This weekend, I ran the Baltimore Half Marathon, and although I was pleased with my time, I got elbowed in the nose by another runner. It was forceful enough to make my nose bleed, causing me to stop at the medical stop for a few minutes. The runner was very apologetic and made sure I was OK before continued on his run. But post-run I was telling my husband that running a race with this many runners is a much different race experience than running a small race.

Here are eight tips for having a great running experience in a large race.

  1. Race pick-up is rarely (if ever) offered the morning of the race. Larger races will require you to pick up your bib the day before the race. Plan this into your race weekend schedule.
  1. Plan where you are going to park and add traffic into your travel time. As with any large event, parking and traffic can be stressful. Make sure you plan ahead for these factors. If your race starts after other races, be aware that ideal parking spots go very quickly. Yesterday, we knew the marathon was starting an hour prior to the half marathon so we decided that we would get there early enough to secure a parking spot. We sat in traffic for 15-20 minutes instead of 30-45 minutes and had plenty of time to get to the start line.
  2. Start in the right corral. Larger races start runners in corrals and each corral is associated with your anticipated race pace. Make sure you start in the right corral. This helps with congestion, as well as making sure you don’t start out too fast. When you sign up for the race, they will ask you your anticipated finish time, which is how you will get assigned to a corral number.
  3. Accept that the first half mile to mile will be very congested. Because as much as the race promotes it and as much as we can reiterate starting in the right corral, there are still a lot of people at the start line and still those runners who start in the wrong corral. Take your time moving through the first mile and don’t get frustrated.dsc_0473
  4. Be aware of passing other runners and runners passing you. With so many runners, there will be a number of times when you will want to pass another runner or a runner will want to pass you. It can be difficult to find the right opening but before you pass, make sure you check around you for other runners. My injury could have been avoided yesterday if we had been more aware of each other.
  5. Know that there are plenty of water stops along the course. One of the nicest things about larger races is I don’t have to carry water with me during the race because there are water stops every few miles. Yesterday’s race was very well supported, and even had “free beer” hydration stops (nope, I’m not a runner who enjoys beer while running).
  6. Plan a post-run meeting spot for your family and friends. Races will often have a family reunion zone, which is a convenient spot to meet but make sure you clearly communicate with your family and friends where you will meet them. There are always runners only zones so be aware that it could be 20 to 30 minutes post finish time that you actually head into the reunion zone to meet up with your family and friends.
  7. Enjoy the race. Larger races have a lot of bling and fun! They have huge expos, lots of support, and fun post-race celebrations. Take time to capture your experience on camera and take time to enjoy the miles.


Have you ran a large race? What types of races do you like to run?