A woman happily running a marathon while a spectator behind her holds up a marathon sign that says "We believe in you!"

gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

33 Marathon Sign Ideas That’ll Make You the Best Race Spectator Ever

Sentimental words of encouragement—and yes, a little humor—to get your runner to the finish line.

By Blake BakkilaJune 11, 2024


After more than a year of 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons and four months of dedicated training, I crossed the finish line at the TCS New York City Marathon on November 4, 2018. I still consider it one of my major life accomplishments, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends, and the electric crowds in New York. 

Running through each borough, I was boosted up by the spectators, who often wield motivational (and sometimes downright hilarious) marathon signs. From powerful messaging to the occasional potty joke, there’s no shortage of entertainment and encouragement along the course—from start to finish. 

As it turns out, these clever marathon signs can genuinely impact race-day emotions for the better.  Below, check out some of the best, most creative marathon sign ideas that are sure to inspire your runner—plus, find a few key tips for actually making your sign and being the best race spectator possible.

Benefits of Making a Marathon Sign

The biggest reason to make a marathon sign is to help motivate and encourage runners—whether they’re loved ones or total strangers—as they knock out a cool 26.2 miles on race day.

“Signs on a marathon course are simply little reminders to your runner that they have your support,” says Matthew Schubert, an ultramarathoner, licensed professional counselor, and owner of Gem State Wellness in Boise, Idaho. “Most likely they won’t think much of them, regardless of what [the signs] say, when they initially see them. But that seed you planted with that sign on mile 21 will sprout into tears of gratitude at mile 26.”

There’s even some qualitative research behind the power of cheering on your loved one. A 2019 paper published in CHI ’19: Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems reports that runners are partially motivated to participate in long-distance running events (such as marathons) thanks to the social influence, honor, and rewards it provides, adding that a race’s spectators and atmosphere helps runners deal with the toiling emotional and physical demands of the race. 

A marathon sign, then, could help your runner feel especially supported and buoyed during the race. And while Schubert says it’s best to make a sign that reflects your loved one’s personality and the things that motivate them, what’s most important is that you’re there to encourage them in the first place. “In the end, it doesn’t matter what sign you make for your runner—you are there to reinforce to them that when they want to try to accomplish hard things, they have your support,” he says.

And of course, there are a couple pragmatic benefits of making a marathon sign, too, such as making it easier for your runner to spot you in a busy crowd or simply adding to the energy of the other spectators around you.

A line of spectators leaning up against a fence and cheering at a marathon. A little girl in the crowd is holding a colorful marathon sign that says "My dad is my hero."

gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Marathon Sign Ideas

Ready to make your sign, but not sure what exactly to say? Here are some marathon signs to consider, whether you’re looking for something topical, funny, or down-right motivating:

  1. “On a scale of 1-10, you’re a 26.2”

  2. “Be the runner your dog thinks you are”

  3. “Pain is just the French word for bread”

  4. “May the course be with you”

  5. “No matter what, you’re faster than the MTA” (Can change “MTA” to the city’s local train or bus system)

  6. “Hey, random stranger—you got this!”

  7. “This is a lot of work for a free banana”

  8. “Pain is temporary. 26.2 is forever!”

  9. “You’re in your marathoner era” (Best paired with a photo of Taylor Swift)

  10. “Your feet hurt ’cause you’re kicking ass!”

  11. “I trained for MONTHS to hold this sign”

  12. “You are fast, you are fierce, you are fit, you are the shit!”

  13. “Run now, cupcakes later”

  14. “When your feet get tired, run with your heart”


  16. “Do it for the Facebook profile pic!”

  17. “I’d rather eat 26.2 pizzas”

  18. “Tap here to power up” (Don’t forget to add a bull’s-eye!)

  19. “Worst parade ever!”

  20. “You’re not sweating, you’re sparkling!”

  21. “Just keep swimming running!”

  22. “You look hot!”

  23. “26.2’s got nothing on you”

  24. “You are f$&@ing amazing”

  25. “I don’t know you, but I’m so proud of you!”

  26. “You’re doing amazing, sweetie!” (From the one and only Kris Jenner, of course)

  27. “There’s pizza at the finish line!”

  28. “Chafe today, brag tomorrow”

  29. “Toenails are so overrated”

  30. “What, like it’s hard?” (Bonus points if you add a picture of Elle Woods)

  31. “You’re doing it!”

  32. “Run like your phone’s at 1%”

  33. “You can do hard things”

A small crowd of people cheering for runners during a race. A couple of spectators are holding marathon signs that say "Run Sally Run" and "Go Team Pink."

Cultura RM Exclusive/Frank and Helena / Image Source via Getty Images

Tips for Making Marathon Signs

Before you put pen to poster, there are a few notes to keep in mind. Here are a few tried-and-true tips for making your marathon sign:

  • Prioritize contrasting colors and block letters. You’ll need people to read your sign while they’re running, so choosing big, bold letters and contrasting colors is best. When in doubt, keep it simple with a white poster and black ink. 

  • Skip the washable ink. Most long-distance runners have slogged through a rainy run, and sign makers should know to use indelible ink, like a permanent marker.

  • Use imagery. You can draw more attention to your marathon sign with some sort of image. For example, many runners love the idea of a “power up” sign that asks people to hit a bull’s-eye on their poster for extra energy. Or if you use a famous person’s quote, you can include an image of them with a speech bubble.  

  • You can’t go wrong with pop culture references. Kris Jenner’s iconic “You’re doing amazing, sweetie!” is one of the many pop-culture-influenced marathon signs you’ll see on the course. If there’s anything else currently trending (or a particular celebrity, movie, or song your runner loves), you can’t go wrong with a similar tongue-in-cheek reference. 

  • Be respectful. Everyone loves a LOL-worthy sign, but there’s a line between funny and inappropriate. Trust your instincts and determine what the most motivating and fun-spirited messages are for your sign. 

Other Marathon Spectator Tips

Sign-holding is only one part of the spectator’s role along the course: There are other preparations and day-of actions to take for the ultimate marathon day experience, too. These include: 

1. Plan It Out with Your Marathoner

Before race day, you’ll want to talk to your runner about where they can find you, so they know where and when they should look out for you. 

It can also benefit your runner to consider your spectating spot so they have support all race long. For instance, when I ran the TCS New York City Marathon, my Brooklynites were cheering in Williamsburg between miles 11 and 12, my now-husband and his best friend were waving as I made it into Manhattan at mile 16, and my mom screamed with all her might until I finally noticed her right before the turn into Central Park at mile 23. 

2. Track Your Runner’s Location

Your runner is going to be focused, and it’s possible that they won’t spot you right away. Many marathons have a tracker on their website or app that you can use to follow their progress from 0.0 to 26.2. 

3. Wear Bright Colors

It’s difficult to stand out in the crowd on marathon day, but you can try to wear bright colors and tell your runner what you’re wearing ahead of time. For instance, it’ll be hard to miss a supporter wearing neon pink at mile 13!

4. Make Some Noise

Cowbells, air horns, and other noisemakers are all the motivation some runners need to keep moving, and they’ll certainly complement your signs and screams. 

5. Capture Photos and Videos

Many marathoners have their eye on the prize and don’t want to stop to take photos or videos—and they don’t want their phone battery to go out, either. To help them make the most of their experience, take photos and videos for them to see and share after they’ve crossed the finish line. 

6. Lend a Helping Hand

You never know what your runner might need at the last second. Consider packing bandages, an energy gel, and anything else that can provide some aid. If you notice any medical emergencies, make sure to flag down a marathon official or call the hotline provided in the race guidelines. 

7. Verify Specific Spectator Rules

Some marathons come with rules and regulations spectators need to follow. Prior to your arrival, review the race website to see if there are any specific guidelines. 

8. Stay In Your Own Lane

As exciting as a marathon is to watch, some spectators can get out of hand. Make sure to respect the runners and steer clear of the course by staying behind any tape or barricades laid out. 

9. Toss or Save Your Sign

When you’re done using your motivational marathon sign, don’t litter! Find a trash can or recycling bin before heading home and mulling over the idea of signing up to race next year.

And if all of these marathon signs are inspiring you to tackle your own race, be sure to check out the Road to Your 26.2 marathon training program available on the Peloton App.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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