How to Navigate Race Expos at Large or Small Races

by Head Health Nutter on September 19, 2016

What the heck are race expos? Here today to tell us, along with suggestions in how get the most out of them if you do venture to one, is guest blogger, Dan Chabert. Keep reading to see if a race expo is for you!

Races have become no longer exclusively about the actual footrace that runners will cover; instead, many races have morphed into a weekend-long party, replete with the pre-race expo that pumps up runners and gets them ready for their race as well as a post-race party that lets runners celebrate their accomplishments.

It can be tricky to figure out how to manage the pre-race expo because while you probably want to partake in all the pre-race excitement, you also probably don’t want to leave feeling completely drained – financially or physically.

expo
It’s important to note, too, that races of various lengths now feature their own expos. It’s not something reserved exclusively for the longest of endurance runs, such as ultramarathons or marathons. In fact, these days it’s fairly commonplace for half marathons and even 15ks (and some 5ks or 8ks) to have their own pre-race expos.

With how accessible running has become in recent years – that is to say, with how many more of “the masses” have begun to flock to running – it makes sense that the most popular races would also follow suit and give their participants the opportunity to participate in the pre-race festivities.

Come race weekend, if you find yourself about to navigate through a race expo for the first time – or for the first time in a long time – consider the tips below to get you through the race expo experience without too much financial or physical strain.

Come with a plan. Sometimes, but not always, race organizers will list the vendors who will be attending the expo on the race website. You can minimize the time-suck that you may experience otherwise at a race expo by coming in with a plan, such as knowing which vendor(s) you want to visit. Coming in with a plan can be especially helpful if you’re trying to avoid spending too much money – you can’t be tempted to spend any money if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to “just look around” – and if you’re crunched for time and want to get in and out of the expo as quickly as possible.

Do your research. Closely related to coming in to the race expo with a plan, it can be very helpful to you to do your research ahead of time about what (or who) will or will not be at the expo. Again, you’re at the mercy of the race organizers and what information they post online in advance of the race expo weekend, but the more you know, the more you can plan to allocate your time and money accordingly. Doing your research ahead of time will also minimize the time-suck because you’ll know exactly where the expo is located, where you need to park (if applicable), the expo’s hours, and the like.

Go with a friend. Race weekends are usually a lot more fun when you experience it with friends or family members, so consider bringing someone along for the ride with you. The caveat here is that it’s likely that you will spend more time – and perhaps more money – by having someone attend the expo with you than if you went by yourself, but the flip side is that you will also probably have more fun attending, too. It’s common for expos to have fun activities for children to play, so if you have young kids, consider bringing them out to experience the atmosphere (and perhaps win some goodies).

Use the expo as a back-up plan. Runners are often Type A people who are incredibly organized, and perhaps even a bit anal retentive about details, and many times, we leave nothing to chance. However, it can be all-too-tempting to rely on a race expo to fill-in a gap for something for you for race weekend: for example, not buying your preferred energy gels/chews ahead of time because you think the race expo will have them available. Relying on the race expo for your race essentials can be a huge gamble to take because you probably don’t know what they’ll have available – or if they’ll sell out – so if there’s something you know you’ll absolutely need for race weekend, don’t leave it to chance. Purchase it ahead of time. The flip-side here is that oftentimes race expos have great sales on racing essentials, so you could always use the expo as an opportunity to stock-up on racing goods at prices that you can’t get anywhere else.

Take some samples, but consider testing them after your race. Expos are great places to get samples of the latest and greatest in performance nutrition. However, the adage “nothing new on race day” holds meaning for a reason. It can be tempting to want to taste-test every new bite, chew, energy bar, and electrolyte drink at the expo, but keep in mind that if you’re tasting everything for the first time, a) you don’t know how your body will react immediately thereafter, b) you don’t know how it’ll sit in your stomach overnight (and if it’ll show-up come race morning!), and finally, c) you don’t know how it’ll sit in your stomach when combined with all of your other race expo eats and drinks you’ve consumed. With all of this in mind, then, consider taking as many samples as you’re interested in from the race expo but not testing them until after your race is over, when the stakes are much lower, should you suffer from any GI-related malady. It’s far better to find out during a practice run that your stomach doesn’t respond well to a particular ingredient than to find out during a pivotal point in your race.

Remember: strolling through an expo = time on your feet! It can be all-too-easy to casually stroll through every aisle and visit every vendor at the expo, and before you know it, you’ll have been walking through the expo hall for a solid hour-plus. Being on your feet for prolonged periods of time in the day(s) preceding your race can adversely affect your race performance, making you come into the race feeling more fatigued than refreshed. If you do plan to casually take in the sights and sounds of the race expo, be cognizant of how much time on your feet you’re spending. You might even want to consider giving yourself a set time frame – such as 45 minutes – to get in, shop, and get out. Giving yourself a timeline will also help you save your money by minimizing the amount of time available to shop – in theory, anyway.

Many large and small races feature their own race expos, and by doing so, they give their participants even more opportunities to get pumped for their upcoming races and to get excited about running. Expos can be a great source of motivation and inspiration, as well as places to buy the latest and greatest in performance nutrition and apparel, yet if runners aren’t careful about how they spend their time and energy there, they may show up on race morning feeling fatigued, flat, or mentally/physically (or even financially!) exhausted.

Like with racing, learning how to navigate race expos takes time and practice, and eventually, you’ll learn what works best for you and what leaves you feeling energized and ready to take on the challenge of race day.

About the Author

Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan Chabert is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com and he has been featured on runnerblogs all over the world.

Did you learn anything about race expos in this article? Are you pumped to attend one now?

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