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A road race director shares his pet peeves about runners

Most runners go farther than the distance a race is measured at due to turns and dodging other runners, so don’t gripe to the race director about your GPS measurement not matching up exactly.AP

Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray contributes occasional pieces to the Globe on running and road racing topics.

I am a race director, but I was a runner before I was a race director, so I’m not totally the enemy. Frankly, I think of myself as a runner first and then a race director.

Knowing that I straddle the fence between the two, I think I also have a unique understanding of the challenges, struggles, and pet peeves of both the race director and the runner.

Here are some of mine.

Pet peeves as a race director

■ Seeing one really long line at the bank of portable restrooms rather than seeing the runners line up in front of each of the individual units or perhaps in front of a group of five units, thus eliminating the long line and encouraging runners to use the units instead of the woods.


■   Not being granted a permit to conduct my race because some other race before mine may have messed up.

■   The fact many races inflate the actual number of participants in their race.

■   Participants taking a shopping cart load of food from the food tent, leaving nothing for the back-of-the-pack runners.

■   Finding myself still bending over picking up banana peels and yogurt cups at the end of the race and looking at my phone and already seeing complaints pouring in.

■   The GPS-wearing runner who profusely argues with you that the race course is definitely 2/10 of a mile longer even though it was certified. Runners need to know that they will ALWAYS run further than the certified distance. It is almost impossible to run the exact distance given all the turns and running around so many other runners.

■   Doing the best we can to be environmentally responsible by putting out the appropriate recycling containers, but finding that no one is really paying much attention to any of it.


■   Having the break-tape set up for the first female finisher, only to have a “hero dude” ignore the instructions to move to the opposite side of the finish line and ruining the photo-op for the winning female.

■   Having participants claim you lost their bag with car keys, wallet, iPhone, and wedding ring in it despite instructions saying not to check items of any value.

Pet peeves as a runner

■   Even though they have pace signs at the start, seeing folks lined up right in front that you know aren’t 5-minute milers, and they just won’t move back in the pack where they belong.

■   The fact that no matter how hard you try, if you are the first to use a toilet paper roll, you just can’t seem to figure out how to get it started! Why don’t they put a simple tab or flap on each roll so it is easy to start … especially in the dark and cold?

■   Pinning your bib number on – I never can seem to get it straight even after all these years. So what’s the trick? I get it pinned on thinking it is perfect and then I see a photo of me later and it is crooked and too far up or down or to the side, making me look like a royal dork.

■   Being one of the very first participants to register for the race, thus “guaranteeing” me a race shirt, only to then arrive to find out the only shirts left are three times my size.


■   Having runners in front of you come to an immediate dead stop or walk after grabbing a cup of water at a hydration station while you plow right into them. If they are not going to keep running, why can’t the just move all the way to the side “after” the station?

I’m sure others could add to this list. But, my best tip in dealing with all of these situations is simple – take a chill pill, count to 10, smile, and remember it is only a road race.