Creating New Habits: The Pre-Race Expo

Urge to run away rising...rising...

WEATHER: Prettiest day in weeks.  85-ish and not-that-humid.



WHERE TO: Around.

MOOD: Nervous.


Tomorrow I fly to the great Midwest to take part, once again, in Grandma’s Marathon, a grand northern Minnesota tradition.  And so C. and I will trek to the great north woods and make the annual Two-Harbors-to-Duluth journey.

But first, we have to go to the pre-race expo.

The pre-race expo is a magical place, a place full of joy and informative talks about pre-race nutrition and amazing discounts on name-brand running gear. It’s an all-out running geekfest, where elites and novices alike come together to celebrate one of mankind’s greatest and oldest pastimes.

At least, this is what I’m told.  I am not of the appreciative mindset when it comes to the expo.  I come from the school of thought that believes that running expos are tools of the massive capitalist-swine, running-industrial complex that weasels money away from nice, hardworking runner people, compelling them to spend bajillions on overpriced clothing, stupid nutritional products, and 5K funruns that always manage to be in Virginia Beach.  Pre-race expos, in this school of thought, are necessary evils, gauntlets of salespeople and annoying clipboard-holders to fight through so that you can get your packet, get your number, and run awaaaayyyy before anyone can try to get you to buy some sort of new go-juice made with acai.

But people always seem to love the damn things, so let’s try to get behind it.  So.  Put on your big-girl skivvies and singlet and get ready for an attitude adjustment, as we turn you from an uptight doucheface into a nice, friendly, expo-loving drone sweetheart.


What not to do: Many of us, myself included, are fans of the get-in, get-out, quit-messing-about school of thought.  We are the people who get out of our cars with confirmation cards already dutifully held in-hand.  We are the ones who run up and down the escalators (come on, people — the escalator IS NOT A RIDE) at the ’70s-era convention centers where race expos are invariably held.  We are the ones who stride purposefully into the pre-race expo, powerwalk past the stringy hordes with their adoring familial hangers-on, and know that they see us and will remember us at the start line as we line up with the 2:40 pacers, and they will say, “That was that LADY from the expo who blew past us on the escalator, and I knew right THEN AND THERE that she would blow our freaking minds out of our EARS today.  What a runner!” And so we thrust our confirmation cards in the faces of the nice volun- “I AM NUMBER 9482 I AM READY TO RUN,” we say.

“Oh, well, let me seeeeeeee…….” say the volunteers as they flip through their file folders of race bibs.


“Oh, sure,” say the nice volunteers, who are understandably not accustomed to apparently meth-addicted runner types, but who chalk it up to us just being from out of town, probably from Out East somewhere. This is totally justified. We should probably take a chill pill and…

Instead, try: Stopping to smell the roses.  By which I mean taking a few free samples that the nice spokesperson people offer you.  Take some Powerbars, some Gu packets, some of whatever 20-calorie-“healthy”-beer-water-nonsense they are hawking, a few shot blocks, and bask in the joy that is free food. Accept a Luna bar from the nice people at the Luna booth and open it and smell the chocolate-almond goodness, but then note that it is “the whole nutrition bar for women.”  “What in the sweet merciful sh*t is this?” you shriek at the nice samples lady.

“I-i-it’s a berry-chocolate-antioxidant-goodness bar to restore balance and s-s-sanity to your crazy, womanly life!” says the startled, sort of nervous sample lady.

“I do not need this gender-specific nutritional bullcrap!” you yell. “I am a hardcore machine of running might!  I will take down any competitor who stands in my way and loot their bodies for gel packets and painkillers!”

“…do you want a peanut butter-chocolate one?” says sample lady, but now you have a full head of steam.

“I shall lay waste to allllll y-chromosome-wielding bastards in this room, by God!” you yell, now turning to face the broader convention center audience.

The sample lady lays down her tray and backs away slowly.

By now, you have torn open a Gu packet and are daubing it, warpaint-style, on your cheeks as you remove your clothing to reveal a bright-pink running getup.  “Bring me a worthy challenger who wants to grapple with his destiny!” you demand, greasing yourself up with a stick of Bodyglide and adopting a Greco-Roman style wrestling pose and–

Oh my God.  You aren’t good at this enjoying-the-expo thing at all.  Let’s move on to food.


Instead of: Skipping the pre-race spaghetti carbo-load dinner, which is probably a waste of money, because you can get noodles for–what–like $1 at the store and a jar of sauce for like $2, all of which you can eat quietly in your hotel room while you do visualization exercises and IT-band rollouts as you listen to the Gladiator score at full blast. And while, yeah, the sauce is cold and the noodles are crunchy and uncooked, the brittle carby deliciousness tastes like victory, dammit. And the distinct lack-of-tastiness works out perfectly, because it means that you don’t really want that much and will thus not be spaghetti-logged tomorrow morning, which is good, because you will need full lung-and-gut capacity tomorrow morning, when you approach the start line, turn to the sweet-looking marathon couple next to you, and yell, “ALL ABOARD THE PAAAAAAAINNNNN TRAAAAAAIIIINNNNN.”  Attagirl.  Classy attitude.

Perhaps let’s try: Actually going to the dinner.  Take a seat at a table and meet your competition nooooo, they are not your competition — they are your compatriots in masochism marathoning fun. Make friends.  Share war stories.  Sit and silently judge listen as fellow runners eat and talk about their experiences and how they can apply to your life and oh my GOD why is that guy getting fourths on his spaghetti?  And putting cheese on it?  Cheese, for the love of God!  Does he WANT to explode all over Minnesota Route 61 at mile 19?  Does he WANT the drunk frat boys in front of the brewhouse pointing and taking Blackberry photos as he writhes in lower-abdominal woe on the street?  Pshaw.  He doesn’t have the heart of a champion.  He is making a mockery of your sport.  You must destroy him.  And so, daubing spaghetti sauce, warpaint-style, on your cheeks, you–

Aaaaaagh you’ve done it again.  Dear God.  Let’s get you some horse tranquilizers and sit you down a while.


OK fine. Let’s talk about: the race booths — the people who see you walk by and politely beckon you over to see if you have a minute, perhaps, because THERE IS A 10-K NEXT WEEKEND IN REHOBOTH BEACH and also this REALLY NEATO 7-K SHAMROCK RACE IN SAVANNAH IN MARCH and MUD RUNS!  YOU KIDS LIKE MUD RUNS, RIGHT!

OK, look, people, you want to say.  There is a Shamrock 4-K/9-K/11.423-K in every city in America.  There is a Twilight 5-K in Newport News every damn weekend.  There is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon every five g.d. minutes.  Your race isn’t special.

You could say that. But we’ve established already that you’re kind of a jerk.  You’re kind of “that guy” of the running expo.  Which is pretty bad, amiright?

So now, instead, perhaps you could: Listen to the good race-sign-up people.  They just want to give you new and fun outlets for you to showcase your God-given talent!

“WANT TO RUN OUR 14-K IN MUNCIE?” says the lady, thrusting a clipboard in your Gu-and-spaghetti-sauce-smeared face.

“Huh,” you say.  “Yeah, I suppose.”

She is clearly taken aback a bit that someone is actually taking an interest. “Oh,” she says.  “Oh.  Oh GREAT!”  Now she’s excited, and she starts to open up to you.  “Running is great, isn’t it?” she says.

You scribble on the form and nod.  “Yeah, sure is,” you say, noting that this lady really does seem rather sweet.

“It really helps me relieve my stress, you know?  And it makes me feel so alive!  And sometimes when I hit mile 15 or so, I feel like I am just open to all of the love and joy in the universe!”

You look up.  She’s like some sort of wonderful running guru shaman person, here to guide you to the light.

“I feel like we’re all part of one great web of energy and wonder, and that for a moment, maybe the world isn’t such a hurtful, terrifying place.”

Your eyes begin to tear up.

“I just love the Muncie 14-K!” says the placid, enlightened runnerlady.  “A few years ago, I was recovering from a really bad–”

“What’s your best time?” you demand, unable to control yourself.

There is a pause.

Ohhhhhh you idiot.  You just had to get competitive.  Her smile slips.  She knows what you’re about.  You had been fooled!  This chick is all BUSINESS.  She narrows her eyes and cocks her head.  “Why, what’s YOURS, stupidface?”

<cue Western soundtrack>

You each grab a Bic pen from her clipboard and draw crude warpaint-like patterns onto your cheeks.

“Why don’t you go eat some more pasta?”

“How about a Luna Bar, princess?”

“I’m going to powerbomb you right into that Adidas display.”

“Try it, Clydesdale.”

And with that, it is ONNNNNNN.


There is, of course, a moral here.  I mean, yeah, you could sit back and enjoy expos like the rest of the crowd.  You could.  But then, there comes a moment — and usually, this is the moment in between the Muncie-14-K lady’s killer half nelson and you administering a 45-second-long headlock, in which you manage to steer her into some guy carrying like 3 gallons of Michelob-Nasty-Low-Calorie-Beer-Flavored-Beverage — there is a golden moment in which you remember why you like racing.

Because you sort of like being that cocky a-hole.  God bless you, you fantastic jerkface.  Good luck at Grandma’s.


One response to this post.

  1. […] Get superfreakingpumped. « Creating New Habits: The Pre-Race Expo […]


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