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Supporters Guide for Dublin Marathon

Oct 24, 2023

Running 26.2 miles on Sunday morning is understandably not everyone’s ideal bank holiday treat. For others, it is the best day of the year in Dublin City, the day when the city comes alive with support, energy, smiles and goodwill. If you are in the city this weekend, I urge you to come out and see what it’s all about. You might just surprise yourself with the emotion that fills the streets on marathon sunday. 

The big day out

Having experienced the Dublin Marathon as a runner many times, this year, I will trade in my running shoes and join thousands of supporters with posters, balloons and loud cheering voices as we encourage the runners around the course.

Why runners need spectators

Supporters and spectators make a marathon. It is no surprise that Dublin Marathon has the name of the ‘Friendly Marathon’. The supporters distract us from the distance. They encourage us to keep moving. They are in awe of the marathoners and the runners feed off their energy. A cheer, a smile or word of advice from a stranger can literally bring us runners to tears. Supporters make us feel like we are winning when the winners have long since finished and are back home on the sofa eating pasta. If supporters knew how much we appreciate them, they would be very very surprised.

Addictive viewing

Being on the sideline of a marathon takes the art of people watching to a new level. You witness runners of all shapes and sizes, young and old all moving forward to the finish line. Watching a marathon will inspire you to get off the couch and finally lace up the runners. You might even see someone you know and lift their spirits as they count down the miles. The most surprising side effect is that you may find yourself overcome with emotion. Supporting a marathon is in fact slightly addictive. You stop to cheer for 5 minutes and 1 hour later you find yourself with sore hands from clapping, a hoarse voice from cheering and a tear in your eye. Also, watch out, it might also make you tempted to sign up to next year! 

Should you be lucky enough to live on the route, make a day of it and set up camp in your driveway. I have passed some very tempting BBQs, picnics and deckchairs on the Dublin Marathon route. How wonderful it feels to run past a house with families cheering, music playing and kids offering sweets. Embrace the day. Many of the runners I have coached remember the marathon passing their door as they were children and it has always been something they aspired to get involved in.

The supporter plan

Supporting a marathon is quite a sport in itself and it helps to have a strategy in place to make sure you get the most out of your day. If you have friends and family who are running, having a plan in place is especially important. As silly as this may sound, supporters will not recognise a runner in the crowd. The runner will spot their friends and family on the pavements long before the supporter sees them. Due to the large numbers on the on the route, being a little bit conspicuous as a supporter really helps. It’s almost Halloween, so take advantage and dress a bit differently from the rest of the crowd. Posters, balloons, wigs and loud colours all make a supporter stand out.

Easy for the family

Yes, running a marathon is hard work. Supporting can be hard work too if you are dragging young children across the city with you. Even the most patient of children will get bored. Pick a location near a toilet, a shop and somewhere with shelter. It can get very cold waiting for runners. The last thing a runner deserves to be met with at the end of the marathon is a group of wet, cranky, hungry and bored supporters. Make the day easy on the whole family and you will all enjoy the celebrations.

Be sure to see eachother

As a runner, give your supporters very limited logistical tasks and everyone will have a more enjoyable day. Tell your supporters what side of the road to stand on and always run on this side. Know exactly what road junction or landmark they will be at and tell them what supplies of food and drink you would like them to bring as backup. Don’t depend on your supporters for food or drinks. There is no certainty that you will see them as often as you might predict. Anytime you meet should be treated as a bonus along the route. Avoid running too close to the pacing groups near your meeting points as they very crowded and you may miss your supporters.

How to stand out in the crowd

As a supporter, you can make life easier on your favourite runners by avoiding standing near other people. Find a spot on your own on a straight stretch of road. Avoid standing on bends as the runners will be more focussed on turning the corner. Standing half way up a hill is a great meeting point. You have better sight of the runners coming towards you and you might just stop your friend walking up the hill if they see you. Have an estimate of your runners time finish. You will see pacing runners every 10-15 minutes with flags and banners so you will have an idea of what stage the runners are at. Thanks to technology you can now also track your friends and family online as they pass though certain landmarks via the App. If you are chasing a runner around the city, do not commit to more than three stops unless you are on a bicycle. The roads will be closed and you will only put yourself under unnecessary stress. Aim for a maximum of 3 places to meet along the route.

Favourite vantage spots

There are plenty of vantage points for spectators along the route. There is no value in a supporter standing at the start line. There is enough excitement and crowds there for the runners. They will need you more later on. The Phoenix Park is always surprisingly quiet and the runners will be glad of a cheer as they travel uphill towards Castleknock at 5 miles. At 13 miles, the runners will be running uphill again at Crumlin road and what better way to pass an uphill than to be cheered along. At 22 miles along Fosters Avenue the runners will look very different than when you waved them through the Phoenix Park. Now is not the time to tell them ‘you are nearly there’. 4 miles is a long way when you have 22 miles in your feet. Be positive and enthusiastic. Tell them they are amazing. Never try to fool a runner by saying ‘it’s all downhill from here’ unless you are absolutely certain. Even a canal bridge will feel like a mountain at 25 miles.

The final stretch

If you wish to see the runners towards the end of the marathon, be prepared for big crowds.  I would recommend moving closer to Merrion Road or Ballsbridge which is about 10-15 minutes before the end of the marathon to be sure to spot your loved ones as the crowds will be smaller there. Your runners won’t need you for the last few minutes of the marathon. Let them enjoy the finish line and the final stretch without having to look out for you. Arrange instead a meeting point in a hotel or café for later.

Best tip for runners

Finally to all the runners, take out the headphones and soak up the atmosphere. The crowd are there to help you.  Wear your name on your shirt and enjoy the cheers from friends and strangers. Whenever you feel a dip and you need a little kickstart, run along the side of the road past the supporters and their enthusiasm and energy will carry you all the way home.

Wishing everyone all the very best on Marathon Sunday - runners, spectators, volunteers and organisers alike! Keep an eye out for us and our signs in The Phoenix Park (on the right just passed the Aras) and in Ballsbridge just after American Embassy. 

See you there! 


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