On Sunday, November 3, 2013, I’ll be lining up with over 45,000 other runners to race the ING New York City Marathon. An event of this caliber requires a tremendous amount of logistical organization, especially pertaining to the start line, and New York does this by creating three different wave start times with several different corrals within each wave. Sound confusing? Yes, but it’s certainly less confusing than 45,000 runners clamoring for the same spot up front and on top of the Verrazano–Narrows double-decker bridge. In that melee, I have a feeling that more than one runner would end up swimming mile one of their 26.2 in the Hudson River.
Fortunately, as many races grow in size, organizers are getting better at regulating start line mayhem. Triathlons often have wave starts based on age groups, and larger run/walk events have start corrals based on pace or expected finish time. This isn’t done to make you feel slow or old (although, I admit, it can be annoying when I get a later start because I’m an old chick); these measures are put in place to avoid congestion, collisions, and frustration for all participants.
Austin’s ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot features almost 25,000 runners for 5 miles of fun on Thanksgiving morning. People of all shapes, ages, and sizes will be at this event, one of the largest in the state, as it’s a popular race for competitive and recreational runners alike. With that in mind, there’s some start line etiquette to be aware of before you toe the line. Remember, Thanksgiving is a day to feel grateful and not frustrated!
Assume the skinny dudes in short running shorts lined up in front will be fast.
At practically every running event, the people who line up at the front with their finger planted firmly on the “start” button of their watches want to win. Respect them. Give them space. These fast folks are running 5- to 6-minute miles (or even faster—last year’s Turkey Trot overall winner, Andrew Letherby, averaged a 4:59 mile pace). If that’s your pace, good on you! We’ll give you space if you save some post-race grub for the rest of us.
Even your super-fast greyhound should line up in the back.
You don’t want to find yourself in the proverbial doghouse by bringing Fido to a large event where canine runners are discouraged or prohibited. Check the race rules first to see what’s permitted on the racecourse. Several “family-friendly” runs and walks (including the Turkey Trot) allow you to bring your pawtner. By all means, bring your dog if you know it’s capable of going the distance, but please line up toward the back of the pack. This is to ensure the safety of your pet as well as of other participants, especially if your breed gets nervous in large crowds. Also, keep your dog on a short leash and bring some poop bags. Running a race is hard enough; it’s especially difficult with poo on your shoe!
I Know Ironman Makes an Awesome Stroller. Use it Cautiously.
I’ll admit that I’ve been buried many times by runners pushing strollers. There are some fast and strong mom and dads out there! There’s even an Ironman-branded stroller that proves what a stud you are. If you can push an extra 40–60 pounds of metal and flesh up a hill, you deserve a trophy. The ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot even has a stroller division in the results, so feel free to duke it out with the other parents who are going above and beyond to earn their turkey dinners. But, be mindful of where you line up on race morning. If you’re racing to be competitive, find the appropriate starting corral. You don’t necessarily have to start in the back (though some races, like the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot, specify that strollers should start in the rear), but don’t get overaggressive and start with the super fast folks who may need the space and don’t want to dodge the strollers. If you’re walking or running the event for fun, stay to the back for the safety of yourself, your little ones, and others. Most importantly, keep exposing your kids to these events and showing them that fitness can be fun. (Well, it’s fun from the seat of a stroller at least. I don’t know how much fun it is when your 4-year-old is yelling at you to speed up.)
When in Doubt, Wear a Costume
Fitness is supposed to be fun! We’re out there to celebrate life and the ability to move our bodies. The ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot is all about fun, and you’ll see plenty of hilarious costumes on the course. If you want to have real fun, wear a turkey hat or a pilgrim costume. I guarantee that you’ll have a good time. I have a friend who wears a feather boa at all races. Awesome.
Dress in your holiday best and look for the pace corrals on race day to seed yourself appropriately among the crowds. If you don’t see the signs, ask the runners around you what their anticipated race pace will be. If they will be running a faster pace than you can, keep moving back. Remember: If you choose to be chip timed, your race time doesn’t start until you actually cross the start line.
Be patient and expect some congestion on the course. Arrive early, enjoy the atmosphere, and don’t forget to wish your fellow runners a very happy Thanksgiving!
Download the entire Turkey Trot training program on Training Peaks HERE