Being a Race Director is Hard Work (but it is worth it)
By: Brad Deel
On Saturday, October 12, 2012, the Scott Teays Elementary Fall Into Fitness 5K Run/Walk and 1K Fun Run was held at Valley Park in Hurricane, WV. Yours truly was the Race Director and it was my first time at the RD gig. I must say that being the RD for a race is a whole lot harder than getting out there and running in it. Sure, an all out 5K is painful but the pain only lasts for a brief period of time. Being the RD can cause you long term stress. Still, the race went off without too many glitches and some of you may be thinking of putting on a race. Here are the lessons I learned from my experience.
1. There are a ton of 5Ks out there these days. Holy cow. When I started running in 2008, it was not uncommon for you to have to wait a few weekends to find a local race. Looking at the calendar for October, 2008 reveals a total of 11 races for the entire month. This year there were 12 just on the weekend of October 12-13. The proliferation of races is not a bad thing as I am all in favor of encouraging people to get out and get active. However, it does mean that you have to be creative in your marketing and realistic in your expectations.
2. Work with a team. If you try to do it yourself, it will either end up as a mess or you will halfway kill yourself. I was asked to be the RD this year and I agreed only if the PTO officers worked closely with me. At our very first meeting, we selected someone to be in charge of sponsorships, someone to be in charge of volunteers, someone to be in charge of logistics, and someone to be in charge of publicity. It worked like a charm. None of them knew much about racing and the expectations of racers so I made suggestions about what we needed to do but they did the leg work. Last year, we struggled to get sponsors. This year we had enough sponsors to cover all of our race expenses. Unbelievable job by all.
3. Involve Your Target Audience if Possible. Since this race was to benefit technology initiatives at my oldest daughter\'s school, I thought a good idea might be to let the kids have a contest to design the shirt. They loved the contest and the winning design was actually an amalgam of designs submitted by two different students.
4. Make Money in More than One Way. Yes, we had the 5K but we called it a Run/Walk to emphasize that anyone was welcome and we would keep the course open as long as anyone was out there. However, we also had a 1K Fun Run for the kids. That was important because it fit into our fitness message plus we got another 45 entries - albeit at $10 rather than $20 - that we otherwise would not have had. A few adults even entered the 1K. Along those lines, we thought that some people might want to support the event even if they could not attend or race. I included myself in that category as it is hard to be an RD and run the race. So, we had an option to buy a shirt for $15 which is what I and several others did.
5. Do not Let People Get Bored. As folks wait around for results tabulation, they get bored and they wander off. We wanted to keep them there. So, we had bounce houses and face painting for the kids. We also had some really good door prizes thanks to the person in charge of sponsorships. Thus, you had a reason to stick around even if you weren not getting any AG bling. Along those same lines, we did 1st, 2nd, and 3rd M & F overall and then 10 year age groups. However, unlike every race I have ever been in, we started with the oldest and worked our way to the youngest. Believe it or not, very few people left before all the awards were handed out. Also, get the awards out as quickly as you can. This was a pop sickle stick timed race. We were able to determine all AG places within 15 minutes of the last person crossing the finish line. We did not even attempt to marry up times. We just told folks that official times would be posted on TriStateRacer.com within the next few days. The bottom line was that the 1K started at 8:00, the 5K at 8:15, and we had people on the road by 9:30. We had torn everything down and I was in my car heading home by 10:10. I looked.
6. Get There Early. We rolled in a 6:30. We should have rolled in at 6:00. We had people showing up at 7:00 wanting to register and we weren nott ready until about 7:20. That wasn not a big issue in a smaller race but it would be if you had a bunch.
7. Mark The Course Ridiculously Well. I have gotten lost a couple of times on courses and it drives me crazy. I can put up with all kinds of stuff in small, local races but poorly marked courses are the one thing that I cannot tolerate. I used two cans of bright yellow pavement paint marking this course. I had several runners approach me after the race to tell me how much they appreciated the clarity of the course markings. Remember that trying to see a turn marking when you are sucking wind at Mile 2 of a 5K is much, much different than seeing the marking when you are just walking along. I had two arrows before every turn and an arrow after the turn to show you were indeed heading in the right direction. If there was an intersection and you were to go straight, I had an arrow before the intersection and an arrow after it. All of the arrows were about 3 feet long.
8. You will not please everyone. I had a form for people to fill out after the race that asked two simple things. Tell us what we did well and tell us what we can do better. Someone wanted more water stations. Well, we had water just before the 2 mile mark and we had a ton of water available at the end of the race so I am not sure how many water stations they wanted. Someone else said we should have had an audience to cheer for people along the course. I am not sure how I would accomplish that feat. Maybe next year I can get a bunch of high school students who need community service hours to come out and cheer. (Just kidding. I am not going to do that). Most of the suggestions we got were useful and fit into things I observed such as it would have been nice to have Gatorade for people and we didn not but we did have home baked goodies for the post-race and they were flat out gobbled down. I also would have liked more volunteers along the course but you get what you get and we needed them for registration and post-race calculation. Something to work on for next year though.
9. Stay Focused on the Goal. Our goal for this race was two fold. First, we wanted to raise money for technology initiatives at the school. I am still awaiting the final accounting but I think we did well. Second, we wanted to encourage people to get up and get active and witht he number of students that attended, I think we were successful there as well. Are there things we can do better next year? Absolutely. But, the important thing was that we had a good event and we are establishing an institutional memory so that we will some day be having the 20th Annual Scott Teays Elementary Fall Into Fitness 5K. When that happens, I can say with pride that I had a small part in helping to develop it into a quality event.
See ya out there.