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Get There Early
Runners should arrive at least one hour before their official start time. Doing so will allow time to park, register (if not done in advance), pick up your race packet, pick up your bib/chip, allow time for warming-up (details below), stretching, and hitting the portable toilets. Depending on the race location, race directors usually provide portable toilets for the runners. Just know that the closer it gets to race time, the longer the lines become, so give yourself plenty of time to take care of any bathroom breaks well in advance of the start time.
Put on Your Bib on Right
Pin your bib on the front of your shirt rather than on your back. This will make it easier for race officials to identify runners so they can call out their names as they cross the finish line. If your race is not a chip-timed event (see below) this will also make it easier for you to tear off the tab at the bottom of your bib.
Clip on that Chip
Not every race uses chips to time the runners. Some bibs have a timing device on the underside, and other races use neither. Large and competitive races tend to use a chip that attaches to your shoe via a zip tie (available at the race). Wearing a chip allows your race time to be recorded for placement and award eligibility.
Chips are not usually distributed to runners until race day, so plan on arriving a few minutes early so that you have time to pick up your chip. Most races hold these chips at the registration table or within close proximity of the registration table. It is essential that you have your bib number on hand when picking up your chip as your chip number corresponds to your bib number.
The chips have a small transponder that activates when you cross the mat at the starting line. Remember to cross the mat or your starting time will not be recorded. When you come to the finish line, you must cross the second set of mats to deactivate the chip in order to have your finishing time recorded. Most events require participants to surrender the chip when the race is over; make sure the volunteers remove yours before you meet up with family and friends. If you fail to return the chip, you may be billed for its replacement.
Warming up is essential before every race. Not only does it get the blood flowing to the muscles, it also helps you mentally prepare for your race. It is quite common, even for seasoned runners—and non-competitive ones—to have a little anxiety prior to the race. Doing a nice warm-up allows you to shake loose some of the nerves.