Be a Spectathlete
A person who is proficient in spectating
Coined by Amy Whitling whilst spectating at a local race at Lee Valley, Olympic Velodrome
To support teammates whilst recovering from injury, I found a new past time - being a spectathlete. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the sport and insights I so often miss because my eyes and senses are blurred with butterflies.
It takes strength, skill and snacking. If you're just getting into the sport, here’s a simple guide on how to be a better spectathlete:
Always have a musette (or preferably a Boozette). Inside you should find: phone, snacks, safety pins, slides/shoes for any adhoc walking during the event, and layers to deal with the different paces and temperatures of spectating.
This is important. If you’re spectating a road race, you can be out in the wild for hours. Ensure you have a coffee before hand to give you the necessary energy needed but don’t have one too near a sustained amount of time away from the toilet. It’s a tricky skill, but a true spectathlete is the master at it.
Be there to take their layers once they’ve warmed up or offer to pack up the car whilst they ride to the start line. Nailing and improving the start line for others is one of your biggest missions.
Another skill of a spectathlete is reading emotions. There’s a full spectrum during race day and most can be covered behind the poker race face. Look out for the signs when someone may be in need of a low key, but highly effective, fist pump.
If you’re at a circuit race, viewing platforms are relatively simple. The challenge, which you have chosen to accept, is moving around the circuit as much as possible. Keep your teammates guessing by where they’ll hear you next. For a road race that completes several loops of one route, the best option is often riding the opposite way at a pace that allows you to see the race several times whilst still reaching the finish line in time. Pro tip: If you spot a race photographer, pull up. They’re always in the know of when the peloton is near.
Cheering is effective 100% of the time. The value never decreases. The sound of a friendly voice could be enough to drastically change someone’s mindset during a mentally tough spot in the race. Spectathletes are trained in finding the perfect balance of words - shout their name, shout encouragement and sometimes, just shout something that will make them smile. It’s proven that a smile relaxes the whole body and all athletes (including specathletes) will find performance enhancing benefits from that.
Fuel right and have snacks that are easy to eat on the go. If it’s an evening race (or afternoon) you can pack some gins in a tin. It’s what the Boozette was made for. Thankfully, specathletes are one kind of athlete that can still perform hungover.
For the final sprint, don’t be too far away that you miss the main action but don’t be too close to the finish line that your cheering falls on deaf ears. Place yourself just before the finish and give whoever you’re supporting the final benefits of someone cheering their name when they need it most.
As well as the start line, a spectathlete is there to improve the finish. Congratulate, celebrate and mostly importantly listen to their race story.
‘It’s not news to anyone that enforced time off doing what you enjoy is just as challenging as doing the thing itself.’ Quoted from a good friend of mine who dealt with injury like a true competitor - poised and positive. When you find yourself injured, focus on your attitude, not the activity. When you are 100% committed but 100% accepting, you might just find you can experience that winning feeling from something else. No disgusting gels necessary.