Some events offer this, but many need the foot traffic at the expo to satisfy sponsors and exhibitors.
By: Dave McGillivray, for Runner's World
Justin asks: Why can’t runners just pay an extra two bucks to have their bibs mailed to them? I spend more time and energy on picking up my packet than I do running the race.
This is a great question. Frankly, I am a fan of mailing out bib numbers if it makes sense for organizers to do so, especially if they don’t allow race-day bib pickup. Every event is different, though.
Many large-scale events have an expo with their major sponsors exhibiting their products or services. Having this opportunity to be face-to-face with all the participants can be an important deliverable to key sponsors. Without sponsor dollars, a race may have a hard time existing. Some expos also produce much-needed revenue for the race itself. Plus, well-attended expos help build excitement and buzz before race day.
On the flip side, if an expo is not that significant or important to a race, then trying to force it to happen for no good reason can be wasteful and inconvenient for everyone, especially the runners. It can be a hassle to set aside time, drive to the expo, and find (and possibly pay for) parking when all you want to do is pick up your number and leave.
The expo isn't the only reason many races don't offer mailed bibs:
- Runners may lose their bib numbers or forget to bring them to the race. Organizers would have to have a bib reassignment table with extra numbers and access to the race database.
- If you mail more than one number to a household, the recipients have to be sure each person is wearing their correct bib number.
- You need to package the numbers carefully so the chips remain intact and functional.
- The race would still need to set up a T-shirt distribution system on race day. Same goes with goodie bags, if the race has those.
- It can cost a lot of money to mail out all the bib numbers.
I know of some races that give you the option of picking up your bib number in person or having your number mailed out—but they charge a hefty fee for this service to discourage people from choosing it. (They want runners to come to the expo.)
Some runners wonder why they can't have the option to pick up in advance or on race morning. The issue here is not knowing how many people will come on any given day. I would imagine that a lot of runners would choose just to show up on race day, which would make for a disappointing expo and upset sponsors and exhibitors. And, the race could get slammed on race day. If you are understaffed, then long lines form, runners get upset, and this could cause a delay in the start of the race.
What all this is telling us is that everything has a reason for being. For some races, mailing out bib numbers makes a lot of sense. For other races, it just doesn’t. Some races allow for race-day pickup and others don’t. Organizers need to determine the path of least resistance on a case-by-case basis based on the event’s resources.
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