7 Ways to ensure a pleasant packet pick-up experience. . .
If you have been racing for any amount of time, you are most likely familiar with pre-race packet pick-up. Almost all races hold pre-race packet pick-ups to allow participants to “check-in” prior to the event. During packet pick-up, participants are given items such as bib numbers, event shirts, and goodie bags. Race organizers typically post packet pick-up times on the event website and sometimes send a pre-race email reminding participants of packet pick-up times (in addition to race start time, race start location, and other important race details).
I have registered for and participated in many races of all distances and sizes over the past 15 years. In addition to participating in events, one of my jobs is to manage packet pick-up for triathlons, trail runs, fun runs, and supported bike rides. In order to run packet pick-up efficiently and effectively, I rely heavily on volunteers that our volunteer coordinator works tirelessly to find. For the most part, participants who show up to packet pick-up are usually seasoned packet pick-upers. They are understanding, nice, and patient. Unfortunately, there are also a handful of participants who, when they don’t get exactly what the think they are entitled to, they resort to being rude and sometimes just plain ugly.
For some, packet pick-up and signing up for events is new or not a common occurrence and need a little direction. There are also seasoned packet pick-uppers who think all events are the same and the process at one event is the way all events should function. The last thing a packet pick-up coordinator wants to hear is, “That’s not how the last race handled [fill in random process].” The packet pick-up atmosphere can be challenging. It’s not easy to approach an irate participant without letting personal frustration seep through. Packet pick-up is most likely the participant’s first interaction with the event. The packet pick-up coordinator has to maintain a calm and professional attitude throughout packet pick-up. Regardless of the previous rude person I had to deal with or how many times I have been asked the same question (that is usually addressed in the event’s FAQ on the event webpage) it’s better to answer each person with a smile and patience. Doing this usually helps the conversation and process go much smoother.
Whether you are a newbie or seasoned packet pick-upper, below is a list of things to know prior to packet pick-up for your event.
7 Ways to ensure a pleasant packet pick-up experience. . .
- Know it and Learn it. Check and double check packet pick-up times and location(s). This will save you from showing up on the wrong day, at the wrong time, at the wrong place (no sense in wasting your lunch break to arrive at a packet pick-up that doesn’t exist yet).
- Documentation. Some events are sanctioned by a governing body and require you to show your Photo ID and/or a valid license for said sanctioning body. Don’t have the license? Be prepared to purchase a license–sometimes you can purchase an 1-day license or an annual.
(side note: for such occasions, it’s always a good idea to carry cash or even check to pay for licenses) Also, check ahead of time if you are allowed to pickup for others and what is needed to do so (USAT only lets you pick up for yourself).
- The Sooner, the Better. Pick-up your packet, people. If the event offers packet pick-up multiple days prior to the event, try to go to the first day. Why? You will not feel rushed to get your packet before the race start time. You’ll also be more likely to receive the shirt size you ordered. Let’s face it, in a perfect world, if I registered 6 months in advance, I should get my shirt size I ordered. Nothing or no one is perfect. Unless you are doing a large race that can afford to order shirt sizes in excess of what is needed, race directors are trying to order as close to what is requested as possible and take into account those who register the week of the event (after shirts will have been ordered).
- Expected Wait time. Understand if packet pick-up opens at 11:00 AM and you show up at 10:30 AM, you will have to wait until 11:00 AM. Volunteers are still being prepped/trained and the packet pick-up area is still being setup . 11 AM means 11 AM. Also, be prepared to wait if you show up at the start of packet pick-up. You and 15 – 30 other participants made plans to arrive at the very start of packet pick-up. The packet pick-up crew will get you checked in– just be patient (they may feel overwhelmed with long line and what to help you get threw as quickly as possible too).
- You Cannot Have 5 more Minutes. If packet pick-up ends at 7:00 PM, do not show up at 7:10 PM and be upset that you cannot pick-up your packet. Volunteers sign-up for shifts and are released at the end of their shift. Most likely the packet pick-up crew has been there for a couple of hours. If you miss the designated time, you’ll just have to show up at the next designated time. If there isn’t another time, then make the proper arrangements to pick-up your packet. (It’s always good idea to contact the race coordinator if you know ahead of time you cannot pick-up your packet during the designated times)
- Don’t be that person. If a race offers race day packet pick-up, do not show up 30 minutes before the event starts and then be upset if there is a long line of others who didn’t plan accordingly. Give yourself plenty of time to navigate to the race start, park, locate packet-up, get your packet and then do your usual pre-race prepping.
- Smile and Wave. Remember, packet pick-up crews are usually volunteers. Volunteers = Not Paid. They have taken time out of their day to volunteer their time. If you get into a situation where you are not given the shirt you ordered, the shirt you ordered doesn’t fit and cannot exchange it until after all participants have picked up their shirts, or you feel the process itself is horrible and makes no sense, take a deep breath before getting upset. Remember, you are talking to a human being, a volunteer, whose sole duty is to check your name off a list. Instead of getting upset and yelling at the volunteer, step away from the situation and leave packet pick-up. If later, you are still upset, go to the event website and find a contact email. You’ll be able to pass along your issues/frustration to someone who is more likely and able to address and respond to your request.
Set yourself up to have a successful race experience. Don’t jeopardize your race by not reading the pre-race emails or the event website to understand what’s expected of you as a participant and what is being provided (and when) by the race coordinator. These 7 steps will definitely get you started on the right foot!
Plan ahead. Arrive Early. Race Happy.