It's the London Marathon this Sunday. It's the best sporting event of the year and the only one where anyone - fat, thin, old, young, middle-aged, rich, poor, Peter Andre - can compete alongside the very best athletes in the world. I love it both for the spirit of the people taking part and for the unrelenting support of Londoners lining the route. It's epic and it's very emotional. Sadly though not every spectator approaches this awe-inspiring event with the correct attitude and their behaviour can adversely affect the morale of both runners and supporters, spoiling a magical day. We are all in this together, so here then are a few things to bear in mind this Sunday should you find yourself on the streets of our capital watching the Virgin Money London Marathon.
1) Never let anyone taking part overhear you calling them "joggers"
Calling someone a jogger implies what they are doing is using up marginally less effort than vacuuming the living room and only slightly more than lying down watching This Morning. Furthermore it doesn't conjure up images of people heroically triumphing against the odds, it conjures up images of old ladies in pastel-coloured, velour tracksuits padding around their retirement communities whilst waving to their neighbours.
2)... or "fun runners"
A fun-runner is someone who is taking part in a race, raising some money for charity because their friends and family are so incredulous at the thought of them running they feel compelled to pay to see it. In the whole if you were interested in being a "fun-runner" it would probably be wise to restrict your efforts to one mile rather than 26 of them. People who run a marathon for charity aren't fun-runners, they are superheroes.
3) Do not shout the words "you're nearly there"
Unless you are stood five yards from the finish line on no account shout "come on, you're nearly there". When I took part in the London Marathon several years ago someone cheered me up with this remark at Mile 20. I was not "nearly there" I was six miles from being "nearly there" and every one of those miles felt like ten. Why not try "you've come a long way".
See also: "not far now", "it's all down hill from here"
4) Don't do that trick where you pretend to be doing a high-five, and then pull your hand away
These people have run a long way, they're exhausted and shattered; they have no time for your childish pranks.
See also: la-la-ing the Rocky theme tune at heavyweight runners
5) If someone is walking it does not mean they have given up, so don't ignore them
It's 26 miles, 20 plus 6. Madness. Even if you have spent the last four months training for a marathon the day itself can take you by surprise and a change of temperature, being over enthusiastic at the start or picking up a niggle can mean you do more walking (or limping) than actual running. These people are just as heroic. Give them a clap - not the slow hand variety though. Or, erm, the other variety...
6) Do not offer strange food items
A hit of sugar from a jelly baby can give a marathoner that vital mini energy boost they need to keep them going. But when you actually run the race you realise that it isn't just jelly babies that people offer out on trays to the runners - it's Mars Bars, it's crisps, crackers, pork scratchings, peanuts, lollies, oranges, apples, toffee apples. It's quite odd, like the Marathon isn't just a test of endurance but also a test of how many snacks you can eat on the move. Ask yourself this - when you see people out running around your local park are they more likely to be carrying a) a water bottle or b) a giant bag of Haribos, a Kit-Kat and a mango?
Don't do it, it may upset the complex chemical cocktail a runner needs to maintain in order to avoid throwing up before they hit The Mall.
See also: offering alcoholic "energy drinks" hahaha
There, not much to avoid. Stick to clapping, cheering and shouting out encouragements such as "looking strong" (even if they don't) and "you're doing great" (even if they look not so great) and people's names and you too will have taken part and helped the Marathoners through this terrible, wonderful, glorious ordeal. I can't wait!