Support for your runner comes in many forms, degrees of intensity, and styles. Some decide to use words of encouragement like "Have fun!", and yet others would actually carry their runners on there back to help them cross the finish line. There has got to be a happy medium that you can find in between those two extremes. Somewhere in the middle is a rather popular method of support which actually can be quite refreshing for both the runner and the support crew: jump in and run for a short while during a point in the race. Usually during the some of the toughest miles based on your runners skill level, speed and experience.
This does two things: it gives the runner something to look forward to, and it gives the support person a way to feel more involved in a day focused on the success of another family member. (We use this term "family" rather liberly in this article to include all people the runner relies on for support, for example: distant relatives, friends, associates, peeps, homeys, and inlaws).
Why does this help the runner: besides giving them something to focus on besides the mileage ahead, it is very reassuring to see a familiar face and voice in a long race. The runner can focus on something different if they have difficulty during the period of time when your running with them. Emotional lift, psychological boost, motivation, and a person to share a story or a few words with that you won't worry about offending.
Why does this help the supporting cast: you are able to see how they are doing and feeling when your running with them. If they are having a great run they will be able to share how well their times are per mile. It breaks up the time and provides a way to help your runner. It is a great way to get to know your runner, not in a sense of time and distance, but in a sense of mental state and emotional state that runners go through during a long race. Sometimes you can read people by there facial expressions and other times if you don't run a little, and experience their state of mind when they are trudging through a tough part of the race it is easy to miss the effort put forth by your runner to accomplish the goal.
While running there is also a way to communicate with your runner that will be acceptable or not acceptable. Unfortunately this is a call that needs to be made at the moment you are running with the participant.
Keep trying to make something good happen for someone you love.
Run The Planet thanks Marathon Family (www.marathonfamily.com) for the permission to reprint the article "The Next Level" by Scott Winter. For more information about how to support your runner, in all phases from getting started to training to race day and back again, please visit www.marathonfamily.com. Questions, comments and suggestions can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Illustration copyright © by Run The Planet.