Ah, another workout debate!  (For more debates, check out:  Do you acknowledge strangers when exercising outdoors?, When on a run, do you do a little jig at red lights or come to a complete stop?, Do you secretly race others at the gym?, No Men Allowed:  What do you think about women’s races?, and Do personal records ever expire?).


The idea for today’s debate came to me during my recent triathlon.  It was the bike leg, and I was slow.  Slow. As. Molasses (if molasses ever rode on a bike).  I was passed by about fifty other racers (not exaggerating) and did not pass a single other person. I was totally undertrained for the bike and am naturally pretty slow while riding anyway – can I blame my super short legs?! – so this was expected.


While riding past me, my fellow racers were very kind and considerate.  “Way to go!” they would shout.  “Keep it up!” or “You can do this!”  Other women would say, “You go girl!” and zoom past me.  The men would comment, “Lookin’ good, lady!” and zip away.  I would wager that thirty out of the fifty people who passed me did so with an encouraging word.


So – the first dozen remarks were really nice (I don’t mean to sound ungrateful; I really did love it at first).  “YES!” I thought.  “I CAN do this. I AM kicking butt!”  Every cyclist that rode by with a motivational chant left me feeling happy and pumped. 


And then… the remarks kept coming.  And coming.  And coming.  Thirty “You can do its” in an hour and ten minutes.  It started to wear on me.  I got more and more tired; my legs felt heavy; it was hot; and – shit – I was really, really slow.  There was no way for the nice people encouraging me to know that I’d already been ‘uplifted’ for being slow TWENTY NINE OTHER TIMES.  By the end of the ride, I seriously wanted to throttle every sweet person zooming past me.


Don’t get me wrong.  I normally LOVE to be encouraged (and to encourage) during races.  But maybe the key is not to encourage someone when you’re kicking their ass?  Maybe it’s better to encourage someone who is roughly your pace but seems like they are struggling?  For example, during the run leg, I ran with two other women for about half a mile.  We told each other, “Keep it up, you’re doing great!” and said things like, “I know this is hard, but we can totally do this.”  The encouragement felt mutual and real. 


As a side note – what’s the most annoying thing you’ve heard shouted out by a spectator at a race?  My pet peeve is when people yell, “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!” and the finish line is, oh, two miles away.  “Almost there!” means you can see the finish line, in my opinion.  Winking smile

So – what are your thoughts?  How do you feel about mid-race encouragement?  And does, “You’re almost there!” annoy you as much as it does me?



  • Margaret September 6, 2012, 12:15 pm

    I love it, any day, any time. I live in Atlanta, and our fan support is usually ‘nill’, and I am so grateful someone out there is willing to cheer and support me, when typically my family is not there. It really feels great, even if at times, I’m not.

    • Carolyn September 6, 2012, 12:51 pm

      Margaret, I’m an Atlantan too! Where do you run and or workout?

  • Beth @ Beth's Journey September 6, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Interesting debate! Even in non-race situations, I sometimes am tempted to encourage people that I see running, but often I don’t say a word because I’m not sure how they will respond. I do agree that hearing the same thing time and time again can wear on you a bit, even if the intentions are good to begin with. I like the idea of encouraging people that you are on the same level with, saying things with a WE in there, but I’m not sure how I feel about encouraging people who are slower. I might get annoyed if people who are faster than me were encouraging me, almost like I’m not good enough going at my speed, even if I’m kicking ass according to my own past times. I’ll be interested to hear other’s opinions on this!

    • Beth @ Beth's Journey September 6, 2012, 12:20 pm

      OH! Also, check this blog post out. I love it and have read it over and over recently.


      • Maeve September 6, 2012, 4:47 pm

        I loved that “Hey Fat Girl” post because it was so true- i think athletes (of all capabilities and fitness levels) are genuinely excited for people joining the sport or getting back into it. As a heavier (lightening!) runner, I do get self conscious when there’s too many cheers and too much encouragement because it can feel like it’s pity as someone else zooms by. But then I think of other things I naturally excel in, and know that some of my genuine support could sound condescending. Bottom line: we have to assume everyone means it and has good intentions and draw the strength from there!

    • Ari @ Ari's Menu September 6, 2012, 12:30 pm

      I always want to encourage strangers I see running too, and I never say anything because I don’t want them to think I’m being sarcastic! I think I would start to get bugged by people saying it over and over while they passed me too, but under almost every other circumstance, I really love getting support from others! I’ve had a few people really help me out during tough points in races with just a few words. In fact, they probably didn’t even realize what a difference they made!

  • Erika September 6, 2012, 12:19 pm

    I don’t want to hear “Almost There” unless I really am almost there. Sometimes I just want to scream back at the spectators “You get out here and run then!” as I’m huffing and puffing up a hill. Overall though encouraging words are nice to hear and afterwards I think back on them and am happy that someone I didn’t even know took the time to cheer me on.

  • Laura September 6, 2012, 12:23 pm

    I don’t know how this could even be a debate! I can’t see anything wrong with anyone trying to encourage me, even if it’s the facetious “you’re almost there.” It’s not like anyone is saying these things with anything but good intentions – even if I’m dead and annoyed, it’s still appreciated that these people are taking energy or time to say something nice.

    • Marie-Santé September 6, 2012, 8:20 pm

      I love this quote from Kathrine Switzer: “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
      To me, it’s not just about ordinary people doing doing a crazy thing: it’s also about complete stranger’s encouraging other complete strangers. Something that does not happen very much in everyday life…

  • Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction September 6, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Good point! I like encouragement of all forms but I guess it depends on my mood. If I’m feeling good usually I like to be encouraged, but if I feel like I am struggling a lot I take the encouragement as “wow you are doing bad, better encourage this chick”

  • Karen September 6, 2012, 12:27 pm

    “You’re almost there” better mean the finish line is around the corner. But overall all I do appreciate the comments. It’s nice to have some encouragement when I feel like I am barely making progress.

  • Melissa September 6, 2012, 12:28 pm

    For the most part, I like encouragement during a race, but I can see how it’s get old when it’s that many people!
    I think my weirdest mid-race encouragement moment was during the race where I set my current 5k PR. I was working really hard and giving it my all, and I was running near this guy who was clearly just doing a fun run. So I’m huffing and puffing and probably looking like I’m on the verge of death, while he’s laughing and joking with people, running ahead and then standing in the sprinklers for a while, and yelling things like “They’re getting away!” For the first mile or two, he amused me. It was good to have a nice laugh. But as we got toward the end of the race, I got more and more irritated with the fact that I was giving 100%, and yet he was running the same pace, and had enough breath to shout at people, y’know?
    Anyway, somewhere around the halfway mark of the race, he turned around, saw that I was close behind him, and said “Whoa, you’re still there?!?” in a way that implied he thought I wasn’t going to be able to hang onto the pace I’d started at. It’s a bit of a compli-insult, because on the one hand…was it THAT shocking that I could hold the pace? But on the other hand, hey, it WAS difficult to keep going at that speed, so I felt good that someone noticed my effort.

  • Devon September 6, 2012, 12:30 pm

    I hear ya… I have a tri this weekend that I am DREADING (12 hr days at work = no training for a bit too long). I do have a new favorite spectator sign though: “LEGS- SHUT UP”. hehe it makes me giggle every time 🙂

  • Sarah September 6, 2012, 12:31 pm

    I’m weird about races. I like being part of the whole atmosphere but if I do a race completely invisibly, that would be great. I get embarrassed very easily about fitness stuff because I’ve never been very athletic. Call me shy but I’d rather not be encouraged at all on the race course, lol. I’d love to chat about the weather, the course scenery or other neutral race “small talk” stuff.

  • Beth September 6, 2012, 12:32 pm

    I experienced two annoying things this weekend at the Disneyland Half Marathon: 1. Someone yelling “almost there” at mile 11. Hello, that is not almost there in a half marathon!!! And 2. After I finished I was cheering right by the mile 13 marker. And a group of surly 20 somethings (who looked like they had never run a day in their lives) we’re being snarky about how only in America does everyone get a medal, even people who in their words “suck”. That was really rude, and uncalled for.

  • Laura September 6, 2012, 12:33 pm

    I’d rather be encouraged than not, although you are right the “You’re almost there!” is annoying when you’re not anywhere near the end.

  • Catherine September 6, 2012, 12:34 pm

    As for annoying comments from spectators, during marathons or half marathons I HATE things like, “You’re halfway there!” “20 miles down… only 6 left!” or the guys who think they’re really funny at mile 4 who say, “Only 22 more miles!” Basically any countdown stinks. Yes, 6 ahead compared to 20 behind seems like a good ratio… until you consider that 6 miles is still practically an HOUR of running!! There’s just no good way to break it down, so I only find it discouraging when spectators try to do so… unless the finish line is literally in sight 🙂

  • Lydia @ Inhabit the Beauty September 6, 2012, 12:35 pm

    I’m a really slow runner. I know this and accept it about myself.

    In a recent 10K, as I crossed the finish line, the race announcer mentioned something about, “Now, ladies and gentleman, these are the people we should REALLY be cheering for – maybe more than the fast people at the front of the back.”

    I think he probably meant well and was trying to be encouraging, but it sounded to my tired self like, “Cheer harder for the fat slow people. It must be really hard to be so fat and slow and still run 6 miles.”

    It really bothered me (and obviously still does!).

    • wendi September 6, 2012, 6:03 pm

      He meant well.. but he chose the wrong words. Even if he just would have kept it at “These are the people we should REALLY be cheering for”, that would have been better….

  • Megan September 6, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Sometimes I WANT to be encouraging to others because I know sometimes I like it, but I don’t want to come off as condescending if I am indeed passing them. In out-and-back races, I’ve definitely cheered on people at the head of the pack, first woman, first young kid I see coming back in. I definitely avoid “you’re almost there” because I’ve found most people say it when I’m not actually almost there and my almost there might be different.

  • Kristen September 6, 2012, 12:38 pm

    During a race, I’ll take any kind if encouragement from anyone, at any time. I ran my first marathon last year, and on race day, I decided to hook up with a pacing group. We ran the entire race cheering for ourselves! The pacer would yell out our pace (4:55!!) and we’d all cheer like maniacs. Ridiculous? Yep. But we all finished together, and EXACTLY at 4:55. I heart pacers. 🙂

  • Kayla September 6, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I love mid-race encouragement for the most part. I ran my first marathon in May, and while I coasted through the first half, I really struggled through the second half. My running buddy (God bless her for sticking with me the whole time.) and I approached mile 24. We were tired and sore. I was seriously questioning my ability to finish well; I had already lost sight of my time goal. I broke down. I was so full of emotion: I couldn’t believe I was running and going to finish a marathon. I couldn’t believe someone would run 26.2 miles with me. I missed my husband; I wanted to see him at the finish line so bad. I missed my parents and my dog. I marveled at how far I had come and how incredible that day would be for me. I cried. I hugged my friend and thanked her for being with me, because I know I would have been in far worse shape without her there. We rounded a bend and came across a volunteer, a guy about our age, who said the most incredibly nice things at just the right time: He said something to the effect of “You guys are amazing. You are doing something incredible. You have 2 miles to go. You can do this. I know it hurts. I know you’re tired, but you can do it — just run to the next sign, then walk, then do it again.” It was so much better than random spectators clapping and cheering and telling us we were almost there. It was like he took the time to look at us, evaluate our situation and personalize our encouragement. I will never, ever forget that moment.

    • Joy September 6, 2012, 3:58 pm

      Oh my goodness. I just got tears in my eyes reading this. How wonderful of that man to give such beautiful, specific encouragement.

    • Kathy September 6, 2012, 5:44 pm

      I teared up as well! What a beautiful story!

  • Caitlin @ This Bride's Joyride September 6, 2012, 12:40 pm

    I have to say, my favorite part of triathlons is that everyone is so encouraging (where in road races people just sprint past me 🙂 ) At one of my tris there was a free pancake breakfast afterwards so as I started to slow my run to a walk a woman came up behind me and said, “think of the yummy pancakes…must get to PANCAKES!” it made me laugh and start moving again!

    At one of my slowest bike tris (I had a semi flat tire) a woman came up to me after, hugged me and said I was her bike pace girl! Apparently I kept her motivated to keep pushing too. So even with 50+ people passing you never know! I really do love any encouragement from other racers.

    I don’t love encouragement from spectators when it’s things like you said, “you’re almost there, don’t give up now, push harder” because all I want to say is YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW HARD I AM PUSHING!!!

    • Michelle September 6, 2012, 12:50 pm

      In my tri’s I looove when people encourage with something funny like the pancakes! If I’m passing someone on the run (thats a big and RARE IF and its slowly done) I tend to try encouraging with a commiserating sentiment (along the lines of “Almost there? Where do they think THERE is!?” or along the geeky lines of “ok, first thing tomorrow, back to work on the teleportation system so we could be done already!”Usually gets a smile.).

      I love when others encourage me b/c not all races are like that. I ran a half ironman and no one was encouraging b/c they were all sooooo competitive b/c of the slots for Kona up for grabs. No thanks! I’ll go back to fun and encouraging shorter races with no hopes of Kona where everyone lets loose a little!

      And when I know I’m not actually almost there I sing this in my head whenever they say it. Disney goes a long way for encouragement in my head! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woP1GRsvfjg

  • Kelly September 6, 2012, 12:41 pm

    I don’t mean to sound ungrateful either, but I hate when people “encourage” me while they are passing me. While I know it isn’t meant that way, it just comes off as so condescending to me…more like “have fun running your cute little pace while I kick your ass.” Again, I know that’s totally in my head, but it irks me nonetheless. With that in mind, I rarely encourage others during races unless I can tell they are struggling or could use a pick me up. Otherwise, I just assume we’re all doing our own thing at our own pace and let it be.

    I agree that the “You’re Almost There!” is one of the worst things a spectator can say. Unless I can literally touch the finish line with my hand, I just don’t want to hear it. I also agree with Catherine–any mile countdown is bad (unless it’s “just 15 more feet to go!”).

  • Laine September 6, 2012, 12:45 pm

    I hate it when runners pass me with “nice job” it’s rude.

    When I pass people on my bike (which is the only time I pass them) I just say “on your left” and if I pass a lot of them, in my head I’m singing it like Beyonce, ‘On your left, on your left…”

    I do love side line cheers, but cheers from people passing me suck.

  • Army Amy* September 6, 2012, 12:46 pm

    I hesitate to say something to a specific person who appears to be struggling. (Maybe they are resting or stretching and will kick my butt in the next few minutes. Maybe they are in that dark place where you hate everyone. Maybe they’ll take it wrong.) I prefer to cheer from the finish line after I’m done or shout to someone passing me. The best encouragement I ever got was at the Austin Half Marathon. He shouted, “Just two more hills, turn the corner, and you are there.” That race has a million hills. But two more? I can do that!*

    • Michelle September 6, 2012, 12:55 pm

      Love the SPECIFICS of how much further with the hill count! The “only 2 more hills? I can do that” is a great state of mind for the end of the race!!

  • Michelle September 6, 2012, 12:54 pm

    I love the encouragement b/c its coming from a good place. When it gets to the point of irking me b/c everyone is encouraging b/c everyone is passing I just remind myself of how nice it felt the first time someone said it to me and enjoy that that same sentiment was with each well wish. And when its on the bike (and its always on the bike) and I’m out of good mood mojo, i think “You’re passing me now, but I beat you out of the water!!!!!” 🙂

  • Sunny September 6, 2012, 12:54 pm

    I like the encouragement but I know I am slow and I’ll never be fast so people will always pass me. Also on the “you’re almost there” comment, at the last half marathon I did that asked people to not say that and it was great. I think people just want to be nice and helpful but that is the worst thing to say.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats September 6, 2012, 12:54 pm

    I’ve actually never been cheered on, nor have cheered anyone else on in a race! I haven’t done too many though (too expensive..). I’ve been tempted to encourage someone, but I always end up choosing not to because I’m worried it will be annoying rather than encouraging

  • Kendra @ My Full-Thyme Life September 6, 2012, 12:54 pm

    I have never done a race in my life so I am probably not the best person to comment on this but… Once my girlfriend and I were jogging as an attempt to jump start our workout regimine and as we approached a much more finessed runner he said, “you can do it, keep it up!” We both started laughing because we thought we must have looked like we were dying and in need of encouragement. It was a bit embarassing even though he was trying to be nice.

    I agree that you should give encouragement to those that seem like they are struggling but I bet it’s hard when you think you are being nice and the person you are trying to lift up is feeling patronized.

  • Janelle September 6, 2012, 1:00 pm

    I think that encouragement in a small group setting or from someone you know who is there to support you is great. But, I don’t like people I don’t know shouting things at me… or the idea of someone flying past me and yelling “encouragement.” I feel like that makes me sounded jaded. Haha. But, it’s true.

  • rebecca @ blueberry smiles September 6, 2012, 1:02 pm

    I agree….sometimes the “pep talk cheers” by people I don’t know agravate me and end up stressing me out a little. I prefer the cowbells and just general cheers rather than the ones that sound more personal….but I know that my boyfriend prefers the encouragement

  • Courtney Leigh September 6, 2012, 1:03 pm

    Ooooh this is interesting! I really think most of the time people are going to appreciate it.

    My second triathlon was miserable, MISERABLE for me. I was the second to last person on the course and the run was an out and back, unshaded, run through a freaking parking lot. I cried. I considered giving up. On the way back people who had finished the race and were wheeling their bikes back to that freaking parking lot started encouraging me as we passed each other. These people weren’t any where close to the same place/pace as me, but their words were what helped dry my tears and propel me over the finish line.

    Just knowing what are words COULD mean to someone struggling, that they could have such a positive influence makes me say I will always encourage people. If some find it irritating or frustrating, that’s sort of their problem. I’m putting out positivity, they are the ones turning it into something negative. And I’ve been that person too! Also on a bike leg of a tri. If I heard “On your left” one more time, I swore I was going to purposefully cause those perfectly nice people to wreck. But that was MY problem. I was turning something nice into something negative.

    It’s kinda like a reverse of that common justice principle. I’d rather encourage continuously because if my words help one person, it is worth more to me than if they irritate 10.

    I will say that sometimes as a very, very, VERY slow racer I feel insecure about encouraging those so much faster than me. Anyone have thoughts on that?

    • Barbara September 6, 2012, 4:30 pm

      I just posted this below, but :
      As to your point about encouraging those who are faster than you, when I pass someone who says “great pace!” or “keep up the good run!”, I feel encouraged. I don’t think there is anything wrong with encouraging those passing you, they will most likely thank you and say something encouraging to you, as well.

    • Jameil September 7, 2012, 4:45 am

      Love this! I’m going to follow my natural instinct to encourage! It haunts me when I don’t!

  • Mai September 6, 2012, 1:03 pm

    completely agree with you. that’s why sometimes i hold back when passing someone because i don’t want them to feel like how you did after 20 comments. (not that it happens a lot, as i’m the one usually getting passed :D)

  • Barbara September 6, 2012, 1:13 pm

    I just ran a 20K this past weekend. I ran most of it with a friend, but he was hurting around mile 11 and fell back. I was struggling also, and in the last half mile, a woman next to me said “Let’s finish this strong, ladies” to myself and the girl nearby. I picked up the pace and we finished with a good sprint together, high-fiving at the end. It totally made my race, and was just what I needed at the time.

    As to your point about encouraging those who are faster than you, when I pass someone who says “great pace!” or “keep up the good run!”, I feel encouraged. I don’t think there is anything wrong with encouraging those passing you, they will most likely thank you and say something encouraging to you, as well.

    As someone who is a faster runner, when I pass people, I try to say things along the lines of “I love your spandex!” or “I can’t believe you are pushing that stroller! keep it up!”, instead of telling them to hang in there. For me, I’m unsure of how much they are struggling (if they even are) or if they want pace encouragement. This is an interesting disucssion, and I’m looking forward to reading what others have to say!

  • Megan@ The Running Doc September 6, 2012, 1:13 pm

    When I ran my first (and only) half marathon I trained during the winter and never had a training run in a temperature above 60, and of course the day of the race it was 85 degrees at the start. By about mile 9 I was really feeling the heat and was struggling and the absolute last thing I wanted to hear were words of encouragement from either the people passing me or the spectators standing on the sidewalk. I simply wanted to be left alone so I could focus on moving forward. Ha, I guess I’m just a cranky racer. 🙂

  • Rachel September 6, 2012, 1:16 pm

    I would have been pretty peeved if 30 people passed me with some kind of remark, even a good one. Even if they don’t intend it that way, those things sometimes come off as condescending. I often get annoyed with my husband for encouraging me while we’re running together. He is much, much faster than I am so when he sprints to the top of a hill and then runs back down to cheer me on I’m just mad that he makes it seem to easy. I know I have to work on not letting that bug me, though. Perhaps it’s best if we just run our own race.

    • erica September 6, 2012, 11:00 pm

      I feel the same way when my husband runs with me!

  • Megan September 6, 2012, 1:18 pm

    LOL, I feel this way too. I think I agree with you. It feels like pandering when you encourage someone you are flying by (even though I know those people had good intentions and remember that they themselves have been there too).

    Can I say you’re awesome for competing this quickly after giving birth? Your determination is very inspiring for us other mothers out there to get out there and get in a race, even if it’s not the same as it was for us pre-baby.

  • Shannon September 6, 2012, 1:20 pm

    I am all for encouragement from other participates as they know the hell you are experiencing at the moment……the spectators on the other hand need to not talk! Cheering and clapping fine but keep the words to yourself LOL. I don’t need to hear almost there until I can physically see finish line.

    This past Labor Day: 09/03/12 I actually snapped back at a spectator first time I have ever done that. I was at mile 8.5 ish of a 15.5 race in a beautiful area. There was a huge hill and I was walking, wasn’t trained as much as should of been for this amount of miles, course had 16 hills! The worst at the last .5 of the race. While a spectator said to me at mile 8.5 hill as I was walking. “What are you doing walking this is the worst hill run it and get it over with!” I looked at her and said “1. you don’t know me or how my body feels right now and 2. have you seen the finish line hill?” I then continued my walk up the hill. I did finish the race with a run/walk whole time : )

    • Jillian B. September 6, 2012, 7:40 pm

      Wow! I think I would have snapped at that too—or at least given a dirty look. I think that comment by the spectator was completely uncalled for and I hardly see the positive-ness in that (unless he knew you or was your trainer, which he was neither!).

  • Katie H. September 6, 2012, 1:21 pm

    I like the encouragement, as long as it seems genuine. I will sometimes say “Nice job!” to another runner just out for a morning run, and I will definitely say it during races. However, if you’re saying “Nice job, nice job, nice job” to everyone you pass, it doesn’t come across as meaningful.

    My answer to this question a few months ago would have been “No way!” Except that I’ve experienced runs or races now where those encouraging word have made a surprising difference. If not because they make me feel like I’m doing awesome, then because they make me realize how awesome it is that I’m out there doing it. When someone tells me “Nice job!” on a run, I think, “Yeah, it is pretty cool that I’m out here running. I could be asleep on the couch. Go, me!”

  • Jen September 6, 2012, 1:27 pm

    One time I ran a 10K (my longest distance ever at the time) and only ran up to about 3.5 miles during training – huge mistake, which I know now. Well, i literally came in DEAD LAST at the end of the race and was the only person on the course for about 10 minutes. There was a volunteer on a bike following or riding next to me, encouraging me (she probably thought I was going to keel over and die). She was very sweet, and I appreciated the effort, but holy embarrassment and frustration – I definitely just wanted her gone! I think I totally agree with your feelings on this one.

  • Ericka September 6, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I agree with you that encouraging someone who is roughly your same pace during a race makes sense. It’s how I made it through my first marathon – I fell into step with a few different people at different points throughout the race, and we encouraged each other. There was a steady incline for a few miles near the end, and another woman and I ran silently next to each other the whole way. It was was unspoken encouragement, but it was so helpful.

    In other cases, though, encouragement that is intended to be helpful can actually be very off-putting. I remember being out for an easy run in my neighborhood, and a guy passed me and said, “Keep going, you can do it!” While my face was bright red, I didn’t feel like I was struggling during the run…but his comment made me feel like I must have looked like I was really struggling. I wanted to let him know that I wasn’t a new runner, that I wasn’t out of shape or out of breath…my face just gets really red! I ended the run feeling pretty discouraged, even though I’m sure he was trying to be helpful.

  • Erin September 6, 2012, 1:31 pm

    My first 5K was in the rain and heavily populated with running strollers and I felt like I couldn’t keep up and was in danger of getting smacked with the strollers. I went up on the sidewalk to take a walk break and re-think my finishing the race. One runner came back to where I was and said don’t give up now. You were doing so good. I’ll get you started again. We ran together for two blocks and then he left with another kind word. I don’t know if I would have finished the race without him. A perfect stranger made my day and I wasn’t even able to thank him properly.

    I don’t think encouragement is ever bad. I think it’s human nature to try and help out those who appear to be struggling.

  • Rachel O. September 6, 2012, 1:48 pm

    i always feel like a bitch and so ungrateful when i hear such nice things but really want the person to shut it.

    a good example was a few weekends ago i was out running 13 miles, and i kept crossing paths with people on bikes. they were friendly and told me to keep it up. but it’s really hard to keep running and going when you see someone on a bike just zoom by. even though i know they’re out biking 20-30 miles themselves i wanted to be like you have it easy on WHEELS!

  • EmilyFF September 6, 2012, 1:56 pm

    This has been one of my biggest hangups with running. My husband is MUCH faster than me, and having him encourage me just drives me NUTS. It saps my motivation instead of improving it, I hate feeling like a charity case. He can’t understand why him being nice gets me so upset. I feel the same thing at races, every word of encouragement just feels like confirmation that I’m sucking. I really want to change my attitude, but it’s nice to hear that “encouragement” can be frustrating for others too.

  • Annette@FitnessPerks September 6, 2012, 1:57 pm

    I’m usually all about encouragement….but during my Half IronMan tri, a lady yelled “keep going” when I had stopped to walk because of a MAJOR pain in my lower abdomen. I kind of wanted to hit her. hah. NO I am not going to keep going if it is painful to move. Haha. BUt yes, normally I am nice & like to encourage & get encouragement. 😉

  • Whitney September 6, 2012, 1:58 pm

    Oh how I love when stupid people yell stupid things when I’m doing my training runs. My favorite is when a random person in the park told me to “run faster” and I responded, “I don’t see you out here running fat***”. I totally should have not responded with that but man it really pissed me off (obviously)! ha 🙂

  • Anna September 6, 2012, 1:58 pm

    I live in Budapest, Hungary and the racing/running community is rather small, only a few thousand people (5 or 6 maybe?) for the biggest Marathon and Half Marathon. I have never had many people pass me trying to be encouraging, and I am slow, but I do think that it really gets annoying after a while.

  • Nadine September 6, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I am a S-L-O-W runner, so I have had many, many comments thrown my way. And I also start to get a bit annoyed. I try to transfer all of those well wishes to the volunteers, and give them high fives and words of thanks. That keeps me positive instead of wishing bad things for those that have passed me.

    The absolute worst comment: I was running my first half, and I was in a really good place mentally at mile 9. Trucking up a hill and feeling GOOD about myself. A volunteer stopped me (mid hill) to ask: “ARE YOU THE LAST ONE?” Now that was a buzz kill! (I totally wasn’t the last one, but close.)

  • Susanna September 6, 2012, 2:16 pm

    I love this topic. I am not big on either giving or receiving encouragement. I know that from an spectator’s point of view there seems to be nothing wrong with yelling “almost there” or “looking good!” But as a seasoned racer, I can tell you that when you are having a bad day, and you’re NOT looking good, and you feel like s*it, hearing the same cheerful cries can get on your nerves. A race situation puts you a very peculiar psychological state: you’re pushing your limits, you are hurting, sometimes you’re going into hypoglycemia – hence your brain is a little wonky – and what people tell you can rub you the wrong way. This is the reason why I rarely say things to other racers when I am passing them. There is something so annoying about being passed and hearing “good job.” Well, you don’t know me, or how I trained or how hard I can race, and, in fact, I want to say, there ain’t nothing good about my pace right now! I have connected with fellow racers in moments of pain, when an understanding nod is well received, or a few mutually encouraging words can help carry you both to the finish line. However, the perfunctory “doing great,” as you get passed is rarely, in my eyes, a good idea.

    Also, I wish I could carry a slingshot to bring down every spectator who cries “almost there” anywhere but by the finishing chute. I have raced Wildflower a few times, and I have seen spectators tell racers “almost there” half way through the 1/2 mary.

    What I DO like is when people from TNT or other charities spot each other and go “go team!” or something like that…

    Side note: me second coaching session with GOTR went much better than the first one. THANK YOU for your advice!

    • Susanna September 6, 2012, 2:23 pm

      Oh! And another no-no is for race officials to make comments on your pace. I ran a 1/2 mary relay last March. I was running the second leg and, as a somewhat experienced racer, I knew I could “push-it” from the beginning all the way to the finish line. So, after my BF arrives and finishes his leg, I take off and get in my pain-cave. About 1/4 mile in a race official tells me “slow down! pace yourself.” OH BOY! If I did not want to kick ass during that run I would have stopped and given him an EARFUL! I don’t look like a fast runner – I like to wear whatever I want and I don’t run in a sports bra showing my six-pack – but I have placed top-ten in my AG a few times. How dare he determine how fast I should go? I got my revenge when I checked the results at home and realized that we got second on the mixed relay.

  • Lauren W. September 6, 2012, 2:16 pm

    I definitely can relate to the “You’re almost there” cheer, and totally agree that if that’s the case, the finish should be within eyesight. I ran a 15K earlier in the summer where for the first…no joke…5 miles, everyone’s sign read “You’re off to a great start”…nothing like being 5 miles in still thinking you have a ways to go and you just started the damn thing. But by far my biggest pet peeve comment during races is “Keep Going!”…..like I have another choice?! Although, I have to say that regardless of the commentary (and whether or not I find the cheer helpful or frustrating), it keeps my mind occupied for at least a few seconds and then I’m thankful either way for volunteers/cheering sections. 🙂

  • abbi September 6, 2012, 2:20 pm

    I’m not one to say anything during a race. I can take it or leave it. It doesn’t really bother me but I can see how it can get annoying as well. Encouragement from people on the sidelines tends to make me smile though. I run in mostly very small events where there are very few spectators (and often few participants). I’m not a fan of big, crowded events and that overall vibe doesn’t tend to do it for me and all the ‘you’re almost there’ comments!

  • Katie September 6, 2012, 2:23 pm

    I don’t like comments like that in races> It makes me feel like they pity me!

  • Angela @ Happy Fit Mama September 6, 2012, 2:37 pm

    I don’t mind the encouragement. Funny story – I was at my yearly check up with my gynecologist (woohoo) and we were talking about a recent race that I had done. He had been spectating near the finish line. He’s a runner so he likes to give out encouragement to others. He said, “Keep going! You’re almost there!” to a woman and she proceeded to stop and say “F-You!” to him. He was shocked! I guess she wasn’t having a good race. 😉

  • Carolina September 6, 2012, 2:53 pm

    I can totally see how the encouraging words could get old after a while. I’m a former competitive swimmer and a respectable runner, but a very slow cyclist. So in each of the few tris I’ve done, I’m usually in the first group out of the water, but then I spend the entire time on the bike hearing a litany of “On your left!” Over and over and over again. On the one hand, I’m thankful my fellow competitors are being safe and following protocol by announcing that they’re there; on the other hand, it is totally and completely demoralizing.

  • Samantha Angela September 6, 2012, 2:59 pm

    I hate it when people say “You’re doing great!” when, sure as shit, you’re stinking up the place.

    I’m a terrible beach volleyball player. I used to hate it when my team mates would say good job if I, in fact, was doing a terrible job. I know it. They know it. I just wanted to yell
    “You’re not being encouraging! I’m doing a shitty job and I know it!”

  • Abby September 6, 2012, 3:06 pm

    I totally agree with you Caitlin. The almost there comment drives me crazy! I told my husband that was the ONE thing he could not say to me during both labor ad deliveries! I hate hearing during races too, even the last 300 feet can be tough!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Sam September 6, 2012, 3:13 pm

    I love encouragement!
    I am currently living in a country (not the US) where every male on the street feels entitled to give an opinion when I walk by. It is discouraging, frustrating and aggravating… until I run by them on the street and the breeze I create cools them down. They still feel the inclination to comment on every little thing, but it keeps me motivated… when I’m running. The rest of the time, not so much.

    Sometimes it doesn’t feel encouraging when it’s coming from people who are in much better shape or running at twice my pace… but the blatantly stupid comments make me laugh and are pretty encouraging.

    That’s my two cents.

  • Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes September 6, 2012, 3:15 pm

    As a new triathlete–I completed my first two sprint tri’s, and I’m currently training for my third–I’ve noticed the tri community as a whole is super positive and encouraging. During club training sessions, whenever fellow riders passed me on the bike, more than 60 percent of the time they said something encouraging. In fact, I found myself cheering for others, too. (But during the run since it’s my strongest event and that’s when I did the majority of my passing.) I don’t think it’s necessary to motivate every person you pass, but I do think it’s OK to say something during your “strong leg,” or if you see someone who is visibly struggling. I’ve run my fair share of roadraces, and this type of support simply isn’t there; perhaps there’s a difference between running and triathloning cultures?

    “You’re almost there!” is one of my pet peeves, too! To me, anything farther away than 100m is not “almost there.” Ha! (OK, maybe 400m, but still.)

  • Christina September 6, 2012, 3:34 pm

    Ohhhh I HATE “You’re almost there!” Almost as bad is in like a 5k when people are like “Just one more mile!” Dude, I’m only running 3 miles. 1 is a big part of that!
    I’m pretty picky about spectators- I like things like “lookin’ good” or just clapping and cowbells. I get annoyed at “You can do this!” or “You’ve got this!”, especially in a 5k when everyone is running- of course I can do this! (It’s different I think for people who are clearly struggling at the end?)
    And I haaate when spectators are like “It’s just a little hill.” Or in the half-marathon I do every year, there’s one long hill and I plan to walk part of it, because I can walk up it like 30 secs slower than I can run up it and not destroy the rest of the race. But there are always spectators saying “Don’t give up now! You can do it! Don’t walk!” Grr. How bout you run up it?
    I usually say “Good job” when I pass people in a tri. Is that annoying? It feels kind of like I’m rubbing it in but I like it better than “You can do this.” I do like situations like the one you had with the lady on the run, when you encourage each other. I usually leapfrog people on the bike and run of tris so it’s fun to encourage each other.

    • Caitlin September 6, 2012, 6:50 pm

      Ha @ “Just one more mile!”

  • Ruby Leigh September 6, 2012, 3:36 pm

    I think sometimes the encoragement “don’t give up!” can have a negative double meaning. I’ve had that yelled when I was no where near giving up… and sometimes it makes me think “Do I look like a quitter?” in my inner dialogue

  • Helen September 6, 2012, 3:40 pm

    I marshalled at my running clubs annual half marathon on Sunday. I made sure I yelled out what I would want to here at about a third into the race, just after I’d climbed a mammoth hill: “looking good, nice and strong” “looking fierce, lady in pink! Go girl” “owning it!”

    I had to tell my marshalling partner NOT to say “almost there” and also stop him from telling fibs about the hills that were just around the corner….

  • Rachael @ Happy Healthy Runner September 6, 2012, 4:15 pm

    My running buddy and I were racing a 30k last year and we passed a guy who told us the finish line was a quarter mile away. Um it was not. It was a half mile away. That may not seem like that big of a difference, but in a 19 mile race that is an eternity. I know he meant well and was trying to pump us up, but by the quarter mile mark with no finish line in sight I was pretty pissed.

  • Julie September 6, 2012, 4:51 pm

    Ha ha! That’s funny ‘cuz at the beginning of your post when you said everyone was making encouraging comments as they passed, I didn’t realize where you were going w/ the rest of the post, & I thought to myself, “Huh… it must just be me, but I think I’d find that really annoying!” 😛

  • Alex @ Healthy Life Happy Wife September 6, 2012, 5:10 pm

    I agree with you. I think when you are passing someone, it is almost condescending to say “looking good!”

    On the other hand, when you are struggling & someone running along side you says “keep going”, it is more encouraging IMHO.

  • Anne Marie @Anne_Everhart September 6, 2012, 5:21 pm

    This post makes me love you more than I already did! SO real.

    My thoughts on encouragement from the sidelines:
    I always wear my name on my shirt during marathons, because typically I love to hear the encouragement from spectators . One time I was having a horrible race and totally wanted to rip the name bib off my shirt mid-race because it felt like everyone was mocking me when they cheered! Anyway, I know it was probably all in my head, and people mean well when they cheer/offer encouragement.

    Ditto on “you’re almost there”. Ugh!

  • Kathy September 6, 2012, 5:39 pm

    I agree with you! I personally love giving and receiving encouragement, but there is a time and a pace (yes, I meant that spelling). I am a slow runner and I actually get discouraged when more than 1 person passes me and says something, almost anything, encouraging.

  • Gina September 6, 2012, 5:52 pm

    I’ve thought about this before but in a slightly different situation. I do Crossfit and when I’m running back and they are just starting their run portion I say something encouraging, but I’m always afraid they are secretly annoyed and hate me!

  • Blair September 6, 2012, 5:59 pm

    If I’m just going slow because I’m slow, then whatever, I can appreciate it. If I’m struggling I can’t f’ing STAND IT. It’s a huge huge reason why I couldn’t fully commit to Crossfit.

  • Hillary September 6, 2012, 6:35 pm

    On one of my long runs while training for my first half, I was really dragging. Suddenly this older, middle aged man came up behind me, ran next to me, and told me that I “had this” and I “needed to push a little harder!” Normally that would piss me off, but he was right—and I did.

    During the half that I had been training for, I came upon a fellow runner who was clearly running out of steam—and we were less than a mile from the finish! I paid it forward by telling her the same thing: that she had this and could totally do it. She thanked me, picked up her pace, and finished just behind me. It was awesome.

  • Caitlin September 6, 2012, 6:45 pm

    I totally get what you’re saying. I haven’t experienced this in a race, but a few times a week I work out with the Biggest Loser Kinect game and while I love it and totally recommend it, I’ll be doing squats or something and Bob will repeat the same line of encouragement like 5 times in 1 minute and if I’m really struggling I’ll yell at the TV (sorry, Bob). Clearly it wouldn’t be okay for you to yell at the people who are giving you encouragement and who, as you said, have no idea you’ve been told “you can do it!” 35 other times. But I totally get where you’re coming from!

  • Claire September 6, 2012, 8:05 pm

    Mmm, interesting. In a big race I usually just focus on myself and don’t encourage others, or pay much attention to whether I’m being encouraged. At my weekly running club runs though, it’s encouragement all the way. We run using a handicap system where the slower runners start first and the faster last so that it all comes together at the end and anyone can win regardless of pace. So generally you are passing slower people who started ahead of you, and faster people catch and pass you. Everyone is so encouraging to each other, so even though you are passing someone slower or a faster person is passing you, there’s always a genuine word of encouragement. It gives the club such a great feel and it is definitely coming from a good place.

  • Ellen @ Wannabe Health Nut September 6, 2012, 8:14 pm

    I agree, constant “Yo go, girls” would probably drive me nuts if I was feeling like shit and bringing up the rear. I never know how much encouraging to do in boot camp classes. I usually just clap for my teammates when we’re doing relay sprints. I’m just awkward like that!

  • Jennifer-Anne September 6, 2012, 8:22 pm

    This is making me think you all need to give your head a shake.
    A person you don’t know.
    Has made the effort – verbally – to cheer for, encourage or motivate you.
    They are either standing on the side of the road, possibly in the cold, or rain, or snow, because they have volunteered their own time so you could participate in your own personal running achievement or the person they are waiting for is still behind you. OR they are beside you on the course fighting their own demons to get to their personal running finish line. But despite their selflessness you don’t like the phrase they chose or the potentially sarcastic implications of your pace.
    Give yourself a moment and imagine that race course – without those people – without the volunteers or families cheering.
    If it is your own personal self talk that you are hearing – those other runners could pass you in absolute silence and the mocking you’d hear will still be deafening.

    • Anne September 7, 2012, 8:30 am

      Kudos. Thanks !

  • Marie-Santé September 6, 2012, 8:29 pm

    At my first half, I had «Pain is temporary» on the back of my shirt and my friend had «Quitting is forever» on hers. I was running in front of my friend to cut the wind and we pass a walking man (he probably was hurt) . He said «Temporary my a**» but then he saw my friend… Maybe he felt like we bragged with our shirt, oops!
    Later, a woman who was running the full passed us and thanked us and said she needed that. She started sprinting and we quickly lost sight of her! Anyway, without saying a word, we had much more positive runners than a single Debbie Downer. After all, racing is a mental game and you choose how you react to other people’s words!

  • Kelly meatlesswithaman.blogspot.com September 6, 2012, 8:53 pm

    Good topic!! There is a fine line between encouraging and condescending. And when I say that, it’s with 100% knowledge that the people making the comments TOTALLY mean them in a positive and encouraging way. I think the fine line comes in – for me – mentally after you hear so many “encouraging words”. I run races. But I walk a lot during the race. I think anything under 40 minutes for a 5 K is incredible. I don’t run for a single sole but me (well I was inspired by a friend who died so its for him too but now mostly for me!) and I don’t ever care about my time. I compare me to me. I am not competitive AT ALL. so when I hear other Racers cheering me along – part of me is honored and part of me gets pissed. I can’t explain it better than you did. So just know you are not alone!

  • erica September 6, 2012, 10:57 pm

    Ugh I hate it, actually. Especially when it’s from someone who has already finished a race I’m running. I really dont want a guy who is happily chowing down on his post race banana telling me Im almost done. I know its not meant to be, but It feel descending.

  • Jameil September 7, 2012, 4:29 am

    I volunteered at a tri a few weeks ago and was flabbergasted by this woman yelling “You’re almost there!” when people were JUST STARTING their 2-mile run. What the heck?? We’re at the beginning and their legs still feel like jelly. Please stop talking. Someone actually snapped at her, “No we’re not.” At some point I figured out she might have been talking to people on the bike course since they were both in view at this point. My running group stayed out to cheer the last woman in (all women tri) and by the end, she definitely had a “just shut up and move” look. In my first 10K, I paced poorly and had tons of energy at the end and literally raced past people in the last mile. I felt kind of bad. I could tell people were struggling. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know how they’d take it. The line is so fine.

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin September 7, 2012, 7:16 am

    I have mixed thoughts about this too! Sometimes when I see people at the gym who are obviously just starting on their fitness journey, I really want to encourage them and let them know that I used to be in their shoes! But I never do strike up a conversation with them because I don’t know if they’d appreciate it or be embarrassed/annoyed!

  • Anne September 7, 2012, 7:47 am

    I agree, I am NOT a fan of people yelling “You’re almost there!” Thanks I know what I signed up for, I get it.

    I think it is appropriate to encourage people who are about on your level. If you are passing someone, no matter what you say you’re probably not going to make them feel any better. Encouraging those keeping pace with you though can lighten the load because you’re probably feeling about the same level of misery at the end.

  • Anne September 7, 2012, 8:29 am

    I think all encouragements are great.

  • Ashley September 7, 2012, 9:31 am

    I was running over some major hills a few weeks ago. It was sweltering and I was seriously tired. This kid (no more than 16 years old) zoomed past me in Vibrams and yelled “Nice Job!” as if I was a kindergartener that had just earned a golden star.
    On that note, I love encouragement but only when I think the other person is suffering the same amount of pain as me.

  • Katie September 7, 2012, 10:58 am

    I couldn’t agree more, the encouragement is nice…but also sometimes works in negative ways. I ran a half marathon relay with some friends this spring, my leg was only 5 miles. I’m not much of a runner, but I trained hard (and was training for my 1st half marathon), so I figured I would give it my all that day. I ran the fastest 5 miles I have ever run! Except there was this one lady who ran past me and yelled something at me, trying to be encouraging, but really only made me feel like she was giving me sympathy encouragement, like it was so obvious it was hard for me. But the only reason it was hard was because I was pushing myself so much!

  • Erin @ Big Girl Feats September 7, 2012, 2:00 pm

    I usually just clap or yell the person’s bib number (Go 45! Go 679!) because it’s the fastest way I can think of to encourage them.

    I ran a 5 miler for the American Cancer Society in May and am a thyroid cancer survivor, so it was a pretty emotional race for me. I hadn’t run for a while before that and am a very slow runner to begin with, so I was a little self conscious being at the back of the pace. DetermiNation (the ACS) did a really good job of having groups of people cheer for you on the course, but when I came up to the first group of people (probably mile 2 or so) , they started cheering & clapping and I thought about my journey and was really proud of myself – so obviously I started hysterically sobbing. I kept running & hysterically sobbing each time someone would cheer for me so I’m pretty sure anyone who cheered must have thought they said something really offensive!

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