Do’s and Don’ts of Expos and Finish Line Areas


With my first full week of a large running race/expo of the year over, I wanted to share my experiences and give some do’s and don’ts of race expo’s and finish line festivals. I might write another blog about the do’s and don’ts of taper or race week, but today is about the expo and finish line festival. That being said, this is fresh in my mind and might contain things that slightly resemble a rant, but there are serious points too. This week/weekend was the DC Rock n Roll marathon/half marathon and 5k. Last year there were 25-30,000 runners but this year there were around 21,000. It was actually a pretty noticeable difference from a vendor perspective.

As a nutrition tech rep I participate in most the large marathon, triathlons, cycling races and even some swims in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s pretty fun and I love my job. March is the kick-off for marathons here in the Mid-Atlantic and race season really goes until November/early December. Some large races (Rock n Roll and IM are two) have large expos, and other small races have small expos or no expo at all. I like working expos as it’s a great time to interact with racers, show new product and get feedback and just be surrounded by enthusiastic athletes doing what you and they love. Sometimes though, there some things that aren’t great. And I want to warn you of them.

And here they are….

PreRace Expo:


  1. Sip on a water bottle or diluted sports drink, especially if it is going to be hot and humid. This is not the time to get dehydrated.
  2. Go ahead and check out the new items on the market. The cool thing about expos is that generally a rep is available to give you one-on-one attention and answer your questions. This can be good if you have questions and aren’t sure who to ask.
  3. Move quickly and efficiently through the expo. Take time to get your packet/bib, pick up any items you may have forgotten to bring from home, however don’t spend all day at the expo. 2 hours and less is a good idea.
  4. Wear comfy shoes to the expo so your feet and legs aren’t tired.
  5. Go early in the expo, or early in the day. You’ll get more time with reps, less lines and less stress.
  6. Take a look at the race course or drive the race course if possible. RnR’s always have very large maps of the course so you can see the exact course. The other cool thing is Geico is currently sponsoring the race and they do an accelerated drive-though. In a few minutes, the Geico screens will show you the entire course on their TV. Also, especially for triathlons, pre-driving the course is a great idea to preview the course and plan your plan of action.
  7. Take advantage of race day expo pricing. A lot of vendors give expo discounts and they are great. For example, say a nutrition product is normally $3 and they are 6 to a box. So, $18/box. Expo pricing might only be $10/box. What a steal!
  8. Give respect to vendors and don’t just take their free product and walk away. Vendors are there to promote their products. Yes, they have free things they are giving away, but give them a chance to talk about the product. This is not really about nutrition vendors, although we like to hear from you too.


  1. Sample everything if your race the next day is an “A” race and nutrition has a tendency to upset your stomach. Pick a few choices and give them a shot. If you take one of each thing each nutrition company is sampling you could take in a thousand calories and not realize it. Or you could eat something that doesn’t agree with your stomach. If it’s not your “A” race, it’s not as big a deal.
  2. Buy new shoes or new clothes for race day. Yes, take advantage of the discounts, race day promo gear, and asking reps questions, but don’t wear them the next day, you’re asking for trouble.
  3. Spend hours on your feet, only spend an hour or two at the expo. That’s enough time to do everything but not long enough to make you more tired.
  4. Hear what others might be doing or eating the night before or the day of and change things. Just stick to your nutrition plan. Practice your nutrition plan prior to race day as well.
  5. Ask the nutrition vendors what you should eat race day, you should know what you are already eating prior to race day. It’s ok to ask for recommendations on what to eat next time, or if you have any specific problems with nutrition. This is a great time to ask these questions.
  6. Don’t ask which flavor is the best. We get this question quite a bit and it’s very hard to answer as everyone has different tastes. For example if I say “peanut butter chocolate” and you hate peanut butter, it’s not a good choice for you, but good for others. A better question is whats the most popular instead. That way you’re still finding out what might be “good” but it’s a more direct question.
  7. Exclaim loudly that you hate anyone’s products whether it be ours or another. This is just rude to the vendors. I thank you for offering your love of our products, but not at the expense of being rude to others. And if you have criticism, please let me quietly know, I can pass it on.
  8. Put any food in your mouth and then ask what’s in it. If you have an allergy or intolerance, ask before you taste. We most likely know, or will check for you. And better yet, check packaging. One time I had someone eat something that might not be considered to have peanuts in it. After someone ate a bar, they then asked about peanuts. And yes, we had peanuts in them. Thankfully they spit it out.
  9. Ask for full size samples when we are cutting things into pieces. We don’t have enough for everyone to have one full size. And often people think we will have product left over at the end of an expo. As vendors, we have other expos and we transport them to the next one, we don’t “need” to get rid of them as people often think.

Post race food area/vendor area:

Set up pre race


  1. Grab water and other food even if you aren’t hungry/thirsty right at that moment. Often you don’t feel like wolfing down your bagel, but 30-60min post run, you’ll be hungry. Plus you need to fill up with carbs/protein and re-hydrate.
  2. Thank the volunteers. I am not a volunteer, I get paid to work at events. Saying thank you is nice, but it’s the others that are there from 6am-2pm (or longer) and are volunteering that appreciate thanks. Also, this applies to race course volunteers.
  3. Share and be courteous post race. Volunteers and workers are here to help you, not be mean or jerks. So if they say, “keep moving down the finishing chute,” they are just trying to keep the flow of traffic moving nicely.


  1. Be rude to volunteers or others working
  2. We know you’ve had a hard race and we commend you, but please don’t give us attitude or throw things at us. Here is what I mean. Everyone deserves to get nutrition post race. We rarely have enough for every athlete to have more than one. So, if there are bars on the table and we ask you to just take one, it’s to make sure that the runners behind you have product available to them as well. Don’t think we are doing this because we are mean, or that we don’t think you deserve more. Just please take one, there is usually other things to eat. If we see you take 4 and we ask you to put them back, there is a reason. If everyone took 4, there wouldn’t be enough for later finishers. If you don’t agree with our decision, please don’t throw the product back at us. It isn’t nice and we are just trying to be considerate of others.

Ok, the last two don’ts are a bit of a rant. It really upsets me when athletes think that they are entitled to take more products then we have. If at the end of the race there is extra, then it’s ok to have more. But until everyone gets something, how is that fair for the later finishers? And since they were out there longer, they might need the nutrition more than early finishers. Plus, I don’t think athletes realize that we pay to be at the expo, plus we give away quite a bit of product. Yes, you paid for your race entry, but we paid too. But let me also say that there are a vast majority of very gracious athletes.

Until I worked on this end of the race expo and finish line area, I didn’t realize how things worked. I have been guilty of eating too many things, walking around too long and letting the stress of the expo effect me. Live and learn right? The takeaway from this post is that when dealing with others at races and expos, be respectful and kind.  Hopefully the rest of the tips will help you out in some way as well!


  • By Diana - on

    Great post and great reminder to all. The Irongirl Expo my first year was intimidating! I stayed for the race talk and it made me more nervous. Nervous about silly things- like zebra mussels…..I could easily swim the course so I shouldn’t have been worrying about what was on the bottom. Plus the bike course was on roads I rode on as a child. THis race was a race in my old neighborhood! My poor husband had to deal with my freak out the night before.

    I do try and thank the volunteers. I usually thank the person handing me fluids and the people at the end. I will definitely talk more at the Expo. 🙂

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