Adventures In Running

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to be a Good Race Director

Since 2004 I have participated in a lot of races as a runner, pacer and volunteer. Through that time, I have met a lot of good Race Directors, some not so good ones, and some that just don't think things through.

I've seen novice Race Directors like Jim Skaggs and Davy Crockett learn from experience from first races on. Usually, the good Race Directors find out quickly what doesn't work or what they forget and don't make those mistakes again. It is the Race Directors that don't learn from their mistakes that frustrate me.

Here are some suggestions on how to be a good Race Director (note: these are my opinions only):

  1. Be Consistent – you have no idea how frustrating it is when your website, pre-race emails, and Facebook page have different information on things like packet pickups, bus times, start times, cutoff times. People need to be able to trust that information and finding out it is changed or wrong just demoralizes participants.
  2. Be Clear – think ahead of all the information people want to know and provide an easy way for them to find this information. If you aren't sure what they might want to know – just google a few larger races and you can see what they have.
  3. Start On Time – no one wants to stand around for extra time because the buses didn't leave when planned or you don't have your timing people available or some other reason. People (and elites – from what I have heard) are geared up to start when you said you would start. So get it going on time!
  4. Mark the course clearly – put a few extra dollars in to put trail markers or road markers out to indicate turns or lack of turns. Even flour on the road or trail work well. No one likes being lost and confused.
  5. Prepare for all contingencies – maybe run or ride your course during the time of day when the runners will be out there. You can learn a lot about where you might be lacking in preparation.
  6. Train aid station volunteers – most of them are really wonderful – but they could also learn that when not visiting, they should be out past the aid station cleaning up the course. A simple laminated instruction sheet could cover this.
  7. Invest in correct measurement tools. It really frustrates runners when the mile markers are not consistent, some too long, some too short.

I am a back of the packer. I am naturally slow. I also tend to pace slower running groups. Here are some suggestions that are of particular concern to back of the packer's:

  1. IF the runners are not past the cutoff times, do not close down the aid stations! My first marathon I came upon aid stations that were shutting down and mentioned there were runners/walkers behind me.
  2. IF you have cutoff times, then you need to have a way to pull people off the course and transport them to the finish line. If you don't provide this method, then you need to keep supporting those runners out there.
  3. Spend enough money so that all participants can get the same aid station supplies. I can't count on both hands the number of races when they have been out of sports drink, food, gels, etc. for back of the packers. Hey! We are the ones who need this even more. We shouldn't be treated like second class citizens.
  4. See #3 and apply this to finish line food.
  5. Do not remove course markings until all participants have passed by them. If the course is shut down and you have officially pulled those runners, that is a different matter.
  6. Give a free entry to a sweeper (half marathons and beyond). Aid station volunteers can be very frustrated not knowing if anyone else will come through. A sweeper can come through and let them know all runners are safely past. Oh – it would be a good idea to give that sweeper a walkie talkie in case of injuries or illness of runners on the course.

I am truly grateful to those who make an effort to be a good Race Director. I'm not sure I have it in me to be one myself, but love volunteering and assisting with races in one way or another, so feel that I have some knowledge of how things can be improved.

To all the good Race Directors out there – thank you for all you do! Without you, we wouldn't have nearly the races that we currently have available.

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