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From the other side of the race registration table…

18 Apr

This past weekend I worked the Gulf Coast Half Marathon Pensacola Beach. A lot of people think when I say I “worked” the event that I really mean I “volunteered” at the event. While I in no way want to take away from the awesomeness of volunteers (after all, volunteers are what allow any group to actually make a race happen), I will put it out there that I am actually on staff with this particular race series. For this and other races I work on, it means that outside of race weekend, I spend many hours (in addition to my “real job”) helping get course certifications, city permits, coordinating packet pick-up, and all the other myriad of things that go along with planning a race. Often, for a big race (half marathon or longer), we start planning about a year out. That being said, I can assure you that for any well-produced race, there are dozens of people behind the scenes that work many hours…usually at the oddest times of the day…to help ensure an exceptional race-day experience by every runner.

Start line! This went up at 3:00AM.

Having been on both sides of the registration table allows me to have a unique perspective when it comes to planning/managing a race. As someone who has done a stupid amount of races, I feel like I have a good understanding of what a runner expects, what a runner is impressed by, and what makes them want to come back again. As a race director/manager/member of staff, I also know what is/is not feasible and what things are/are not under our control.

That being said, I wanted to share a few things about what it is like to be on the staff side of the registration table…

  1. If you did not register online ahead of time, please do not fuss at me if the race is sold out when you arrive at packet pick-up. Most races publish online registration links MONTHS ahead of time. Additionally, throughout the online registration period, you will often see discount codes published to further encourage online registration. If there is a race you really want to run, go ahead and sign up for it. Once online registration closes, we will open the remaining spots to registrants who sign up in-person at packet pick-up. For a successful race, this may mean only 10-15 remaining spots, and those are on a first come first served basis. If you show up in the last hour of packet pick-up on the day before the race and we say we are sold out, I assure you, we are sold out.
  2. Me and @RunningWithSass!

  3. If a race is sold out, please do not beg and plead for me to register you. Look, I *hate* being the bad guy. However, permits from the city only allow a certain number of people. If we ever hope to have a race in that city again, we simply CANNOT go above the number allowed on our permit. If we do, this could involve legal ramifications beyond what you are aware of. I promise to do all I can to find a way to get you in this race, but if I cannot get you registered and I have no more entries left, please respect that.

  4. If it is highly advertised that there is no race-day packet pick-up, please do not fuss at me on the morning of the race if you see me standing there with a bin of packets. As a runner, I totally understand how convenient race-day packet pick-up is. And for smaller races, perhaps a 5k with only a few hundred people, that start later in the morning, race-day packet pick-up is totally feasible. However, if a race has over 1,500 people and starts at 7:00AM, there is simply no way we could get everyone’s packets to them and have the race start on time…even if we started packet pick-up at 3:00AM.
  5. My favorite race day buddy, Ms. Diane!

  6. If you have an extenuating circumstance, please e-mail/call the race director/staff ahead of time. We are not bad people. We are generally willing to work with you on your situation. However, we cannot work with you if we do not know about your situation. Letting us know about it after that fact does not help us help you before race day. If you have special needs, we really do want to accommodate you! Drop us a line or give us a shout and give us the chance to help you make arrangements for race day!

  7. At the end of the race with a certified course, please do not complain that the course was too long/short. If a race has been certified, I PROMISE you that it is the correct distance. If you are running a half marathon, the only way your Garmin, RunKeeper, or other GPS device will read exactly 13.1 miles as you cross the finish line is if you hit every curve in the race course at 1 foot off from the tangent. If that makes no sense to you whatsoever, check out this post regarding running tangents.

  8. If you feel like you are so sick or injured that you will not complete the race or the race will have a tremendous negative impact on your health, please do not race. Before the start of Sunday’s race, I was approached by a woman who asked at what mile she would find the first sweep vehicle (ambulance). She said that she had been having terrible hip pain, and while she had gotten half way through her training, the last several weeks were not as dedicated to her training as they should have been. Basically, she started the race fully expecting not to cross the finish line. I understand there is a fine line to teeter on when deciding whether to push on and race through an illness/injury or pulling a DNS. However, if you are thinking of starting a race with the plan of not finishing, I encourage you to rethink the race. Take the time to get well and heal. There is always another race.
  9. Me and @Atha75!

  10. If you did not earn an age group award and you notice that we have extras, please do not ask if you can have one or offer to purchase one. Age group awards for this past Sunday’s race were these cool glass drinking jars. Everyone really seemed to like them. After all of the age group awards were given out, we had a handful left over, as some age group winners had already gone home before the awards. Those who did receive their awards happily filled them with beer and continued on with the post-race party. One gentleman noticed we had extras. He asked if he could have one. I politely told him that we could not just GIVE him an award. He then asked to purchase one. I again told him that we could not make the glasses available for purchase on the same day as the event. After all, the people who won them fair and square deserve the right to revel in their accomplishment. Just giving out the extras (or worse, SELLING them) would only cheapen their award. When I explained this to him, he walked away. Moments later, I overheard this gentleman call me “the B word.” Sigh. You just can’t win with some people.

  11. If you have an AMAZING time, please tell us! We work hard for months to make sure you have the best race experience possible. If we are successful, please tell us! When something goes wrong at a race or if there is something that runners really hated, you can bet we will hear about it. However, if something is overwhelmingly awesome, we want to know about that too so that we can make sure we do it again or incorporate it into our other races (if possible). If you have a great time at a race, please reach out to the race director/staff via e-mail, facebook, or Twitter to tell them about your experience. We love hearing from happy racers!

Finish line! Also went up at 3:00AM!


All in all, it was a fantastic race weekend in Pensacola Beach and I am already looking forward to our next race in the series, the Gulf Coast Half Marathon Louisiana Northshore (Mandeville, LA). I am also working on several other big races outside of the state (more details on those coming as soon as I am allowed to spill the beans!) so this summer and fall will definitely be busy.

Have YOU directed/managed a race? How do you feel it affects you as a runner? What issues have you encountered in the past?

The Smoking Runner

1 Aug

…and I don’t mean “smoking runner” as in “smoking-hot-bod runner.” I literally mean, the runner who smokes.

I will just come out and say it, runners who smoke gross me out. Completely.

Okay, okay…before you go getting all preachy and telling me I am judging my fellow runners, I will admit that I am a former smoker…and it STILL grosses me out.

Before the Rock N Roll Mardi Gras Marathon this year, there were runners standing in the corral…smoking. Literally, the gun went off for their wave to start, they threw down the cigarette butt, squashed it out with their fancy running shoes, and started running…a marathon. How is this? Lord, help me…training in the winter air (with asthma, no less) is hard enough on my body. I can not even imagine how I would feel smoking a cigarette right before a marathon.

At the end of my triathlon this past weekend, I saw a handful of family members and friends standing around waiting for their racers…smoking. I just found it odd. Even odder, I even saw one or two race participants light up themselves!

Most of us, at some point, have spent some time around a person who smokes. Even if they didn’t just get finished smoking a cigarette, you can usually still smell it on him/her…especially a hard-core smoker. While I have not experienced running near a runner who smokes (they are usually *still* faster than me), I can imagine the smell would make me uncomfortable…probably even nauseous.

When I first started running, back when I was just starting to get into 5k races, I still smoked. Granted, I had cut back to only a few cigarettes per day, but still, I was a smoker. I can remember mornings of going out to races and then coming home, stepping out on my balcony, and lighting up a cigarette…like it was no big deal. I could never do that now, not that I would even want to. Now, coming into the finish of a race, if I even smell a cigarette in the vicinity, I think, “Who in the WORLD would be smoking around this many people who care about health and physical activity??”

In general, I not only think the combination of running and smoking is gross, but physiologically speaking, how is it that runners who smoke can can actually do that? Don’t they feel their lungs, which are pretty vital in a sport like running, getting tight??

I am sad for people like this.


Am I jealous that they get to continue on with their vice and *still* perform better than me?

I know that this is a free country and people can just about do whatever they want, but should races consider other runners and make the events, corrals, and finish line festivals smoke-free areas? What if the race/event was benefiting a cancer charity or organization? (I have seen this too!)

Wouldn’t a runner who smokes (even if they already do well in an event) want to quit smoking, knowing that the odds of doing so would probably increase their performance exponentially?

How does the “running smoker” fit in to the stereotype that runners/triathletes are generally people concerned with healthy, fitness, clean eating, training, etc.?

If a lady feels bold enough to lecture me about running while pregnant, should someone not lecture these runners about the dangers and risks associated with smoking?

What do YOU think about runners who smoke? How do you feel about them? How do you feel when people smoke around you at races and events?

It is nice to be NICE.

2 Jun

When I was in elementary school, I had this favorite substitute teacher, named Mrs. Cozy. She was the most quintessential “grandma.” Her body was soft and round and she had that look about her that made you think that she probably gave the best hugs and made the best chocolate chip cookies EVER. Mrs. Cozy. She was my favorite. One of the things I remember most about her was her saying, “It is nice to be nice.”

Cartoon Mrs. Cozy :)

She popped in my head recently and it got me thinking about the nice things others have done for me.

At my first duathlon (bear in mind I had signed up with NO knowledge of what I was really in for), as I was setting up my duffle bag transition area, I realized that the directions said I was supposed to have my number on a race belt. Race belt!? What the heck was that!? The lady next to me overheard my out-loud mini freak-out and said, “No problem, I have an extra one. You can just have it.” It was as if the clouds parted and the sun shined down. I smiled from ear to ear and gave her a great big, “THANK YOU!

A couple of years ago, two days after I got my bike, I took a NASTY spill on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I mean, NASTY. (Apparently I completely forgot which hand brake controlled the front and which controlled the rear.) People came from both directions to help pull me up out of the ditch and remove the sticks and leaves from my helmet. One even offered to call 911 or my husband for me. I was shaken, and embarrassed, but otherwise okay.


And last night, when I really (I mean, REALLY) did not want to get out in the Louisiana heat, my sweet husband reminded me that it was National Running Day and that I really did want to get outside and run…even just a couple of miles. I really needed that encouragement (and the hoist off the couch).

I suppose that sometimes I am just so used to people being rude to each other or even just complacent all the time. It is a shame that when people actually do NICE things that I get surprised.

I wanted to know some of the nice things my fellow runners have done for other runners/cyclists/athletes, so I took to my Twitter. Here are some of the responses. They made me smile and helped remind me just how many GOOD people there are out there.

@JimDog – Not another runner, but last weekend while on my run I stopped to help a lady with her bike (chain came off). #runchat
(Before I knew how to fix my own bike chain, I loved people like you. Thank you for helping her!)

@KarenJanos – Just encouraging other newbie #runners to not quit especially when they feel they look like idiots.
(Sometimes we underestimate just how far an encouraging word can go!)

@fairelescourses – Gotten out of the way!
(Jeremy, you are too funny! But it’s true, sometimes I have felt most helpful too just by being aware and knowing when to move aside!)

@sbarrouquere – I can’t think of one big thing other than I try to be encouraging, courteous etc #runchat #RunLA
(A pat on the back speaks volumes!)

@RasberiRunner – I picked up a glove that a guy dropped ahead of me. It took me some 5 minutes to catch up and give it back! #runchat
(This is AWESOME! I’m not sure I could run that fast!)

@mkosterich – I always offer other runners my water or gels if they are without nutrition. And I offer a walk break to those struggling.
(That is so nice and VERY generous of you. I usually carry just enough for myself.)

@tpwatergirl – I was 6 months prego in the transition area before the NOLA 70.3 and a girls bike chain was stuck. I fixed her bike for her!
(Holy cow! I hope she appreciated it!)

@RunningRealtor1 – I’ve bought her an entrance into a local favorite :)
(Wow! It is one thing to offer a high five, but to break out your checkbook too? That rocks!)

@jamiecgary – Stopped in half marathon to give some guy potassium & water who was cramping in last 2 miles. Could have smashed PR.
(That was so kind that you put aside your PR to help another runner. That was very considerate of you.)

All of these things remind me that it really doesn’t take all that much effort to go the “extra mile” for a fellow runner.

What have you done that was above and beyond for a fellow runner or cyclist?

Don’t judge a runner by his waistline.

24 May

Just because a runner/triathlete competes in a Clydesdale or Athena division, don’t count them out for kicking some serious butt!

(For those not familiar, events with a “Clydesdale” division include male competitors over 200 pounds. Similarly, an “Athena” division includes female competitors over 150 pounds.)

The other day, while Brent and I were at the start of a run, I heard some more “elite” runners making comments about a heavier runner wearing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. The comments were about how he will probably come in last (based on his size) and how much his feet must hurt running in VFF’s with all that weight and little cushion, etc. I was so mad and hurt. As runners, we should be supporting each other and NOT tearing each other down with our comments (whether those comments are made to someone’s face or behind their backs).

Many people who are eager to start a running habit are afraid to for their fear of looking too slow, silly, or too fat. I know. I have been there. And with comments like that, these fears ARE justified. People DO judge and it is a shame. We should all be proud of ourselves for getting out there and doing something to improve our physical and mental health! Remember, we were all newbies at some point. Let’s remind ourselves and our fellow runners to always be supportive and offer a pat on the back if someone looks like he/she is struggling.

Please don’t think I’m sitting up on a high horse here and saying I have never done it. We have ALL done it. I try to remember that when I find myself judging others, it only serves to broadcast to the world my own personal insecurities.

By the way, that “fat” runner in Vibram Five Fingers beat both Brent and me. You should have seen him hustling! I like to think of him as the PHAT runner in VFF’s! Go PHAT GUY!

If you heard a runner speaking poorly of another participant in a race, would you call them out?

I gotta have more cowbell, baby!

3 May

I got a fevah! And the only prescription…is more cowbell!

Have you ever been to a race where a spectator was obnoxiously ringing a cowbell? If so, that was probably my husband and I sincerely apologize. (Sorry, honey.)

When I lived in South Carolina, it was not uncommon at all to hear cowbells ringing in the last few miles of a half marathon or marathon. In fact, at one big running weekend festival, the Spinx Run Fest, they even sell them at the expo! I love them because when there a million people yelling at me from the sidelines (toward the end of a half marathon or marathon, spectators are cheering for EVERYONE), the sound of a cowbell helps me spot my #1 fan/personal race photographer/husband.

This past February, in the days leading up to the Rock N Roll Mardi Gras Marathon, I was making my list of all the things I would need to pack. And then it hit me! We needed a cowbell!! (Don’t even ask me how difficult it was to find such a thing. I had to call EVERY sporting good store, running specialty store, tack and feed store, pet store, etc. in town. I FINALLY found one at a costume shop. Go figure, huh?)

Fast forward to marathon day…

As I was rounding out the last half mile or so of the marathon, I HEARD THE COWBELL! (You know those scenes in movies where some deep animal bellows and it echoes through the mountains and all the birds fly away? That’s sort of what it was like.) :) I knew I was close and I knew my honey could see me, even if I couldn’t see him yet. Hearing the cowbell made me start listening for HIS cheers above the others. It meant my personal cheering section was ready to welcome me in.

After the event though, my husband said that while he was standing there waiting for me, feverishly ringing that wonderful cowbell, other spectators around him were giving him dirty looks and making rude comments about the cowbell. They thought it was strange, rude even! (Say whaaa??)



Is ringing a cowbell at a race really that strange or absurd? As a runner, how do you feel about them? Do they bother you?

Race Ettiquette

22 Apr

This morning I got a real treat! I got to get my daily run in this morning instead of the evening.  I’m so much better in the morning and I feel like I get so much more accomplished in my day with getting my workout over first.  I was able to get in 3.75mi in 41:41.  It’s funny, just a matter of months ago, this time would have seriously ticked me off.  But when you gain 15 pounds in a matter of weeks, the knees, calves, and ankles just don’t seem to move as fast.  Thanks a lot, Baby Key.  Thanks a whole heckuva lot.  *I kid, I kid…Totally worth the sacrifice.*

LSU Lakes

LSU Lakes

It was a quiet trip around the lake today.  I guess a lot of LSU students went home for the long Easter weekend.  I didn’t mind it though; it sort of gave me time to think about all the fun that tomorrow’s Crescent City Classic 10k in New Orleans is going to be.  And then I thought about ALL THE PEOPLE.

But, what I will have to prepare for are THE MASSES…which bring me to a few points on runners’ etiquette.  I have run a lot of races where I have encountered some super considerate runners, and then I have run races where there were some jerky runners.  Hands down, considerate runners make for the best possible experience for EVERYONE.

If you’re new to racing, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1.  Please, please, please…don’t be a race bandit.
See all those numbers pinned to runners’ shirts?  Those are race bibs.  Those people paid for those.  It’s not very nice to all the people who have put in effort into planning the race – race director, race committees, volunteers, etc. – if you just hop in for free.  Plus, when you pay, event organizers can keep track of how many people will actually be out on the course.  This helps them plan to have enough water, medical staff, and space for the expected number of runners.  I have never ever been a race bandit.  If you can’t afford the $20-$25 a typical 5k costs (and usually part of that goes to a charity or club), can’t you just run 3.1mi around your neighborhood?

2.  If you are running with a dog, small child or stroller, please do NOT get in the very front of the starting line. This isn’t usually a problem in larger races where there are waves based on estimated finish times, but I’ve seen it happen.  Please do not commit this faux pas, you will practically get run over.  It will only serve to anger the faster runner behind you and then you will be end up being the one thinking THEY are being rude.

3.  Don’t wear an ensemble that makes weird noises. No really, please don’t.  Where I used to run, there was an all-girl running group (that seemed to be at EVERY event I was) that would wear those jingly belly-dancing wraps around their waists.  It annoyed EVERYONE.  I couldn’t turn up my iPod loud enough to drown out the jingle-jangle of those skirts. Even worse, their cadence wasn’t the same as mine, but their pace was, so it always threw me off my game.

4.  If you are running a trail run or road race with a narrower path and you are running with a friend, please don’t feel the need to run next to them the ENTIRE time.  Faster runners may be coming up behind you and will be left with no way to get around you.  Going around you could cause them to be put in a dangerous or unsafe position.

5. When going into the finish chute or crossing the finish line, please just keep on moving.  Do not stop right in the finish area to chat with your friends, brag about your finish time, etc. I realize that sometimes you are asked to immediately stop and remove your chip.  If this is the case, please do so by stepping to the side.  Please don’t bend down smack dab in the middle.  You could easily be missed by another runner coming in and they could trip on you and injure themselves.  Or, if you are a runner like me, you push it a little harder when you get to the end.  And I’ll be honest, when I get into the finish, I HAVE to keep on walking to cool down properly.  If I don’t, I will barf on you I promise.  So unless you don’t mind vomit on your back, please keep moving forward.

6. In the hospitality area at the end of the race, please always thank the volunteers handing you water, bananas, oranges, etc.  They don’t have to be there and just taking something out of their hands without really acknowledging them is just rude.  It doesn’t take any time to smile and show your appreciation.

Just a few basic things, but I think they are good reminders for newbie runners and seasoned racers alike!  Let’s keep it fun and friendly, folks!

Happy running, y’all!

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