By: Teresa Linder
I’ve been traveling to races for decades and I’m pretty sure I’ve made every mistake mentioned below. Hopefully you will benefit from my mistakes by heeding my advice…
Packing: Do not rely on the weather forecast and pack everything! Even if rain isn’t in the forecast pack for it. This has bitten me more than once. For me, this includes a running hat and a throw away rain poncho to wear to the race start.
For tops I always pack a tank top, a short sleeved top, and a long sleeved top. Most race day mornings I have found myself deciding which top to wear based on the current temperature and hourly forecast, factoring in wind chill or humidity. Even though I normally run in shorts I throw in a pair of tights just in case. It helps to lay everything out as if you were about to put it all on, possibly catching something you missed.
Sometimes I pack “throw away” clothes to wear to the race start, but other times I pack clothes that I bag check for after the race. These decisions are based on the following: Is there a fairly long walk to the race start, will I be standing in a corral for a long period of time, will I be waiting for others to finish or spending a good deal of time outdoors after the finish, will I want to run in two shirts until it warms up and toss my outer shirt along the course. Don’t rely on Mylar blankets at the finish line for warmth, as they aren’t always there, especially at smaller races.
The things most people forget to pack include: sunscreen, body glide or Vaseline, sunglasses, and race day breakfast, including utensils; a spoon for your oatmeal, a knife for your peanut butter.
Another rule that I never break is: Do NOT put your running shoes or clothes in a checked bag at the airport! Don’t put them in a carry-on suitcase either, because sometimes they check your carry-on due to limited space in the overhead compartments, or just because they deem your carry-on is too big. (Even if this is the same carry-on you have had for 20 years; trust me it happens). Carry your race day items in a backpack, and consider wearing your running shoes on the plane. Luggage gets lost, even on direct flights.
Pre-race planning: Hopefully by race week-end you have a pretty good idea of what works for you in terms of pre-race day lunch or dinner. It would be wise to do some research on the local restaurants and possibly make a reservation. Most people opt for an Italian restaurant, but what I have found is that most Italian restaurants quickly become overwhelmed, especially in smaller towns, so my general rule here is the earlier the better! Even “to go” orders get bogged down. If you have a large party of six or more you will potentially have a more difficult time getting through dinner in a timely manner. You may want to consider splitting up into smaller groups. I have found that a very late lunch works better for me, but then again I eat breakfast before the race, so it’s an individual thing. Another thing to consider is eating at other types of restaurants, like Thai for example. (Assuming of course, that you have already tested out Thai food as a pre race meal)!
Hotel: There are a few logistical issues to investigate when it comes to choosing a hotel. If it involves your car and a valet driver in the wee hours of the morning this can be an issue. Yes, I’ve been bitten by this one! It involved a terror-stricken valet guy staring at a mob of twenty plus runners demanding their cars ASAP…make sure you will have access to your car or even better, that you are within walking distance to the race.
If you are checking out after the race you may want to get a late check-out, so be sure to ask for the late check-out as you check in. The earlier you ask for it the better your odds are of getting it.
If you are staying in a hotel within walking distance to the race, please pay attention to this rule, especially if you are “directionally challenged”: On race day morning, as you exit your hotel look around at your surroundings and the street crossings near by. Know what street your hotel is on! It’s usually dark when you head out and you’re distracted by the upcoming race and blindly following everyone to the race start, so it’s very common to get turned around and have no idea how to get back. Yes, I have been bitten by this one, but luckily with today’s technology you can find your way back, assuming you have your phone with you…
Race day miscellaneous advice: When mapping out your timeline on when to get up, when to leave the hotel room, when to get to the starting line, etc. factor in extra time for everything. Hotel elevators can be problematic, for example. You may encounter traffic or parking issues if you’re driving to the start. If buses are involved, there can be issues there, so it’s best to try to get to the buses as early as possible. There have been stories of bus drivers getting lost, eating up a large amount of valuable pre-race time.
Porta-potty lines can be ridiculously long, even at smaller races, especially if there are way too few of them or half of them are zip-tied shut. (Yes, that really happened). And not that this has anything to do with traveling to a race per-se, but as a rule ALWAYS bring your own toilet paper.
General advice: Every time I travel to a new town for a race I do a little research on things to see or do, if time allows. I try to choose local restaurants over chains as well. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the uniqueness or charm of the places I’ve been that stays with me longer than the memory of the race itself, although I do try to choose races that showcase their town’s character as well.
And one last piece of advice: thank the volunteers and let them know how much you appreciate them!
Find out more about Teresa and where she is headed – http://tntlinder.blogspot.com/