Race Director Corner - Volume 2, Issue 2


One of the most often questions that we get asked is how to handle packet pickup.  This is actually a really good question and some thought needs to go into as to how a race wants to handle it.  For small races, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot as anything that you do will be fairly easy.  As the size of the race grows though, you need to put some thought into how you want to handle it.  You want to make it as smooth and easy for both your volunteers as well as the participants.  A packet pickup that is confusing and slow can be frustrating for everyone involved.

There are several questions that you need to ask.  One is whether you want to have an early packet pickup prior to race morning or whether you just want to do everything on the morning of the event.  Having it early will make it easier on your participants as some really like to get their packets early to avoid long lines.  Some also like to get their packet early as they like to set everything out the night before the race and mentally prepare themselves for the event.  The issue is whether you have the volunteers available to provide an early pickup.  Oftentimes that is not the case and you may be forced to do everything on race morning.  For large races, it is highly suggested if you are able to make it work.

The larger question is how you want to conduct packet pickup.  There are several options available to races depending on the needs and resources available.

1. Prepare packets with all materials and label each packet with the participant info.  At packet pickup, the volunteer simply grabs the prepared packet and hands to the participant.  This is actually the fastest method for packet pickup, but is also the most time consuming and demanding method for the volunteers.  It requires a lot of preparation to be ready for the pickup time.  It is suggested that you start this as early as possible so that everything doesn’t have to be done at the last moment.

2. Prepare shirt packets but leave the bibs separate.  All of your packets are then simply arranged by shirt size.  When the participant comes to pickup the packet, you provide a bib to the participant and grab the appropriate shirt packet with all of the sponsor material.  While this takes time to put the packets together for the shirts, it is easier in that you don’t have to worry about matching with individuals until you actually hand them a packet.  Bib assignment for those packets can either be done ahead of time or dynamically.

3. Prepare sponsor material only packets but leave shirt and bib separate.  When the participant arrives, grab their bib, shirt and a sponsor packet and send them on their way.  Preparation time for packets is simply a matter of collecting sponsor material and placing into bags.  The shirts should still be arrange by size for easier distribution.  Bib assignments can still be done either ahead of time or dynamically.

4. Provide bib and shirt only.  Many races are attempting to go green and not have a sponsor packet.  When the participant arrives, they are simply given a bib and their shirt.

The final question is how to handle the actual bib assignment and participant search. If you know that you are going to have a good internet connection and enough volunteers on computers, then you can handle everything online at packet pickup.  When the participant comes to pickup their packet, you can search for their name and then give them the bib that has been assigned.  Using this method would actually be easier to simply do dynamic bib assignment.  You search their name and give them the next available bib and then save their info.  This is the easiest as it requires no upfront preparation of bibs.  If you don’t have good internet or simply don’t want to take the risk of dynamic assignment, then you can assign bibs ahead of time and print out your roster with the participant info.  It is suggested that your roster contain their name, age, gender, bib #, and shirt size.  That way you can verify information at time of pickup.

Athlete Guild can support you with any method that you decide you want to employ.  We have the ability to do dynamic assignment and search from our website using a standard browser.  Because our site is also mobile friendly, you can make use of a mobile device to handle your pickup.  We also have the tools for bib assignment and producing your participant rosters.  Talk to us and we can help you decide your best approach.