Thanksgiving is an ideal day for race. What better way to kick off the biggest eating day of the year than with a healthy calorie deficit? Knowing that the 2,000+ calories I burned off running would be more than made up for (seconds on pie, anyone?), I signed up for the Atlanta Half Marathon as I’d be in town again visiting family. Besides, it sure beat having to help out in the kitchen (I’m usually relegated to peeling potatoes). This annual race (both Half Marathon and 5K) starts and finishes at Turner Field and gives runners a nice look at downtown Atlanta. This year’s “turkey trek” featured almost 8,900 runners (6,733 half marathon and 2,140 5K) and the 7:30am start time guaranteed you’d be home in time for the feast (and football).
Tomorrow is my first race of 2014, the New Year’s half marathon in LA. That means tonight I get to go through my “night before race day” gear preparation. To non-runners who witness this ritual, it must seem like I’m experiencing an OCD episode combined with demonic possession. But to those of us who regularly run, the race prep is a sacred rite and part of the whole race experience.
Like the baseball players who don’t shave their beards during the playoffs or the football fans who refuse to wash their lucky jersey during a win streak (yuck), runners have their own superstitions or specific way of doing things that needs to be embraced… or at least tolerated.
On Saturday, I’ll be running my first half marathon of 2014. But before I can attempt to PR, heck before I can even head to the start line or lace up my shoes, I’ve got to take care of the first important part of the race experience… the runners’ expo.
And I love it.
Imagine all of the enthusiasm and anticipation (and swag) for a race stuffed into one place; that’s what a good expo represents. The great thing is that everyone who goes to a runners’ expo is either a racer or racer tagalong who is every bit as excited about running as you are (you are in the midst of your people). Typically scheduled for the day or two prior to a race, it’s the first taste runners get of the race to come as they file through to pick up their bibs, T-shirts, freebies, as well as sample the products of running vendors and get a sneak peek at races to come.
Mind you, all expos are not created equal. At some smaller races, their expo (if you can even call it that) might consist of a dozen tents featuring a few local vendors peddling forgettable wares. Rather, let’s ruminate about the big boys, the expos that accompany the large races.