Thoughts on the Run – Awards Ceremonies:
Be honest… who likes post-race award ceremonies? The delays in result compilations, the endless 3 year age groups, the mispronounced names, the 30-second delays waiting for the no shows… it can be mind-numbing! Count me in the ‘can I just go eat now’ category.
A number of years ago I made note of the length of said post-race awarding. It seemed to me to be getting longer and longer and longer. And the number of folks waiting around was getting smaller and smaller and smaller. I’m here to tell you, some of it wasn’t my imagination, and some of it was. Do tell!
Race organizers agonize over details of the event, from the accuracy and safety of the course, the preregistration process, race day number pick-up and that pesky finish line. And yes, they do ponder the post-finish line stuff, too. Sometimes I think not nearly as much as they should, but they do ponder it.
In my mind, here’s what makes a great post-race award ceremony – speed and efficiency. I’ve won a handful of overall and age group awards in my day. I find the process of the awarding cumbersome when pictures are involved (especially those ‘everyone hang out afterwards for a group pic’) or when calling up winners one at a time, then waiting to see if they’ve even stayed. Speed and efficiency… nope.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think post-race awarding is a great part of the overall presentation of any race. And nothing juices me more than to see someone who either never wins a medal actually win or a surprise ‘I nipped her at the wire for 3rd’. Those are great reactions from the awardee AND the family there supporting the awardee.
I’d like to offer some suggestions to race directors. First off… random prizes for both entrants AND spectators. Maybe three to five items of value that would juice up those just waiting around sipping their free diet beer. Age groups need to be awarded in groups of three rather than individually, especially if a picture is involved. And do away with the group shot at the end. 14 year olds ain’t waiting for the 70+ group anyway. It’s the digital age.
If a race starts at 8 am, awards should start at 9 am for a 5k and 9:45 for a 10k. I’m hungry and your watermelon isn’t really cutting it for me. And unless your event has 225+ entrants, 10 year age groups are sufficient (maybe go top 4 or even 5?). Five year groups slow things down a lot. Now I know the average 49 year old is gonna have issues with racing the average 40 year old. But guess what? Next year, you’re the average 50 year old! Just wait til those 59 year olds start to complain.
So my imagination hasn’t been playing tricks on me. Award ceremonies go like this – Overall male and female, overall master’s male and master’s female, the endless parade of age groups (12 and under, 13-15, 16-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, etc…), walkers, ‘thank you all for coming, time for the group pic’. As I have gotten less young, my age group has moved further and further to the back of the ceremony. And fewer and fewer people hang around for the geezer grades. Gosh, I hope I was a bit more considerate and supportive of those hard-earned 60-69 age group winners when I was 18.
Award ceremonies can be great. At a recent event, my group noticed the deejay was piping in an applause track for each award winner. Talk about a creative way to congratulate every recipient, even if their support crew has long ago headed for the water ice truck. So while we sipped our beverages, discussed the errors in our race strategy and marveled at the humidity that was imported just for the day (dew point of 77), the applause track was kinda neat.
Race directors… be unique at your end-of-event ceremony, set a schedule for awards (and stick to it), and be efficient. Your participants will thank you for it and remember you as well.
I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails.