July 10, 2018
With lines of ansty racers packet pick ups can be tough on the event staff but tackling it with a strategic game plan your team will be able to keep pace with the crowd.Hosting a timed physical event like a bike race or a mud run involves a packet pickup to distribute the t-shirt, race bib and swag bag. How do you know you need to host pre-race packet pickup? If you can’t hand out all of the packets in 1 to 2 hours, then you will need to host one.I reached out to RedPodium race directors who do this on a regular basis so together we could pull out the top tips of packet pick up. If you are hosting your first event or you are a seasoned veteran there is something for everyone here.
Let’s be real, as humans it’s easy to underestimate how long something will take. When it comes to assembling all of the pieces together start early.Two weeks prior to the race is when Robert Nichols from Encinitas Events assembles his swag bags. He doesn’t want to rush his team during the pickup with trying to assemble them on the spot.Kurt Gross from Phoenix Frontrunners says to assemble your crew a week prior to the packet pick up to relieve stress. His advice is to go over the packet pick up process with everyone before hand. To think through situations like day of registrations, registration changes and allowing friends to pick up each others bags. He said,
“You need to set your policy around [picking up for friends/family] remembering that you really have control over the race and the timing.”
Encinitas Events pre-assigns bib numbers based on expected finish times. When people want to pick up multiple bibs they need to come prepared with names and bib numbers.
“We usually have a volunteer or two set aside for people who show up wanting to pick up multiple bibs,” said Nichols “that way we don’t slow the other participants.”
Once you have the policies in place the next important step is to make sure you communicate that to your participants. It’s a good idea to send out a mass email a week before detailing key information for packet pickup. Having a few ways to verify people either through name, email, address or phone number will be key. Besides being vigilant on making sure it’s ok with the person who paid, you are also making sure the person’s timed bib is associated to their correct name.
The time has come to hand each person their t-shirt, bib and swag bag. But how can you do this like a well oiled machine? As with any thing a bit of forward thinking and you have this in the bag.If your bags are pre-stuffed it’s recommended to have a multi-station pick-up process. Almost all of the race directors I talked with and most of the events I have attended use this method. It’s simple and makes sense.
If you have the capability offer incentives for people to pick up their packet before race day. This will make your team’s race day experience better and allow your participants to not be rushed on race day.
All race directors say for the most part the day of race should look similar to the pre-race day pick-up. With your policies in place and team having already gone through the gauntlet before at least once it should be smooth.Encinitas Events closes down day of race pick up 30-minutes prior to the start of the race. Nichols said you don’t want people showing up last minute and not being ready for the start of the race.If you are allowing day of registration be sure to plan how to add those bib numbers and names to a list the timing company can access.
Your team is going to be under stress during packet pick-up and your customers will want to interact with happy, smiling people. But stress and happiness rarely go together. Take care of your team regardless is they are paid or not. Buy them meals, go on coffee runs and check in with them throughout the day to see how they are doing. If you take care of your team, you can count on your team taking care of your customers.Understand before you start that you will not please everyone. Some will want the pick up location close to their work or house, others will expect it to be near the race location. Some will not like the pick up days or time frame. Knowing this you want to organize so it makes sense to the race and/or the organization who is hosting the race. As a race director you will want to do everything you can to have a smooth race, so pleasing a small group of people is not worth derailing a smooth race.