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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Want to be a Race Director?

Over the last three years, I've been the co-director of the Wasatch Woman Love Your Body 5K/10K run/walk, a woman-only event. I've learned a lot and I've had so much  fun in the process. There's a lot of work involved in creating a race, but it's well worth it.

Several people have approached me for tips on how to create a race. "What are the first steps?" "What do I need to know about timing?" "Where do you order t-shirts from?" Those are just a few. Rather than continuing to email people with my advice, I've put together this blog post.

Before you get started, you should know that it's a lot of work and you will make mistakes. If you're not okay with either one of those things, get the idea out of your head right now. A lot of putting together a race is trial and error, you may have to do things twice. But, don't think of it as a waste of time. You're learning and that's important. You're going to make mistakes, learn to roll with them. People do races because they love the should too.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Secure a location. You often have to pay for this, even if it's a city park. Pick a date that doesn't conflict with too many other events (especially races) so you can get more participants. Additionally, you'll want to consider a location that is easy to get to and easy to create a route around. Ask around about this and do your research.

2. Create a route. If you have your race on city streets, you'll have to hire police to ensure the safety of your runners on city streets. Do a race drive through with the police so they know your route. Ask them for tips and suggestions on how to make the route safer and better, Usually they're all too eager to offer ideas, so listen and work with them. You'll want to run the route yourself, tweak it, ask others to run it and offer feedback and suggestions. You'll also want to use a site like Map My Run to help you with distance calculations. This part of the race is very important because it is what your runners/walkers will remember most. Do it right.

3. Get the appropriate permits. You may have to get a mass gathering permit, depending on how many people you expect; a food handler's permit, if you plan on having food there and possibly other permits depending on what you're planning on doing. If you're going to have a concert, you'll probably have to get a mass gathering permit because of the noise level. There are certain restrictions for noise levels depending on your location.Check with the city or county offices for this information.

4. Figure out how to handle sponsors or an expo. Sponsors will help defray your costs, so this is something you'll want handled well. Before you get sponsors figure out what they get and what you're giving (exposure to your audience, PR, inclusion in your ads, etc.) Create a sponsorship application/contract for them and keep it simple. Make sure they sign your contract, then give them a lot of value for their money.
If you have sponsors, you'll have to figure out if you want to provide tents, tables and chairs for them or not. You'll also want to make sure you have someone designated to take care of them.  If you treat them right, they'll be back. Tip: If you're in Utah and you need to rent tents or anything else, I suggest using Diamond Rental. If you're not in Utah, check with local event companies.

5. Determine how you'll time your participants. Is this going to be a timed race? If you want to time people, you'll need to hire a timing company. I recommend Stride Racing in Utah. They are great to work with and have a lot of experience. Again, do your research and ask around for recommendations.

6. Select a sign-up method. I'd recommend having all the sign-ups online.  This will be much easier to track and much easier to manage. I recommend, there are also local companies who do it as well. Active charges a fee per participant that you can pass on to your participants, split with your participants or pay for yourself. Determine whether you'll be raising your price, by how much and when. Determine when you'll close registrations and how many you'll allow to register. All these questions are included with an account with

7. Figure out what the runners will get for participating. More than their experience, what are the participants of your event going to walk away with when they're done? Are you going to give away prizes (overall, age category, gender)? Are you going to provide t-shirts? There's a great local company called Inked Wear, I'd recommend.

8. Get plenty of volunteers and train them on what they'll be doing. I think this is a big part of the success of your  If you have sponsors, make sure to get them to help with volunteers. You'll need about 10 volunteers per 100 people. Don't wait until race day to train your volunteers. Keep them in the loop and have them help along the way. For example, have them know the course and help mark it. Also, have them along the way at the water stations, directing traffic, and cheering on your participants.

9. Provide aid. Make sure you have water stations, a first aid station (see if you can get an EMT to volunteer), and an information booth. See #8.

10. Make it easy to donate, if you're doing this for a non-profit purchase. If you cut off registration (which I strongly suggest you do a week before the event to give yourself time to pull it all together), make sure you have a plan in place to still take donations. Collecting donations all the way through is the best way to go.

11. Be ready with answers. You'll get a lot of questions asked of prepared to make decisions and stick with them. Also, make sure you put together your list of responses and post it on your website and on your page. 

13. Get someone to help with marketing. If this is entirely non-profit, you can get radio stations to do PSA's for free. Ask people with big networks to help you spread the word. Use Facebook and Twitter and everything else you can think of to spread the word.

I'm sure there are lots of other things I could tell you, but these are the ones I can think of right now. If you want to know how to handle whiners, read my experience with that here. If you have any questions, post a comment and I'll answer it to the best of my ability.


  1. Pam,
    Trish (love your life) and I are planning a 5k to raise funds for the Pearls with a Purpose Foundation and so THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this! I know Trish said she spoke with you (which probably prompted this blog post!!);) So thanks for getting it all out there in written form! We're looking forward to a GREAT race!!
    Wendy Bird

  2. Thanks, Wendy! I hope you and Trish have a great turn out for your race!


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