Whether you’re new to racing or seasoned competitor, knowing what to do and not to do on race-day is key. As a race director, coach, and athlete I see races from many different perspectives. As I was once a beginner myself, I know it’s natural to feel a little out-of-place at your first race. Knowing what to expect will make your running and triathlon race experience more enjoyable. Here are some simple basic race etiquette rules to keep in mind:
Arrive at the Race Site Early
Give yourself plenty of time to park your car, pin your bib number on, place your timing chip, review the race route, warm-up/stretch, and visit the bathroom (which almost always has a line). Arrive at least 45 minutes before the race begins. Nothing is worse than anxiously rushing to the starting line or missing the start of a race.
Register & Pick-up Your Packet Early
Most race event companies have an option to register online or in person early as well as offer packet pick-up a day or two before the event. This helps alleviate race-day lines. Many running races offer race-day registration, but this is rare for triathlon events. The majority of triathlon events require pre-registration since the setup is more complicated and there are limits on race participant numbers. If possible it’s best to register early as this ensures you get a spot in the race; some races sell out.
Race-Day Registration. Although pre-registration is highly recommended, you can often register on race day for running events. Be sure to give yourself extra time to fill out a registration form, pay, and stand in line to get your packet and timing chip.
Can’t Make it? Submit a Name Change
If you’re unable to compete in an event you signed up for and would like to give or sell your registration to someone else, many event companies allow this for a small fee. It may seem inconvenient, but to ensure accurate results it’s best to communicate with the event company and get the new name, age, and gender assigned. I have participated in a race in which a man ran with a girl’s bib number and won that division, which made all the race results inaccurate. Many racers were upset, and it was difficult to fix; so please submit changes before participating in the event.
Warm Up, Stretch & Wear Proper Shoes
Warm up about 20–30 minutes before the start of the race. Take 5–10 minutes and go on a light jog to warm up the muscles and include some dynamic stretching. It’s also important to wear good socks and athletic shoes. I’m always surprised by how many people forget their running shoes. Don’t make this mistake or you could get unwelcome blisters.
Pin On Your Number & Don’t Forget Your Timing Chip
Be sure to retrieve your bib number and safety pins from your packet to pin on to the FRONT of your shirt or shorts before the race, and don’t forget your timing chip. Many race timing companies have the timing device attached to the bib number (disposable). Other events require you to strap something on your shoe, wrist, or ankle that must be returned at the end of the event. Make sure you have the device on before you start or you may not be timed and will consequentially forfeit race results and prizes.
Dress In Layers & Shed Extra Clothes
Most experienced runners know it’s wise to dress in layers. Plan to dress for 10 degrees cooler as you will produce heat while racing. You don’t want to get too warm and end up carrying or discarding your clothes. You can always put them back on at the finish.
No Outside Aid
To make the event competition fair, no outside aid is allowed during a race. This includes running alongside a loved one or handing them extra nourishment; a water bottle, watch, or towel. This is not allowed unless it’s done by another participant, race official, or volunteer at an aid station. All athletes need to complete the event with no assistance. However, cheering, holding signs, and taking pictures is always fair play.
Line Up Properly & Be Aware of Your Surroundings
In the last few minutes before the race, line up at the starting line and take your place based on how fast you run. The fastest runners should line up closest to the starting line and slower runners, children, and walkers behind. It can be frustrating and dangerous for runners to weave around children and slower runners and can result in someone tripping. Before slowing to drink or eat at an aid station glance over your shoulder to be sure you’re not slowing down or stopping right in front of another athlete. Note: In a running race it is okay to discard your water cup on the ground.
Thank the Volunteers
Volunteers make races possible and without them there would be no race, so be sure and show your appreciation with a smile, friendly wave, or a thank you. You might even consider giving back to the racing community and volunteering for a race or two each year yourself. You can count on seeing me and my family volunteering at races throughout the year.