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How to Host a Winning Marathon Party

Posted by Rae Lynn on 7/24/2013 to Outdoor
Let's make one thing clear from the start--by Marathon Party, we're not talking about a really long event that lasts for days and leaves you wondering how Gatsby did it. We're talking about a party that supports those crazy people who travel 26.2 miles without ever using a car. 

You'd think there wouldn't be much demand for that sort of thing, but some 642 marathons are scheduled for the United States in 2013. If you're like me, you ask Why? 
Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series
The answer is simple:  Because the human spirit is indomitable. And the desire to work hard, push through and succeed at pursuits that shouldn't even be considered lives on. 

Even if you, like me, never plan to run or even walk a marathon or half-marathon, we get a lift by supporting the people who do. So if you suddenly find your home on a marathon route, there's only one thing to do:  Throw a party! 

Now you may find the Marathon Party different from your usual festivities in a variety of ways. For one thing, it could start at an ungawdly hour. If the marathon kicks off at 6 am, for example, your guests could be arriving even earlier. 

That could be a shocker if you, like Rae Lynn, prefer the morning hours with two digits. But trust me--this is a one-time event well worth rising early for. So what do you need? 

1)  Music.  Most marathoners move better to music. But race organizers discourage them from running with ear buds if the marathon route is open to vehicles--and many are. In that case, the runners will be relying on you to provide the soundtrack. 

So put together a roadside band or make a Marathon Mix. Include songs runners love to run to--which means they're uplifting and have a driving beat like the ones on the Top 100 Running Songs. Think Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," Kelly Clarkson's "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger," Pink's "Raise A Glass" and Queen's "We Are the Champions." 

Swizzle Trick:  Add local flavor by throwing in some songs that reflect where you are. For example, if your Marathon Party is taking place in Nashville, Tennessee (coincidentally the headquarters of Party Swizzle), then also consider "Crazy Town" by Jason Aldean, "Rocky Top" by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and "Tennessee Line" by Daughtry. Just make sure most of your selections feature a driving rhythm that will keep the marathoners pounding the pavement. 

2)  Signs.  Every marathoner appreciates a sign encouraging his or her efforts. So stock up on poster board and Sharpies (the brush kind) and make a few signs yourself. Then ask your party-goers to help out. Some popular sayings? "Kick Ass-phalt," "Legs. Heart. Mind." "XX.X miles to beer" (with the X's filled in depending on how far you are from the Finish line). And a "Good Luck" banner is always appropriate. Keep your sayings upbeat and you're sure to make a difference in many a marathoner's day. 

3)  Cheering.  Sure, you can stand out on the street corner and wish each and every marathoner well. They'll appreciate every word. And clap for them too--ultimately most of these people are mere mortals who need encouragement like the rest of us do. But if 20,000 people are passing your home, consider noisemakers too. A large cowbell to ring or drum to bang gives you something to use that won't wear you out too. For your guests, a Marathon Party should be fun, not an endurance event. 

Think about where you want to set up the cheering section too. If your front porch is reasonably close to the road, then you may want to stage your event there. If not, move a table and chairs close to the action. You won't have to attaboy quite so loud, and you open up the possibility of high-fiving scores of hardworking athletes. 

4)  Sprinklers.  Depending on the time of the day or season, it could get hot out there. Make sure you have a sprinkler at the ready to wet people down and cool them off. Yes, I know, it will run up the water and electricity bill just a bit. Don't worry about it, just do it. It will be as much fun as watching the kids cool off in the fountain at the park. And quite honestly, it could make the difference between someone completing the marathon or giving in to hot or humid conditions or both. 

5)  Decorations.  No party is complete without decorations, but a few key items will go a long way toward making your Marathon Party fun and memorable. Choose one of the signature colors for the Marathon and let your imagination run wild. 

If red fits the color scheme, for example, you can use a red tub for ice and drinks, a red napkin holder to keep red gingham napkins from blowing in the wind, some red trays, red plastic plates and red beads to decorate your guests. To be a little more green, you can invest in reusable red party cups that look like the Solo variety but are dishwasher-safe, break-resistant and double-walled to keep beverages cold.

And never hesitate to dress for the occasion: You never know what surprises may be coming over the hill.

6)  Food.  To encourage folks to get up at o'dark-thirty to attend her first Marathon Party, Rae Lynn thought it would be best to offer really tempting food, like pancakes and bacon. Rae Lynn was wrong. 

First off, the cheerers couldn't be dragged away to eat, so food trays had to be delivered to them. But they were still so focused on the runners--could it have been the leggy blonde gals? the sleekly muscular guys?--that they couldn't eat. So the food sat there, not getting cold thanks to the rising temperatures. 

But then the runners spied the food. Bacon, they chanted. And an interesting battle ensued, with the cheerers protecting the bacon they'd previously ignored and the marathoners forgetting completely about the race in their pursuit of fried pig. 

My suggestion? Go for easy-to-eat finger foods that look nothing like bacon. Mini anything will do: cheese muffins, ham frittatas or biscuits, veggie quiches, pork burritos, cream cheese & lox bagels, all served up with fruit kabobs to keep it healthy. Just make sure every item can be eaten in a few bites, so hungry runners won't be clamoring for a mid-race snack more tasty than gel. If your guests need a place to stock up on food, hand them colorful plastic plates, cups and napkins to keep the atmosphere festive. 

6)  Drink.  You will need lots of coffee, especially if the first runner reaches your location before 8 am. But again, keep the coffee in a carafe in the background or you'll be fighting the runners who arrive after that. In addition to water and juice, you might want to rev up the offerings with some of Rae Lynn's favorite eye-openers--Bloody Marys and Mimosas spring to mind. 

Have a great time and remember this: No matter what hour you rise or how long you prep, you won't come anywhere close to putting in the time the marathoners have in training for the event. So cheer loud! You'll be amazed at how much you'll get back.

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