Even though I knew I wasn’t going to run the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half this past Sunday, I took a trip down to to San Diego on Friday anyway. It was not only a good excuse to see a friend who flew in from New York to run the race, it was a chance to go to the Health & Fitness Expo.
If you haven’t ever been to an Expo, they’re often free (even for non-racers), educational (I learned about the upcoming trends in the natural product and organic food industry from the Natural Products Expo West that I attended in March) and they’re tons of fun.
I’ve heard it said that many people think of the Health & Fitness Expo that precedes a race as little more than “trick-or-treating for runners” but believe it or not, there’s a lot more to an Expo than just picking up lots of product samples, your bib and a race tee.
11 Reasons To Go To A Race Health & Fitness Expo
- #1 – A Chance To Explore - There’s always a chance to see new things in or around the city of the Expo. I took the Amtrak from LA to San Diego and got to see the beach from my window and a walk to dinner went right past a Padres game at Petco Park.
- #2 – The Runner Vibe - The running community is unbelievably unique. The non-running world got a glimpse of how supportive runners are of one another after the bombings at the Boston Marathon. There’s a contagious camaraderie of spirit that exists amongst runners and whether it’s your first race or your 50th, when you walk through the doors of an Expo, there’s no doubt you feel the vibe.
- #3 – Inspiration -From the volunteer checking you in at bib pick-up to the vendor at the last booth you visit, there are so many stories of how and why people run or are involved in the race world. The stories of perseverance, dedication, heartbreak and joy that you can hear will motivate you not only to be the best runner you can be but to be strong and supportive in heart and deed.
- #4 – Give & Get A Boost - Vendors often give out signs to fill out or blow-up spirit sticks (for noise making) for spectators to utilize at a race. Spectators may not realize that these pithy sayings on signs, spirit stick bangs and cowbell rings give runners a laugh, a push and often a reason to keep going during low points and are appreciated more than those on the sidelines realize.
- #5 – Make New Friends & Keep The Old – At an Expo you might get the chance to finally meet a blogger, Twitter/Facebook friend in person or you never know if the person you randomly chat with at an Expo booth might wind up running being your running partner at mile 8. Races and Expos may be catch up time for distant friends like these two friends of mine (below). Jacqui and Penny J have traveled from their two different respective cities to places like Australia, Chicago and Iceland to (go to Expos) and race together:
- #6 – Droolworthy Gear - This is your chance to look good! Expo vendors are all showcasing fantastically snazzy new running clothes, shoes (Brooks, Newton and Ecco were there among others) and fabulously fashionable accessories like compression socks, headbands (like Sparkly Soul from NYC), visors, caps and sunglasses. They all seem extra desirable when you’re at an Expo.
- #7 – Get Your Gadget(s) On – Vendors at an Expo are showcasing the latest and greatest in gadget gear (timing watches, earphones, music carriers, fuel belts) and health aids like muscle massaging sticks, foam rollers or orthotics. It’s easy to get caught up in pre-race excitement at an Expo and feel compelled to buy one of these shiny, sexy gadgets if not for this race but for your next one (because there will most definitely be a next one).
- #8 – Learn New Ways To Fuel/Hydrate -As a dietitian, this one is my favorite reason to go to an Expo. There’s nothing better than being able to find new ways to help me meet my nutritional and fluid needs. At this Expo the winners were Dave’s Killer Bread and PowerCrunch Protein Bars (I will be purchasing these in Dark Chocolate because they are delicious and I have evidence that I need to increase my protein intake due to my increased exercise level). It was great to taste new products from Bear Naked Granola and Lifeway Kefir – two brands I love.
- Side note for the food inclined – Health & Fitness Expos give you a chance to see food trends in action. At this Expo chia seeds were everywhere and gluten-free and non-GMO were the big buzzwords. I also noticed a new trend taking hold taken from the toddler set to deliver nutrients – adult squeeze fruit packets. These squeeze packets are entirely different than the very small, concentrated Gu-like packets well known by runners. These squeeze packets are fruit purees with extra dextrose to increase calories and grams of sugar – don’t let your kids near these or you will have them running half marathons next to you.
- #9 – Satisfy Your Wanderlust – Expos are a place where you can sign up for your next race before you even begin the race you’re there to check in for. From around the corner to around the world, you can find representatives from all every race imaginable appealing to women (the Disney Princess, Diva, Dirty Girl etc) and men (Spartan Run, Obstacle Runs etc) and for those that love kitsch (there really is a Folsom Blues Breakout Half Marathon). At Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Expos, you can sign up for any of the future Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series at a discount right then and there. I already know that I’ll be seeing my friends in San Diego again next year – June 1, 2014.
- #10 – Discover An Opportunity to Give Back - The running community is a supportive one – runners support other runners and many people get bitten by the running bug in their efforts to fundraise for the charity of their choice. I know I became a runner when I trained for my one and only 26.2 with Team in Training in 1999 fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. At Expos you can now sign up for future races benefiting fundraising efforts by many organizations. Drop-off bins to donate old running shoes or textiles for charity are often available. At the San Diego Expo you could even sign up and join the Bone Marrow Registry and aid in the effort to eliminate blood cancers.
- #11 -A Celebration Reminder - Preparing for a race takes time, energy, planning, money, time management and dedication. Expo time marks an important milestone. Finally, it’s time to find some old (or new) friends and have a drink pre and/or post Expo to celebrate your efforts and the fact that the training (or the taper) is over! Who knows how long after race day you’ll be starting all over again for the next race?
What Health & Fitness Expo has been your favorite and why? What’s the best thing you ever discovered at an Expo? If you haven’t ever been to a Health & Fitness Expo, go and tell me what you think!
**I have no affiliation with any of the companies or associations featured in this post. I paid the full registration fee for a Half Marathon spot at the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon despite not being able to run. All opinions here are my own.