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Open Letter to Race Directors Everywhere

Posted by Filed Under: Fun & Jokes

Dear Race Directors Everywhere,

I would like to preface this letter by stating that I have absolutely no experience as a race director. However, I’ve run enough races to think that I have an expert understanding of how they work in much the same way that any airline passenger knows how a plane works and is qualified to advise the pilot. Following the lead of in-laws everywhere, I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice to any budding race directors formatted as a list of dos and don’ts.

Do provide paper cups. Look, if you’re not going to let me prepare my own water bottles in advance to be handed to me as I would have been permitted to do at an Olympic marathon, then please provide my beverage in a paper cup. I can squeeze the top of a paper cup together and drink it fairly easily. Styrofoam and plastic cups crack when I squeeze them and I end up wearing the Gatorade.

Do provide chip timing. If chip timing is within your budget, it is something that many runners appreciate. So as to not re-open a certain can of worms again let me just say that you should disclose whether you’re going to place timing mats at the start and finish, or at the finish only. That way, runners won’t be surprised.

Do have age group awards. Even if you can only afford to provide the age group winners with a certificate, it’s still a good idea to give out age group awards. The vast majority of runners know that taking first overall is out of the question, but many of them know they can strive for placing in their age group. The smaller the age category the better; in fact, you might even want to consider having a category for 33 year-old males named Ian who write for CRN. Just a thought.

Do make course maps available prior to the race. I ran a 5K this past weekend and for the life of me, I could not find a course map online. I’m one of those runners who is a little OCD in race preparation and I get pedantic about running the tangents, so it is imperative that I get to look at the course before the race. Not seeing a course map may have cost me a couple of hundredths of a second. If you don’t think hundredths of a second are important, then you should go talk to Dara Torres or Milorad Cavic.

Do provide good food afterwards. Sure, a banana, a dry bagel and some raisins are good for healthy post-race recovery but we’re runners, we just spent the past several months training for this race and eating the right things. What we want now is to be rewarded with the wrong things. Bring on the BBQ brisket. Bring on the fatty carbs!

Don’t serve O’Doul’s at the end of the race and think that it counts as providing a post-race beer. Non-alcoholic beer is like decaf coffee and Paris Hilton; it’s totally useless. I don’t drink beer and coffee because they taste good. I drink them for the stimulus they provide and if I could find a way to mainline that stuff, I’d stop drinking them altogether.

Don’t allow weather to be a problem. The perfect conditions for a race are 50 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit and overcast with a slight tailwind, unless Sammy Wanjiru is running, in which case it apparently doesn’t matter. If you allow the weather to get too far from these ideal conditions, then it just screams of un-professionalism and incompetency.

Don’t just take my word for it. Like my friends are always telling me, seek professional help. Join a group like the Association of Running Event Directors, or at the very least be sure to check out their blog for great ideas. The whole website is very well-written and their advice is usually pretty solid. I’m not even a race director and I enjoy reading it.

Don’t take this article too seriously. At the end of the day, you’re putting on a race and we’re all truly thankful for it.

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About Ian

Hello, my name is Ian and I'm a runner. After several years of promising to train for and run the Bolder Boulder 10K I finally signed up for it in 2005 with zero training under my belt. Shocked that I was slower than I thought I should be, I made it my goal to be faster the following year. I'm still not as fast as I should be, but I have been a runner ever since. I believe in quality miles over quantity of miles. I believe that you have to run faster in order to run faster, and I believe that I can. I believe in the Garmin. I believe in motion control and that I have an unhealthy addiction to running shoes. I believe in carb loading and tapering, even before a 5K. I believe I’ll never need to buy another t-shirt ever again. I live to run and I run for the post race spread, where the free food and drink flows like milk and honey, and sometimes even includes milk and honey.



21 Comments
  1. Ms. V on September 9th at 6:53 am

    Cheers! Great post!!

    Ms. Vs last blog post..In which I keep repeating myself…

  2. kyle. on September 9th at 8:58 am

    at least they’re not putting straws in bottles for you…
    the idea of having chip timing without a mat at the start is stupid. why do races continue to do this? they might as well just ask me at the end what time i felt like running that day.

    kyle.s last blog post..netflix won’t let you post movie reviews in all lower case letters

  3. Duff on September 9th at 10:23 am

    Well, said. I couldn’t have summed it up better.

    Duffs last blog post..Types of lightning-An Epiphany of Inspiration

  4. Karen in Calgary on September 9th at 11:53 am

    Thanks for that link to the Association of Running Event Directors and their blog. I directed a small race this summer for the first time and realized, even after 8 years of racing and volunteering, I was still nuts to try it.

    Maybe their tips will help if I take race directing on again.

    Karen in Calgarys last blog post..Moose Mountain 29k Race Report

  5. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on September 9th at 12:33 pm

    Great list. I think the most attention should be paid to the weather. Getting that right can make a huge difference in your participant’s experience! Heheh.

    Blaine Moore (Run to Win)s last blog post..This Week Last Year: Finding a Track & Choosing a Race Plan

  6. Dan on September 9th at 12:42 pm

    Great post as always.

    Happy Birthday

  7. RazZDoodle on September 9th at 1:01 pm

    Who the hell serves O’Douls at a race???????

    RazZDoodles last blog post..Hallelujah!

  8. Ian on September 9th at 1:23 pm

    RazZ, I didn’ t want to mention any races by name, but I witnessed it with my own two eyes. To be fair I think that O’doul’s was actually one of the main sponsors of the race so I should have seen it coming.

    Ians last blog post..We Deal in Speed, Friend

  9. David M. Patt, CAE on September 9th at 3:13 pm

    Thanks for mentioning our organization. Runners expect races to do things the right way, and every event – regardless of size or budget – can and should provide a quality experience to participants.

  10. Colorado Running on September 9th at 3:38 pm

    Course map is key, as well as an elevation map. It’s not that hard to run your race course with a Garmin and slap the elevation +/- on your race website.

    I would say the number one criteria is a properly measured race course, that is USATF certified. The nice thing about living in Denver, is that most races are USATF certified. However, I grew up in Iowa and did many rural races growing up, where I’m pretty sure the race course was measured using a 1982 Chevy Citation, with tires that were not OEM size.

  11. Merry on September 9th at 5:12 pm

    Incentive is the way to keep people running!
    BBQ and beer sound like a good reason to make it to the finish line.

    Merrys last blog post..Yeah, but what if the house burns down?

  12. Paul on September 10th at 1:36 pm

    Bah. Just line us up and shoot off a gun. And start the race on time.

    Pauls last blog post..2008 Northwest Passage Relay: Herding Cats

  13. Sheamus on September 10th at 3:23 pm

    Great post. I can’t believe anyone would think it was okay to serve non-alcoholic beer at any proper function, let alone a race. As an option, perhaps, but nobody *wants* non-alcoholic beer. You either want a beer, or you want (or need to have) some other drink. Madness.

    Sheamuss last blog post..100 Days Of Running! (Plus, A New Look)

  14. Richard on September 11th at 8:37 am

    Chip timing = $, we go old school and do it properly. Never rely on technology!!

  15. Of Marathons and Maps» Blog Archive » Just line us up and fire a gun. on September 11th at 11:14 am

    […] other day I read an open letter to race posted on the Complete Running Network blog. The general premise was that all race […]

  16. Dawn - Pink Chick on September 11th at 2:25 pm

    I’m the race director for a small trail race, usually less then 100 participants. As the race is in January in CANADA, I can’t always provide the “ideal temperatures”…lol. However, even though it is just a small 4k/8k race I do provide a map at the start line on race day. It is impossible to provide in advance for such races as the weather conditions often dictate which path or hill we chose to run. In snowy/cold weather the course planned may have to be altered come race day but then that’s what makes the trail races fun…lol.

    Good post.

  17. Pink Asphalt Mama on September 12th at 5:33 pm

    My favorite race had buckets of chocolate chip cookies as post race food. That was awesome, and my kids actually ENJOYED waiting for mom.

    Of course, the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll Half had popsicles at the finish. I can’t fathom what sort of logistical nightmare it was to have properly frozen popsicles for 16,000 people on the ocean front, but they did it.

    And I got a great joke from it (it was the kind with the jokes on the stick)

    What instrument did the dentist play in the marching band?

    A tuba toothpaste! HA HA HA HAHAHAHAHAHA

    Pink Asphalt Mamas last blog post..OOH – A new schedule

  18. deene on September 15th at 7:53 am

    The Georgetown half is a fundraiser for the local middle school and high school and therefore it would not be appropriate to provide alchoholic beverages.

  19. Ian on September 15th at 8:15 am

    deene, thanks for your input. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was the case with the Georgetown Half.

    Ians last blog post..Weekend Splits

  20. Anne on September 26th at 8:20 pm

    It’s also possible the race organizers did not have a permit for alcohol.

    Annes last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  21. Rachel on October 2nd at 6:47 am

    Totally agree with you on that. However, you forgot about the WOMEN in the race!! We’d like a tech shirt that actually fits- not a manly shirt that covers our butts in size small.
    As for the food, I’d promote the race to the new health food companies who would like to showcase their foods at the post race party. Cause you know everything tastes GREAT at the end of the race.

    Rachels last blog post..How to run injury free! An interview with Marni Cota, PT

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