John's Ambulance volunteer to help.
Then hobble home, share the glory, and look forward to having Sundays together again at last!
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