If you haven’t spent much time on social media, you may not be familiar with flat runner photos. I know I hadn’t seen them before I got more involved in Instagram in the past year.
When I first saw them, I thought there were silly and self-indulgent; an easy way for pros to give shout-outs to their corporate sponsors.
But like so many things, my opinion of them changed once I actually tried it.
There can be more to flat runners than meets the eye
What Is A Flat Runner?
For the uninitiated, flat runners are when runners lay out their race gear and take a picture of it to share on social media.
Scroll through any runner’s social media feed on a Friday or Saturday night and there will be no shortage of photos of other people’s race kits all laid out.
There are endless varieties of flat runner, in all levels of detail and elaborateness (is elaborateness a word?) Some are clearly thrown together. Some look like they took all afternoon.
I’m still new to them, and I’m under no illusion, mine aren’t very good (yet!).
I can’t figure out how to lay stuff out without it looking all wrinkly.
Why You Should Do A Flat Runner
There are many reasons to do some version of a flat runner, even if you aren’t looking for social media likes.
It Makes Race Morning Easier
This is the main reason I started doing flat runner photos.
I never wait for race day morning to find my race stuff. I’m a planner, so I have a race day packing list and I lay out my gear (at least) a day before the race.
Since I was basically doing a flat runner anyway, putting all of my gear together the night before a race, I figured I may as well take a picture of it all.
Race mornings come really early. Don’t try to find an essential piece of race gear at 4:30 in the morning.
While putting together your race kit the night before doesn’t require a flat runner, it can make it more fun.
Be Sure You Don’t Forget Something
Even with a packing list, it can be easy to forget or overlook something.
When you lay everything out, in roughly the anatomically correct positions, it can be much easier to recognize that you forgot something.
Put out your shoes and realize they look pretty bare? Oops, forgot socks.
It Can Make Race Day Easier For Your Race Sherpas
It can be surprisingly hard to be a spectator on race day. Your friends and family will spend the day standing around watching a sea of runners stream past.
Picking out a single face in a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands, is tough. It can be even tougher if they don’t know what you are wearing.
If your friends, family, and race sherpas follow you on social media, and you do a flat runner, their job will be a little easier.
With the flat runner image in their mind, it will be sooo much easier for them to find you.
It Increases Your Enthusiasm For A Race
This was an unexpected benefit for me when I first did flat runners, and it comes in especially handy for trail races or smaller races that don’t have expos.
In these smaller expo-less runs, you often don’t have the same level of build-up and pre-race hype. I know I can get to race day eve and not really have it in my head that I am racing.
Putting together a flat runner is a good way to make the race more real (if it hadn’t been already) and put you in a race headspace.
It Creates A Ritual
I am a big believer in creating pre-race rituals – things you do before every race.
For me, the night before a race, I paint my nails (usually some ridiculous color) and do a flat runner. I hadn’t thought about this specifically as a ‘race ritual’ until recently. When I did my last half marathon – Sutter Buttes, it was a super last minute registration and for several reasons, I didn’t do any of my usual pre-race stuff… and I really noticed it on race day.
The things I do are all really minor but they still trigger my brain that a race is coming. Not doing them left me feeling totally off.
I’ll never skip a flat runner, or another pre-race ritual, again.
The Upside Of Viewing Other Runner’s Flat Runners
Flat runners aren’t only a benefit to the runners doing them. It can be just as fun scrolling through other runner’s flat runner layouts.
Take Part In The Community
If you follow other runners on social media, you’ll find there is an energy that develops on Friday and Saturday nights as runners prepare for their races.
It’s fun to cheer on and support other runners, even if they are only virtual running friends.
It’s also fun to see what other runners use and carry on race day.
I often see other flat runners and wonder how that person will run in that outfit or carry that piece of gear in their race.
Discover New Races And New Brands
Flat runners can be a great way to discover new stuff.
New gear, new brands, new races.
Some runners do amazing flat runner layouts.
They can be fun, funny, amazing, unique and creative (and, unlike mine, not a wrinkle to be found).
What about you? Do you ever do a pre-race flat runner photo?