I am very conflicted about my feelings on race expos. Lately I have had more negative experiences than positive ones so here are a few tips from my expo experiences to hopefully make your experience a positive one…
1) Not every race has an expo yet they seem to be growing like crazy! For example the Savannah River Bridge Run expo seemed to double in 2012 compared to 2011.
2) Before you attend an expo set a budget and bring cash only to help you stick to that budget.
3) Take public transportation if available or carpool. For example parking was extremely limited where the Marine Corps Marathon expo was in 2012 so we took the Metro. Also sometimes you have to pay to park so be ready for that.
4) Race expos can be a great place to sign up for other events that you’ve been contemplating because they tend to give expo discounts.
5) Speaking of discounts – know your prices because 10% off might not be the best deal you can get. Lately I’ve found that I’m spoiled by the military discount that our local running stores gives us and that expos simply can’t give me a better deal plus I like supporting local businesses so I’d rather return home and purchase the product either at Fleet Feet Savannah or Georgia Game Changers.
6) Magazines such as Runners World, Women’s Running, etc give great product reviews before they even hit the market. Expos are an excellent opportunity to test out the product and ask more questions.
7) Here’s a tip for people with a booth at expos because this is something that’s bugged me and has happened to me twice at recent places – DON’T BE A PUSHY SALES MAN! For example I’ve been looking at and researching GPS watches for many months and attending an expo was the perfect opportunity to ask some questions on my mind. Yet instead of answering my questions I got responses based upon the pink watch I was wearing…I won’t call the company out but the response I was given basically was you should buy this watch because it’s pink!
8) DO NOT buy something just because it’s your favorite color!
9) Ask about return policies! Often there aren’t changing rooms so if you buy a product and don’t like the way it fits when you get back home and finally do try it on make sure you know an easy peasy way to exchange/ return it.
10) Ask for samples – Clif does an excellent job with this. Also when taking a sample make sure you know what’s in it. This is especially important if you have any food allergies.
11) DO NOT use any new products that you bought at the expo in the race! What I mean is this if you buy new shoes (unless you did so because you forgot them) don’t use them in your race because you haven’t “broken them in” yet. As for food/fuel if you’ve been training with a certain gel and buy more at the expo for the event fine but if it’s something new wait to test it on a training run. You can look back at old blog posts to learn more about how terrible trying out new foods can be while training so why mess with it on race day?
12) Leave the kiddos at home/hotel. If it’s possible do not bring the kiddos with you because it can be an overwhelming environment & many places don’t allow strollers into the expo arena. For us at Disney we tag teamed and one of us stayed outside the expo with the kiddos while the other went in.
13) Take advantage of any speakers/seminars – I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet people such as Bart Yasso because of this.
14) Sign up for the giveaways but don’t give away too much info! I’ve won some cool stuff because of giveaways just be prepared for your email to be bombarded. I used to have an email address just for stuff like this but now many companies have an opt out if their emails get too overwhelming.
15) Make sure you picked up your whole packet! Many races now spread packet pickup through out the expo and you often have go one place to get your bib, another to get you Tshirt and even another to get your bag of goodies so be sure you have EVERYTHING you’re supposed to before you leave.
As always – HAVE FUN!