Middletown Athletic Club

(serving the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend, Delaware Running Community since 2002)

"That's the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is."  - Kara Goucher

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  • Thoughts on the Run - "Build It and They Will Race" by Andy Shearer

Thoughts on the Run - "Build It and They Will Race" by Andy Shearer

July 03, 2024 4:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

It’s racing season and you know what that means!  You don’t?  Well then… read on!   

If you’re a runner, most likely you’ve entered a race or two in your life.  We runners tend to think that races just happen.  ‘Put on a race’ is a funny way of looking at it, I suppose, but races aren’t just ‘put on’.  Even the most basic of low frills fun runs entail more details than most of us would ever suspect.  But in 2024, if you’re planning to ‘put on’ a race, let me help you get cerebral for a minute or two.

There are two important variables to consider – the runner’s experience and the sponsor’s experience.  Oftentimes, race directors think of the runner and whether this will be something they’d run.  But they overlook the sponsors that foot the bill for most of the event costs.  If it’s a good runner’s experience event, race fees generally won’t cover the costs of ‘putting on’ the event. 

A race through a runner’s eyes includes things like course layout, entry cost, giveaways, competition, date and time, post-race fare, location, and safety.  And that’s just scratching the surface (porta-potties are high on that list, by the way, but please don’t scratch that surface). 

A race through a sponsor’s eyes includes marketing visibility, publicity, charitable connections, amount of investment, return on that investment and event sustainability. 

Even a good low-frills event needs to consider everything a runner would look for in an event.  I’ve directed some pretty low-cost racing events in year’s past and with the ‘to be expected’ low turnout.  Free doesn’t always mean better.  Who wants to run a cross country race in January through 8 inches of snow?  I mean, other than me. 

In almost all cases, the race location and race date will play a major role in who shows up.  Course parade permits from municipalities may hinder or limit where the course is run.  Is the course accurately measured or did you stick a wheel out of a car window and drive ‘about 3.1 miles’?  Will the race be held on the same weekend as a more established event that draws 2,000 runners every year?  It’s nearly impossible to find a unique race date but avoiding the biggies certainly can help with turnout.

Who’s in charge of timing the event?  You know us runners are intense about two things – course accuracy and our time.  Chip timed or hand timed?  How many volunteers will be working in the finish chute?  Or on the course as marshals?  Speaking of marshals, how well is course marked and are those marshals well instructed on just where the course goes?  Will there be water or sports drinks handed out during the race and/or afterwards?   

Your sponsors may want access to your database, as well as be in a high-profile location at packet pickup and race day.  Are there signs and tables?  A good charitable connection oftentimes helps with the feel-good side of a marketer’s experience.  Too many for-profit ventures are getting into the racing scene and forgetting that runners and sponsors alike see community as a part of this racing experience. 

I’ve been involved in some very good race experiences as runner, sponsor and race director.  I’ve also been involved in some really bad ones. Ever come to a four-way intersection with no course markings and no marshal there to direct?  Oh, and there was no course map provided, either.  How about a 2.5 mile ‘5k’?  And what do you mean there are no race numbers or safety pins?  I paid $65 for this? 

‘Putting on a race’ requires logistics, time, a good committee and patience.  Races don’t just happen.  Here’s a big ‘thank you’ to those who undertake any part of planning a race on behalf of those of us who run in those races.  It’s racing season and now you know what that means! 

Middletown Athletic Club is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 99 Willow Grove Mill Drive, Middletown, DE 19709

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