What us runners want…

This has been a topic of discussion lately so I thought I would add my two cents especially since I have 165 races under my belt. I have seen some fabulously planned races and I have also seen some really poorly planned races. I won’t name which ones because I don’t want to feel like promoting nor do I want to be critical of the newbie race director who tried so hard. If you are a new race director or you have a great idea for one, the following should be on your plate.  This list is not to be considered all inclusive nor is it in any particular order other than what comes to mind.

  • Your committee should include experienced runners or someone who has directed a race before. We know what we like and we know what we want. If you make me happy, you’ll make 100s of other runners happy.
  • Attend a few races.  Observe what makes one successful and don’t hesitate to ask runners what they think.  Check out Buffalorunners.com for the turnout at last year’s races and compare that to the year before.  If the numbers are up, its more likely a race that was successful.   Attend this year’s version.  And you will also find the names and phone numbers of other race directors.
  • Certify your course or use a course that is already certified.  We do care about the distance and if we are running a PR pace, the last thing we need is a course that is too long yet we finish a few seconds past our PR.  The USA Track & Field has some terrific resources including certified courses in the area.
  • Mark your course clearly and station people who know how to guide runners at key intersections/turns.  While many of us will review the course before a race, its very easy to forget a turn especially if the race has a dozen or so of those.
  • Water stops are especially important during the summer.  We need to keep hydrated so if you can have at least one at the half way point, that would be great!  Dispense the water in little cups as we really don’t need to chug a lot.  We don’t want goldfish swimming and sloshing in our stomachs either.  Have the volunteers hold the cups out in the palms of their hands.
  • Station people at the mile marks to call out the race time.  It’s nice to have confirmation of where we are and how long we have ran even though we wear GPS watches that do the same thing.  But, not all of us can afford that!
  • Traffic control is critical!  Make sure you have burly “do you want to mess with me?” people where the traffic is the worse.  Ask your local police department for help.  Us runners don’t want to worry about becoming roadkill.
  • Please….I know you’re trying to raise money for a worthy cause but you won’t get many runners if you charge an arm and leg.  5K races should not cost more than $20 pre-registered, $25 day of the race.  You’re will get even more runners with a lower price in which case, you’ll raise more total dollars.
  • If you anticipate more than 250 runners, consider chip timing.  We don’t have all day to stand around and wait for results.
  • The t-shirt – yup, we do want something in return for signing up for your race.  If it can’t be a t-shirt, consider singlets, socks, shorts, hats, water bottles, arm warmers, key pockets,heck….we’ll take running shoes and Oakley glasses if you can afford those!  Just think about what it is that interests us; go browse in running magazines for ideas.
  • Food!  I don’t want to sound greedy or cheap but if we’re going to hang around while waiting for the awards, we might as well have a good time.  Now, would you entertain without food?  Absolutely consider healthy stuff…water, fruit, yogurt, energy bars.  Your event will score more brownie points if you include some of the not so healthy stuff – pop, beer, pizza, hotdogs, hamburgers, etc.  Ask a local merchant if they are willing to cater for free in return for self promotion.  And if you want to charge non-runners, fine but do be mindful that us runners had already paid.
  • The food line is another important consideration especially at races where you “bring the whole family”.  We work hard for our running so please don’t make us stand around waiting while the food is like….a football field away.  Have more than 1 food line
  • While we would love prizes in the 5 and 6 figure range going 100 deep in each age group, we know you won’t be able to afford that.  Medals are nice but um….please make them attractive.  Trophies might be a little more pricey but they look better on the shelf and can be a topic of conversation long after the race is over.  One of my running friends has a room totally dedicated to her trophies (she is nice enough to leave a little obscured corner for her husband).  We spent an entire evening looking them over including those going back 10, 15 years.  Wouldn’t you like your race remembered that far back?  Anything else isn’t a bad idea so long as its tasteful and leaves everlasting impressions.
  • Entertainment isn’t a bad idea especially if you want us to stay a little longer.  We generally do like to stick around if its an evening race.  Now mind me, I might be deaf but if the music is loud enough for me to hear without my CIs, its probably a little too loud for everyone else.
  • Door prizes and grab bags.  We don’t mind those but give us something that we’ll keep, not throw away.  Think like us before you stuff the bag.  Would you keep it?  or……would you throw it away?
  • Chinese auctions.  Runners and whoever else they bring with them love these.  Many local merchants will donate gift baskets or items that you can make the baskets out of.

The success of your event and whether we return the following year and beyond truly depends on making it feel more of a running event than a charity event.  We runners know that your sole purpose is to raise funds for a worthy cause.  We appreciate that you are willing to promote an event that incorporates what we love to do.  Bear in mind that without what we love doing, we wouldn’t be making the giving to your cause.

1 comment for “What us runners want…

  1. John Marranca, Jr
    June 9, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Water stops should be a given. I was pretty surprised that the Turkey Trot didn’t have one. Some runners may not be used to 5 miles. Once upon a time, I couldn’t run that far without aid.

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