The Smart Alec Poster Cult

24 January 2009

No Bailout for you!
Banks, insurance companies, lending institutions, automobile manufacturers, municipalities, and Wall Street? Yes.

You after mile 21? No.

After you’ve run a few marathons, you begin to notice themes. Some races are tougher than others. Some courses are beautifully scenic. Sometimes you run elbow to elbow with thousands of people. Other times you virtually race alone. Within this variety of experience, one constant remains: the imaginative marathon fan.

In a way, marathon fans are more unusual than marathon runners. It’s one thing to take your body to the point of collapse. It’s another thing entirely to encourage someone else to do it. And that’s the rub. Marathon fans are more than just spectators. They have a job to do. They must help their runner drag his or her sorry carcass across the finish line.

Fans have two primary means of cheering runners: vocal chords (drop by Wellesley during the Boston Marathon and you’ll experience this to great effect) and naturally, the hand-made marathon poster.

Creative posters are the spice of the marathon experience. The most inventive rise above the bland “Run mommy!” or “You can do it!” variety. Signs can be witty, sarcastic, comedic, inspirational, confrontational, and yes, even vulgar.

They’ve become something of a genre unto themselves. I’ve found brilliant examples. Here’s the first batch:


Lowered Expectations
Don\'t Die Lisa
2008 Marine Corps Marathon | Photo by Kicksie courtesy of Flickr.

If Lisa survived this race, her biggest fan will have considered it a crowning achievement. Really, we should all have such support, especially at work.

“I know you’ve got umpteen thousand status reports to write, but there’s no rush. As long as you live through the process, management will be completely satisfied.”

Perhaps the same consideration should be given to this fan, who apparently wasn’t concerned about which way the sign was facing.


Encouragement for the Rest of Us
Beat Oprah
New Jersey Marathon | Photo by shanonala courtesy of Flickr.

Most marathoners are not very fast. According to the USATF, the median finishing time for males is 4:19:52; for females, 4:52:55.

So, these intrepid fans really know how to motivate the meatiest part of the bell curve: By imploring runners to beat Oprah’s respectable 4:29:20.

Another target that could provide supreme motivation: George W. Bush’s 3:44:52.


Poor Advice
Joe Hop
2005 Chicago Marathon | Photo by fxdirect courtesy of Flickr.

No Joe! You should run! Hopping is much harder and will put undue stress on your knees, shins and kidneys.

Do not listen to this woman.


A Gift for Understatement
Annie, You\'re Kind of a Big Deal
2007 Chicago Marathon | Photo by soundfromwayout courtesy of Flickr.

Most marathon posters offer highly superlative encouragement. Runners see endless signs of the “My Parent is Awesome” or “You’re My Hero [Frank, Joe, Chet, etc.]” variety. The nonstop overstatement can become a bit boring.

Annie’s sign rises above the din. One imagines the author seeking to inspire uniquely without resorting to exaggeration (or engendering undue pride). He has succeeded brilliantly.

Unless of course Annie was expecting superlative encouragement; In which case, he’s failed miserably.


It’s the thought that counts.
This is your sign.
2006 New York City Marathon | Photo by Elizabeth Wentling courtesy of Flickr.

“… But I still went to great pains to create a highly legible, humungous sign. I also risked my life to hang it on a precarious fire escape while nursing a brutal hangover. So when we get to Rother’s, you’re buying, dude.”


Come hither.

2006 Los Angeles Marathon | Photo by concrete cornfields courtesy of Flickr.

I don’t know what’s funnier, the (presumed) woman in Fredrick’s of Hollywood lingerie, the outrageous offer or the cheesy covered sofa complete with low rent boom box. An upscale gentleman’s venue, this is not.

Locals know this to be the infamous Venus de Midol (seriously). Her annual tawdry proposal is not a joke. Yes readers, it’s for real.

I find it necessary to offer prospective clients a few words of advice. If you’re keen for a lap dance, may I suggest a more private setting when you are less exposed publically, clad in something other than marathon attire, not encrusted with salt and can independently verify the gender of the dancer.



To be continued…
A host of witty marathon signs are on the way. Come back on Wednesday January 28th for more!

- Dean

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