It’s full-fledged marathon season right now!
One of the advantages of doing an early fall marathon is that I get to kick back and enjoy everyone else’s marathons. The disadvantage is that I feel kinda left out of fun. But that’s okay because I can still participate in the experience by being a fantastic spectator.
Many runners rate crowd support as an important factor in a marathon and research confirms that spectators can affect athletes’ performance. As a runner, I appreciate people coming out to support runners by clapping, cheering, yelling out names, and my favorite, by having race signs. A funny race sign makes me smile and laugh and for a brief second forget about the pain I’m in. When I’m tired and demotivated on the course, a laugh evoked by a race sign reminds me that running is fun (or is this cognitive dissonance I’m experiencing?) and motivates me to finish strong.
So it makes me sad when I miss a sign out on the course because it was poorly made. It takes time to make these signs and I (and other runners) want to read them, but we don’t want to lose time reading them. Here are some tips and ideas on how to make great race signs for your friends, family, other loved ones, and for all runners.
The Sign Itself
- HIGH CONTRAST – High contrast between the letters and the background is your friend. It makes it easy to read quickly. I can’t tell you how many signs I never read because the person chose low contrast colors. If in doubt, use a white background with black letters. Works every time. You might be thinking, “But it’s boring!” What would you rather have? No one being able to read your sign?
- BIG LETTERS – This is one of those times where BIGGER really is BETTER. Bigger = READABLE.
- THICK LETTERS – It’s not just the length, but the thickness matters too. Thicker = READABLE.
- FILL IN BLOCK LETTERS – If you’re making block letters, fill in the space. Otherwise it’s hard to read.
- NOT WORDY – Brevity is the soul of wit. You’re not writing War & Peace here. You can to get your idea across in as few words as possible. Think about your message and see if you can pare down the words.
What to write for your sign? You can do the oldies, but goodies (“Run like you stole something,” “Your feet hurt ’cause you’re kicking ASS-phalt,” “Chafe now, drink later.”), but I actually prefer to think about doing something a little more topical. Here’s where I go for race sign inspirations.
CURRENT EVENTS – This is by far my favorite way. Ben’s a political junkie, so we’re always up-to-date on the latest esoteric legislative issues and public policy (I’m not kidding when I say that C-SPAN is one of Ben’s favorite channels). This is too wonky. I just go for what’s in the headlines.
Two years ago we made Snowden/NSA signs that were a big hit at the NYC Marathon.
Some of the current events in 2015 that could be good race sign material:
- MOVIES – The latest blockbuster can be fantastic!
- LOCAL FEATURES/ATTRACTIONS – Use something unique about the location
- MEMES – Honestly this is probably the most fun way to make a race sign. There are so many memes and you can do so much. I made a bunch through Meme Generator. It was way too much fun. I should have been working instead.
Good luck to all the runners!!!!! Especially the ones doing Chicago this weekend!
I made race signs for those of you I knew who were marathoning in the next couple of weeks, but if you want me to make you a personal race sign, let me know and I’d be thrilled to do so (seriously, I rather make race signs than work and it’s a fun way to procrastinate).
Wishing everyone a wonderful race and that YOUR PR WILL BREAK THE INTERNET!!!!
If you want to check out other great race signs, go to this blog, Best Race Signs.