Road to 26.2 How to Support Your Athlete

Road to 26.2

Tuesday, January 28th- 2 weeks and 4 days until I get to run twenty-six point two

How to Support the Athletes in Your Circle: A Handbook

It can be hard to understand when a friend or family member decides to take on a big physical challenge, like a marathon or triathlon. Hell, it can be downright difficult. It may mean giving up time with a loved one because they’re training. It can mean taking vacations to locales where another race is, and getting up incredibly early to stand around and wait for your athlete to finish their race. You may worry about them and not understand why they would want to do this. Enjoy my handbook on how to support your athlete!

Part 1: What to Say

When a loved one announces that they are going to train for and achieve something big, like a marathon, it can be very surprising. It can also bring up feelings of your own. That’s completely natural. Your friend or family member is not leaving you behind or choosing something over you, she is choosing more of herself. You’ll get to see her become more focused, more positive, and more organized. She will be spending a lot of time training, and that requires a lot of introspection and positive mindset. You will get to see a human become a better version of themselves, and that is truly exciting!

So what do you say?

Ask questions! Look up some info on the ol’ Google machine. There are so many terms and practices that are sport-specific, and athletes love to talk about their sport, so ask away! Your athlete is excited to compete and your support means a lot. 

Part 2: Showing Up for Your Athlete

It is exciting that your loved one will be competing! Of course you want to show up on race day and cheer her on! She may think of it as extra motivation or too much of a distraction. It is very personal whether your athlete would like to have extended support on the day of the event. You may really want to see her cross the finish line, however a lot of events, especially endurance events, are not built to happily accommodate spectators. Many events have closed roads and no facilities available for food and restrooms, so this can make it very difficult to navigate, especially in an unfamiliar area. 

Just ask your athlete if she would like company on the day of the race or if she would prefer to celebrate the accomplishment on another day. Don’t take it personally if she would prefer a small circle of support on the day of the event, it is just about simplifying logistics on race day.

Part 3: Supporting Your Athlete

So what does support look and sound like?

A good rule of thumb to think about is if the question or comment is more about you or them. If it’s about your concerns, voice them to someone other than the athlete.

These types of questions have been said to me, many times, by well-meaning friends and family members, and they’re just not helpful. Any concerns you have about their ability to complete the task, has been amplified a million times inside the athlete’s head. It takes a lot of mental stamina to continue to convince yourself to simply keep going, day after day, mile after mile, step after step. 

Here’s a quick reference guide of kinds of comments to keep away from the athlete to protect her confidence, plus the responses I’ve started using;

-Aren’t you worried about your knees? (Yes, but I’m doing this anyways and for as long as I can)

-How are you going to go all that way? (One step at a time. My body is strong and so is my mind.)

-20 miles, that’s a really long way. (Yep. I’m worried about it too, let’s not talk about it.)

-I could never do that, you’re crazy. (Thanks. Good for you, not for me.)

-It’s not safe to run alone. (Cool. I’m doing it anyways.)

-How are you going to make time and still work and take care of everyone? (I’ll figure it out with the help of my fantastic husband.)

Ok y’all, hopefully this has been helpful! I came up with this whole article when I was running the other day! It feels great to be able to write it down and help other athletes and their families!




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