Hey, race directors! This one’s for you. Participation in running has exploded in recent years, and there are now fun runs for just about anything you can think of. This is, of course, awesome to see, but it also means there are more race directors out there—and it is not a job for the weak-willed. Directing a race takes hours of planning, preparation, organizing, managing, and executing plans—that is, if you’re it does if you’re doing it right. Whether you’re a rube race director or have been doing this for years, there are a few small extra efforts you could make to help your race stand out against the crowd and make your participants particularly pleased and better prepared.
Expo and freebies equals excitement
Entering a desolate room consisting of a few fold-out tables, boxes of race numbers and shirts, and a single large map of the course does little to sooth pre-race nerves. Contrarily, collecting your race number in a room filled with excited volunteers offering to answer questions, music (even cheesy Rocky theme music is good, just think “inspirational”), and freebies—you can never go wrong with freebees!—help get runners pumped about what they are about to do.
List Available Supplies at Each Aid Station
Will there be Vaseline and band aids in case of unexpected chaffing? Will there be gel packets in case a runner somehow forgets his or her’s, or ends up consuming them faster than planned? Is someone going to be taking pictures? (Runners want to know when to “fake it to make it!” for the camera.) The more you can share with runners, the better prepared they can be.
Start on Time.
This is particularly important for runners coming from out of the area; not everyone will have the chance to check out the course prior to the race, so having a realistic expectation of how hilly it is or is not will help the runner be better prepared. A hillier-than-expected run can dash a runner’s hopes meeting a time goal and leave them feeling demoralized as well as physically exhausted. That will not bode well for the word-of-mouth advertising you depend on for your race’s future.
Best Spots for Friends and Family to Cheer From
The individuals showing up to support their runner are likely unfamiliar with the course and don’t want to deal with the frustrations of working around the crowd, road closures for the race, and lack of parking. They just want to cheer for their runner. Make their important job easier by clearly indicating on a race map the best spots for spectators to view runners and how to access those spots.
A Video of the Course
This is not currently a common item found on a race website, but in the rare cases where it is available, it’s awesome and extremely helpful. Drive the course with a video camera pointed forward, and then set the whole thing in fast-forward. Admittedly, this works far better for road races than for trails. It serves to not only get the runner pumped up to participate (the first-person view of the race course does wonders to stir up the competitive juices in the viewer), but it also makes the environment as clear as can be without actually running the course themselves. They can see for themselves what the terrain looks like, and it provides valuable input on how they should dress, which shoes to wear, and how to set up their expectations.
Make the Runners Feel Special
Announce finishers’ names and hometowns as they run the final stretch to the finish line; stand at the finish chutes and shake each participant’s hand. If you don’t have medals to hand out, come up with some sort of token (runners tend to be nostalgic and like to collect these as memories of past races. They are not too picky—some races hand out rocks from the course trail—and the participants are just as happy about it.) It’s the little things that can turn a regular run into a special memory for a runner.
And just to clarify, race directors are wonderful people. They work their butts off to create and execute races of all types, sizes, and distances. They work to make our crazy sport better organized and palatable to the general public, ultimately bringing in fresh blood to the world of running. Thank you, race directors, and keep up the good work!