Curbside Battle of Wits
There seems to be no end to the creativity of marathon fans. Perhaps they just have time on their hands. What else is there to do while huddling in the cold waiting to cheer your favorite runner for a few precious seconds? At least clever signs are a source of entertainment.
But there may also be a competitive subtext on the sidelines. While marathoners run against the clock, some in the crowd engage in a fierce battle of wits. Itâ€™s a poster arms race: The more humorously urbane the sign, the more worthy the fan.
If runners happen to incidentally draw inspiration from this drive to out-chic other spectators, so be it.
With this in mind, letâ€™s examine another batch of marathon posters:
2006 Chicago Marathon | Photo by kabn courtesy of Flickr.
On the right, we see well-meaning marathon supporters, lightheartedly cheering runners. Shivering on the side of the road, theyâ€™d clearly be happier if the whole nasty business were complete. Clint Eastwood wouldnâ€™t approve.
Apparently, neither would the spectators on the left, who sport a rather hardcore message. But perhaps this harsh sign is not meant for runners. It might be a challenge to the nearby fans holding the weak-kneed sign. The Namby-Pambyists proclaim, â€œWe are the heartier fans! Bring on the Frostbite!â€
The Defiant ClichÃ©
2007 New York City Marathon | Photo by edEx courtesy of Flickr.
This sign (or variant thereof) has become a staple of road marathon fandom, probably because it serves both runner and spectator well. For the runner, the message appeals to base instincts. It actually helps to see something like this at mile 22. For the fan, the low-grade profanity is benignly naughty, the counter-culture equivalent of the magnetic earring (all of the rebellion none of the commitment).
Cue the Umpa Lumpas
2007 New York City Marathon | Photo by misplacedparadox courtesy of Flickr.
What has become of us? Apparently, fathers are now making smart phone bribes to pre-teens under the guise of spousal encouragement.
I donâ€™t trust dadâ€™s agenda. Heâ€™s using momâ€™s marathon to prop up his sketchy parenting skills. Consider: A poster like this canâ€™t possibly inspire mom. She does all the work and gets nothing in return. The family budget takes a hit, coach potato dad becomes the undeserving hero and little Veruca Salt gets a better cell phone than me.
I hope mom finished in precisely 4:31:01.
2006 Salt Lake City Marathon | Photo by deltaMike courtesy of Flickr.
The main refrain to Vangelisâ€™ Chariots of Fire (our most sacred anthem) features precisely twenty-two â€œNAs.â€ This sign inadequately offers only fifteen â€œNAs.â€
Without clarification, one might assume the sign referred to â€œGet a Jobâ€ by Sha Na Na (potentially insulting); â€œThe Na Na Songâ€ by Cheryl Crow (lyrics only make sense after mile 25); Possibly the â€œTheme from Rockyâ€ (three cheers for pugilism); or more likely the inevitable â€œNa Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbyeâ€ by the Chateaus/Steam (hardly encouraging to marathoners).
2005 London Marathon | Photo by Rufous Y Anunciada courtesy of Flickr.
Right. So this bloke named â€œStoozâ€ must really fancy lard. How else could he put up with such cracking, barmy signs? Iâ€™m interested in the wee bonny sign on the right. It directs Stooz to â€œFollow the crowd to free beer, fags and lard.â€
Beer, I understand. Fags less so. Only dodgy buggers would smoke after a long distance race. But what of the lard? Why is it free? Does it possess mysterious recuperative qualities? Is it (gasp) tasty to the knackered runner? Should I give it a go after my next race?
British readers, please enlighten me.
All Hail Sakyong!
2005 New York City Marathon | Photo by whitkick courtesy of Flickr.
Weldon Smith doesnâ€™t instantly command respect. Dennis Frumperton is nobodyâ€™s tyrant. Replace â€œSakyongâ€ with â€œBillâ€ and â€œMiphamâ€ with â€œJonesâ€ and you have one boring poster.
I love the swirls here, which add a hypnotic quality to the design; as if Sakyong is far more svengali than sovereign.
These young ladies offer the perfect fusion of motivation and witticism. Letâ€™s scrutinize their respective messages:
Woman on the Left
An avid marathoner and ultramarathoner, I do indeed possess abundant stamina. I also take people at their word. So I called the phone number on the sign. A woman answered, and was quite taken aback by the subject of my call. Odd; she seemed so earnest in the photo. Perhaps I reached the wrong person. The last digit of the phone number is a bit fuzzy.
Woman on the Right
At least Woman Seeking Stamina had the courage of her convictions. I question the commitment of Cleavage Sally. Runners pushed their bodies to the limit as they passed, offering their last measure of endurance to the unforgiving course. If this woman were serious about inspiration, her neckline would be far lower.
To be continued…
There’s more where this came from, including a classic sign from Brooklyn, and an intriguing offer seen at the San Diego Marathon.