One of the biggest questions we get from new race directors is how to handle packet pickup. If you have done multiple races, then you probably have a preferred method to handle packet pickup. The way that it is handled can vary from race to race and depends on several factors; number of volunteers available, number of participants, time available for pickup, technology. The goal of course is to move the pickup line as quickly as possible so that there is no delay in starting the event.
If you have the ability to provide pickup prior to race morning, then it can be much easier on race personnel as well as participants as you have the time and aren’t under pressure to get the race started. This of course requires having staff available to sit for sometimes hours handling pickup which isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Many participants prefer to pick up early so that they can prepare for race morning, but it isn’t always possible.
Regardless whether you have an early pickup, have race morning only, or do both, you will still need to decide the best approach for handling your pickup. Here are a few ways that it can be done.
1. Prepare complete packets with all material included in the bag and a label easily visible. For many race directors, this is the preferred method. When participants arrive at packet pickup, you simply find their bag and send them on their way. The issue is that it requires a lot of work stuffing and preparing the packets. If you have a lot of upfront preparation time or enough volunteers, then it can be done. One thing many directors will do is prepare a few each night as they get closer to the event. This way it doesn’t all to be done at once.
2. Another way is to prepare packets with just sponsor material. Bibs can be preassigned with a label on the bib but the shirt and race bib are not included in the packet. When a participant arrives, they are given a generic sponsor bag, their shirt, and assigned bib. This has the advantage of not requiring as much time upfront preparing packets as sponsor packets are easily done. It is recommended to put labels on the bibs but that doesn’t take a lot of time. The labels are to help participants easily identify in cases where multiple packets are picked up at the same time. It also provides participants with their information for validation. Shirts are simply set aside according to size and then handed out based on their registration data.
3. A third way is to do dynamic bib assignment. Sponsor material is still prepared ahead of time, but no bibs are assigned until the participant comes to pickup. When the participant arrives, their info is searched on a laptop and then updated with the next available bib number. The only preparation is putting together sponsor bags. This method requires more technology and available volunteers at pickup to keep the line moving, but has the advantage of quick delivery as the only lookup is on a screen. You simply grab the next bib on top and hand it to them. Volunteers need to be available to lookup names and hand out bibs and shirts. The number needed will depend on the number of participants.
There are numerous variations of these three suggestions and you should decide which makes most sense for you and your race. Athlete Guild can provide the tools to make any of these easier. With our online management tools for bib assignment, labeling, and athlete lookup, we can support any of the three or variations. Because our website is mobile friendly, you have the ability to use either laptops or other mobile devices to do quick lookup or even dynamic bib assignment. Talk to us and we can help design a process that will work best for you.