Ask any marathon runner what helped them push through all 26.2 miles and you’re likely to hear that, along with water, Gatorade, and the perfect pair of shoes, it was spectators’ signs—the ones that made them laugh, compelled them to keep going, or at the very least offered a mental distraction for at least a few seconds.
Part of what makes the fans at the New York City Marathon so great are the signs they create. Whether they are elaborately painted in glitter on neon paper or written in big block letters on a piece of cardboard they found in a curbside pile of trash, the countless signs along the 26.2-mile route make the whole event feel more lively. Plenty of spectators make their signs with a specific athlete in mind, sure, but a whole slew of fans also make their signs for all the runners collectively—undoubtedly inspiring dozens of runners throughout the day.
For this year’s marathon, we asked photographer Jon Pack to scout some of the best signs in Brooklyn—where runners spend roughly the first half of the race. Here are some of our top picks.