There’s no bigger opportunity to turn your race into a complete clusterf*ck than race weekend check-in. Long lines, lost information, not having the right materials on hand... All of these (and a million more) factors can come together to create a total nightmare that will not only make you want to rip your hair out and swear off planning races for good, but will leave your athletes irritated, impatient and ready to write you a strongly worded Yelp review.
So how can you streamline your race weekend check-in process to make it a faster and more enjoyable experience for everyone involved?
Paper is so 1994. Making your racers physically fill out registration forms, waivers and the rest of the kit and kaboodle on site during race weekend is a surefire way to piss people off, create huge lines and basically make things a solid 1,000 times harder than they need to be.
The quickest, easiest and most efficient way to streamline your race weekend check-in is to go digital.
Manage all of your digital race registrations with imATHLETE’s online race registration software. It will make your life so much easier.
By going digital, you can make your athletes fill out a waiver with a digital signature as soon as they sign up for your event. Eliminating paper during race weekend check-in is going to save you (and your athletes) an insane amount of time and frustration.
Plus, major bonus points for saving some trees in the process. Go green!
Text Bib Numbers
Make text messaging opt-in part of your online race registration, and then text your racers check-in instructions along with their bib assignments the day before your expo or event. If you aren't texting you NEED to read 4 Reasons You NEED to be Texting to see how one event used text messaging to cut the average check-in time from over 35 minutes down to 27 seconds.
Have Plenty of Volunteers On Hand
If you want things to be smooth as butter on breakfast toast during your race weekend check-in, you need to have plenty of volunteers on hand. Like, twice as many as you think you need.
Murphy’s Law states a simple fact of life that I’m sure all you race directors and event organizers are more than familiar with: everything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong. And when it does, you want to have as many (well-trained) hands on deck as possible for damage control.
In fact, here are some easy strategies for successfully recruiting race volunteers.
The More Check-In Stations, the Better
Have you ever been to an event that has ONE check in station, complete with a line of what feels like 10,000 athletes impatiently tapping their feet, waiting to pick up their bibs and timing chips?
It's not pretty.
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, the more check-in stations you have, the quicker that racers can get what they need and be on their way.
I highly suggest segmenting check-in stations alphabetically (ie - one check-in station for runners with a last name from A - F, one for runners G - N… you get the idea). Some races like to segment by bib number, but you KNOW that at least 50% of your racers are going to have no idea what their bib numbers are (even if you just gave it to them 3 minutes ago). Which means they'll get in the wrong line and then STOP THE TRAIN. I just waited in line for a million minutes, and now you want me to go stand in a different line?! Most of your racers should be able to remember their last names, which will keep things moving along nicely.
Have A Hard Close On Registration
And communicate that very clearly. You don’t want to be racing the clock, processing last minute registrations and throwing timing chips at people right up until the gun goes off at the starting line. Have a hard stop for race registration that’s at least 30 minutes before your scheduled start time. This way the folks who were on their game and did not literally wait until the last minute to register can walk up, check in, ask about porta potties, gear check, and do you have any band-aids and get to the start line with time to spare.
These strategies will go a long way to keep things flowing during your race weekend check-in. You and your athletes will have an excellent experience as long as you remember the key phrases to any successful race weekend check-in:
Keep it simple.
Keep it quick.
Drink copious amounts of cocktails the second that it’s finished.