Plainspoken Inspiration of the Street Race Poets

9 April 2009

I appreciate the marathon fan that goes out of his or her way to encourage runners. Having suffered through many races, I know how immensely helpful this can be.

Three cheers if the fan goes through the trouble to handcraft a sign: the icing on the cake of robust support. Naturally, I look forward to witty signage. But the best marathon posters aren’t merely clever. They reveal a deeper understanding of the runner’s journey… of the runner’s pain. They exist at the intersection of creativity and understanding.


Marathon Noir
Dig Deep!
Don't Even Think About Stopping!
Look Alive!
2007 St. George Marathon | Photos by sabrebelle courtesy of Flickr.

I’ve always believed morticians were secretly whimsical. You can’t take yourself too seriously if you apply cosmetics to dead folk all day. At once inspiring and hilariously morbid, these signs would take my mind off the pain of long distance running. More businesses should cultivate darkly comedic marathon support.

I can only imagine what similarly grim humor embalmers might hoist upon marathon runners:

Mile 21
Got guts?

Mile 23
Nothing Lasts Forever!

Mile 25
Want your mummy?


Refreshing Candor
No One Made You Do This.
2007 Las Vegas Marathon | Photo by Dawn – Pick Chick courtesy of Flickr.

That’s right, no one made you get up at four in the morning in the dead of winter. No one made you cough up a lung during speed work. You are responsible for your shin splints, planar fasciitis, tendonitis, stress fracture or groin pull. The stressed relationships, funky laundry and graveyard of shoes belong to you alone. Timothy Geithner didn’t fund your training. No one held a gun to your head and made you run the marathon.

You were this stupid all by yourself.

Good for you.


E Tu Wellesley?
I Dare You to Kiss a Yankees Fan!
2008 Boston Marathon | Photo by dengaterade courtesy of Flickr.

Motivation comes in so many forms, especially at the Boston Marathon’s infamous Wellesley “Scream tunnel.” To wit, right after you kiss this enthusiastic coed, the girl in the dark shades punches you square in the mouth.

Classic bait and switch, really.


Open to Interpretation
If Palin Can Run, So Can You
2008 New York City Marathon | Photo by whas courtesy of Flickr.

Option 1
You too can come out of nowhere, rise despite the odds and become an inspiration to others.

Option 2
If a remote, unknown provincialist can find herself on the Presidential ticket, surely you can do damn near anything.

Either way, you’re inspired.


Stark Militarism
Finishing is Your Only Fucking Option
2007 New York City Marathon | Photo by Library Maven courtesy of Flickr.

Meet Marine Gunnery Sergeant Hartman’s civilian brother and scourge of marathoners. Don’t drop out of the race in front of this dude. His maniacal cohorts might burst from the crowd to beat you senseless. You’d certainly endure an expletive-laden tirade. Stanley Kubrick would have loved this guy.

But perhaps he just understands runners.

Deep inside the marathoner’s psyche, lies a core uncertainty. “Can I do this?” “Will I fail?” But runners are also fiercely determined. Resolve and fear exist in parallel and war for the runner’s mind. This simple poster indirectly acknowledges the fear and bluntly shuts it out, offering only stern defiance – the very thing a runner needs to achieve their goal.

This may be the most singularly insightful and blisteringly motivational marathon poster I’ve yet seen.

For those who’ve seen it in person: As soon as the nightmares pass, you should be fine.


Hialriously Indecipherable
(indecipherable marathon sign)
2006 Kiawah Island Marathon | Photo by Angie.

This is my all time favorite marathon poster. Who needs coherent signage when one has access to the creative innocence of a four-year-old mind? Only this boy knows what his scribblings mean. There’s an guileless beauty in his determination.

At least he was clear on the fundamentals; marathoners need encouragement, even if they’re too tired to translate.



- Dean

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