One of the best kept secrets to non-competitors is the pre-race expo where runners pick up bibs and packets—they're open to everyone, whether you're lacing up or not, and often feature vendors and exhibitors who hawk the latest fitness gear, offer health and fitness tips, and most importantly, unload free loot. Check these reasons why you need to hit your own hometown's marathon expo—I seriously scored at mine.
1. Deals, deals, deals: Um, hello bargains! Most vendors and fit brands slash their prices by anywhere from 20 to 50 percent. For example, I saw a sweet deal from Suncloud Optics, a company that makes polarized lenses that usually retail from $60 to $70. Your expo price? A cool $30.
2. Snag sweet gear: I'm injury-prone, so foam rollers have become my fitness frenemie. They definitely work out kinks, but rolling my calves and thighs sometimes feels a workout in itself. At the expo, I stumbled on the Kind Runner booth and discovered R8 Roll Recovery, which has handles attached to sets of wheels to gently glide along your legs—way less of a workout.
3. Hang with athletes (and learn their secrets!): They're everywhere. I chatted with Olivier Bernhard, a former world-class triathlete and founder of On running shoes. On has just come out with a new shoe that eliminates the mid-sole, which is usually made of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), a substance that's come under fire for risks to health and the environment.
4. Get the DL on new workout tips: Expos often invite guest speakers from local hospitals to talk about how you can build strength, train properly or bounce back from injuries, and coaches are usually recruited to give performance tips. The speakers are almost always incredible—and always leave me with new info to share.
5. Find awesome extras: Timeout: Did you guys know sneaker charms existed? I didn't, but I found 'em at the expo and am now totally hooked. You can add them to your laces with whatever inspires you to keep moving: a cause, hometown team, a photo of a loved one...ahem, that includes Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum. Get yourself some here.
6. Serious free samples: A marathon expo is like the Costco of gratis running snacks. You get to taste-test everything. (Because hey, sometimes you just don't know if spending cash on some crazy-looking energy booster is worth it, you know?) I fueled up on PowerBar Performance Energy Blends, and I have to say, pretty tasty!
With all that swag and knowledge, what else could a runner (or runner-to-be) want?
Sign up for your next race.