Participating in a run/walk race event is an exciting experience. Here are some things to expect on race day.
The larger events usually begin with an expo sometime before the day of the event. The expo is an event in itself, and is where you will receive your event packet containing your race bib, t-shirt, chip timer, and other vendor related coupons, swag, and advertisements. Picking up your packet is a conformation that you will be at the starting line on race day, and your name is now officially in the system as a participant. If you have yet to do so, you can enter the event at this time.
The expo is also the place to find finalized race details and ask any questions that may have come up. Information on start times, parking, shuttle service, and the course map itself will be available. This is also an opportunity to browse the pre-race vendors displays and purchase any necessities such as t-shirts, sunglasses, gloves, or even partake at the oxygen bar if one is available. Double check to make sure you have your chip timer, bib, and four safety pins before leaving the expo.
Before the starting line
Race day is going to begin with an early wake up. It is important to go about a normal routine, so make sure to get up early and have your typical breakfast. Use the bathroom before leaving for the event, and leave with enough time to arrive at least an hour before your race start time. Plan on delays such as closed roads, traffic re-direction, traffic congestion, and crowds in general. Dress in layers so that you can remove clothing as the temperature warms. Parking will generally be far from the starting line, and this walk will help with a general warmup of your legs.
If there was no race expo for the event, packet pick-up will be available at this time. Some events may allow you to enter now if you did not pre-register. But make sure you know this beforehand.
At the starting line
Before you line up for the start of the event, check any gear you no longer need at the gear check area, if available. This is also a good time to use the bathroom one last time if necessary. When lining up at the start corral, be sure to line up according to the pace you plan on running or walking. This helps with crowd control on the course in an attempt to alleviate congestion of faster runners trying to pass slower runners. The pace will be identified with a sign in the start corral.
At this time, check your bib and make sure it is secured at all four corners. This will keep the wind from blowing the bib up and will maximize your aerodynamics. At most events, the chip timer that records your progress is contained in the bib. If it’s not in the bib, it will be something you attach to your shoe laces. Be sure this chip is present, secure, and ready to go. Next will be the singing of the National Anthem, and then the firing of the starting gun.
On the course
Regardless of when the gun goes off, your time for the event you registered for will begin when your timing chip crosses the start line. This doesn’t mean you can go grab a nap or a bite to eat, because there is a time limit from when the gun goes off and when your chip crosses the start line. Enjoy the adrenaline rush of the other competitors around you, but resist the temptation to push harder than you can sustain. Revert back to your training, and fall into a comfortable pace to begin using your race strategy.
Most events have participants of different race distances, so there will be walkers and runners moving at different speeds everywhere around you. Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure it is clear to pass or even clear to slow to a walk or a stop if need be. Depending on the race distance, most events have aid stations every two miles staffed with volunteers. These stations have various things such as water, electrolyte drinks, fruit, etc. The event would not be possible without these volunteers who hand out water and snacks, and clean up after the participants. This is another spot where it is important to be aware of your surroundings to avoid contact with other runners and walkers. There will also be portable bathrooms throughout the course and first aid support as well.
There are other things to be aware of on the course. Some events allow strollers and pets. Most events have event monitors on bicycles, and police sometimes patrol the course on motorcycle. The course is closed to traffic, however, traffic crossings are common but are controlled by police. Be sure to follow signs, cones, and cross any appropriate progress lines to avoid disqualification. On some trail runs, it is easy to get lost if you’re not paying attention to all the route markers along the way.
At the finish line
The finish line is an exciting place. It is also another place where congestion is common. Volunteers will be handing out completion medals and bottles of water. This is also a common area to link up with friends and family members. Enjoy the vendors that have set up for the event, and look out for any free swag being handed out. Most people don’t stay long post race, but there is usually an awards ceremony for the top finishers in each category. Before leaving the event, be sure to pick up your gear from the gear check area.
Later in the day, be sure and check the event website to see your official results. Reflect on your race performance. Could it have been better? Think about what you would change next time. While you’re at it, sign up for your next race and set a goal to make it an even better experience!