Dave McGillivray runs in almost as many races as he directs, which informs this advice for your next event.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I’m what you might call a “race director runner”—I run in almost as many races as I direct each year. As such, I see things from both sides of the fence. As a race director, I’m always looking for ways to give the runner a better experience. As a runner, I’m also looking for things to improve upon as a race director.
Given that, I’ve come up with a few tips and observations for runners from my dual perches:
Don’t litter. Shame on the event if it doesn’t provide enough containers in which runners can deposit their trash. Even in those situations, I never leave anything behind. If I have trash and can’t find a barrel, I carry it with me until I find one. Imagine if everyone did that—there would be NO trash on the ground anywhere, ever!
Take care stopping at water stations. If you have to stop or walk after taking a cup of water, then it is best to take your water from the last table in the row and move to the side before slowing. It is dangerous to athletes who want to keep running when someone grabs water and comes to a grinding halt in the middle of the course.
B.Y.O.T.P. It can be maddening to go into a porta-potty after waiting in line for 10 minutes only to find there’s no paper left. I learned years ago to always bring my own T.P. in case there is none in the unit I use. In fact, nowadays I actually hope to find a few units without paper, as those don’t have much of a line and I can just waltz right in with my own!
B.Y.O. safety pins. Similar to T.P., I always bring extra safety pins in case the race runs out of them. When securing your bib, duct tape just doesn’t cut it.
Seed yourself properly. This is among the top three complaints I hear from runners all the time: Slower runners or walkers line up in front of them, making it difficult to pass. Why do that? If everyone would be honest, the start would go much more smoothly and there would be room for everyone to proceed at their own pace. Besides, it feels a lot better to pass other runners than to have hundreds or thousands of runners pass you.
Keep it down. I’m not suggesting that runners shouldn’t converse with one another during a race, but I do hear some complaints about folks having loud, personal conversations in a crowded field. I sometimes get a kick out of listening to other people’s conversations, especially if they are saying nice things about the Boston Marathon or one of my other races!
Watch where you spit. Look around to make sure the coast is clear before letting loose. Spitting midrace is acceptable, but only after confirming that it isn’t going to end up on someone else. And trust me, it has happened to me more than once.
Don’t take too much food. Some runners feel they can take as much food as they can carry after they finish a race. This is just not fair to those finishing behind them. Take no more than one of each item.
Watch it, pace groups. I think pace groups are great, but I would suggest they not run as a huge group blocking the entire roadway.
Express your appreciation. Most race management folks work really hard to pull off these events. As such, it feels really good when we get a nice note of appreciation every now and then.
Take responsibility for yourself. When I give talks before a race, I always ask, “So, who is running tomorrow?” Most of the hands go up. Then, I jokingly ask, “So, who is managing the race tomorrow?” No hands go up except mine. The point of the exercise is that there are many more runners participating in a race than there are people managing it. I try to drive home the point that every runner needs to take “personal responsibility” for himself or herself. When it is hot, you need to slow down. When it is cold, you need to bundle up. You need to hydrate properly and run at a pace you can manage. If you do all the right things, you should be fine. If not, that’s when race management can step in to help.
See you on the roads!