I have been a runner for a long time, over 30 years. And while I have executed a number of races in the last 6 years or so, I have been a participant in even more races – everything from a small 100 person 5ks to the Boston Marathon and Ironman events. I love each one for different reasons – I love the small races as there is no pressure, it is just fun to put yourself on the line every once in a while and to see the sights, while knowing that it is for a good cause. I love big races too. While they are expensive, there is something about being on that large scale, with closed roads and tons of hoopla. I will say that neither the Boston Marathon nor Ironman races offer much in the way of amenities really, but you are there for the prestige of the race, and not the stuff they give you.
But I remember races before they became EVENTS, as we call them now. You just line up and run, no real chip timing, no aid stations, a cotton t-shirt and a trophy from the local awards shop. It was like a gathering with friends and you were there to test your meddle, not necessarily to get a medal. There are still a few of these races around – like our Hangover Classic: no chip timing, no aid stations, no medals – just cool trophies and a great course. Just a race to race.
Things have evolved and (some) races have become big business – with bands and big medals and elaborate finish lines. They are an event. It has brought more people into the running world and that is all good – the more people we can get off the couch and running – the better!
As we evolve, here are some wish list items for participants from an old school runner:
Please be respectful of your fellow runners. If you know you are running a 9-10 mi/min pace, please line up towards the back of a starting corral. If you are stopping at an aid station, please stop OFF the race course. Please don’t run two or three across so runners coming up behind have to swerve around the group. It is great that races have become incredibly social, but for some participants – every step counts.
Know the course. Drive it, ride it, look at a course map, ask if you have a question. While we try to mark a course as best we can, sometimes it can be slightly confusing at some intersections. It has been known to happen that a key volunteer doesn’t show up, the chain of communication breaks down, or whatever reason things don’t go as planned from the race director end despite the best planning. In the end, race protocols are that it does fall on the runner to know the course. I can’t speak for other RDs – but I love to talk about our courses, I love to show them off…. in advance of race day……. 🙂
Please don’t litter. Drop cups, clothing, gel packets (the worst offenders) at aid stations, at mile marker signs, or somewhere that we can see them readily. We work hard to leave the course in better shape than we started, but it takes everyone’s help to achieve this.
Read the Athlete Guide – generally, most of the questions about the race are answered in it. The more informed you are, the better prepared for the race.
Again – the goal is to give all participants a great race while respecting our environment and being humble guests in the communities where we are allowed to run. With everyone’s help, we can continue to evolve for the better.