Chapter Two

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Following are the basic steps to putting on a small-to-medium-sized race. Not all steps will apply to every event. (Some of the suggestions in this chapter will apply more to race directors from running clubs, as opposed to those who work directly for a sponsoring or race management organization.)

Work with the race sponsor/organizer.

  • Determine the source of the initial funding.
  • Establish a timetable for the race director's responsibilities prior to, during and following the race.
  • Sign a letter of agreement, if applicable.
  • Agree upon an initial budget.
  • Attend required meetings prior to the race.
  • Meet at least once or twice during the week before the race for last minute determination of "who is doing what." This will help insure that responsibilities are not forgotten and that a well-conducted event is achieved.

Determine the race course.

  • If the course you would like to run--new or existing-- involves use of streets contact the applicable authorities (police, sheriff and/or state patrol). With the assigned officer(s) review the course and receive permission to use it on the date you have selected.
  • Check out start, mile or kilometer marks and finish line. Be sure all are well marked so they can be found easily on race day. If the course being considered is not an existing one (or the course has to be re-measured), contact the local USATF course official for measurement and certification procedures at least two months prior to the race and, preferably, before the entry form design is completed.
  • Determine the number of course marshals required.
  • Decide where aid stations will be placed (also how many tables, cups and volunteers will be needed).
  • Think about where cones and barricades (if the police don't position them) should be placed.
  • Decide if barricades are needed for closing the course and for crowd control.
  • If using a city park, communicate with the park superintendent well in advance. Make arrangements for opening and/or closing traffic control gates, if applicable. Determine placement and removal of barricades, portable toilets, sound systems, canopies, booths, stages, scaffolding, etc. Confirm with the superintendent at least one week prior to the race.
  • Think about issues such as:
  1. availability of parking
  2. setup of race day registration
  3. positioning of portable toilets
  4. staging of the start
  5. access to water particularly along the course and at the finish
  6. site for the finish area
  7. secured position for race day data entry and scoring
  8. location of post-race entertainment, awards presentation, refreshments and/or exposition

Consider entry form requirements.

  • Make sure all pertinent data is on the form: WHAT, WHEN and WHERE (name of race, distance, date, starting time, purpose of race or beneficiary (if applicable), locations of start and finish, entry fee, what the runners will receive (T-shirts, awards, food, etc.), age categories for awards, and waiver/agreement.
  • Be sure any rules or restrictions are stated, e.g. no pets, headsets, baby strollers/joggers, in-line skates, etc.
  • Review registration information:
  • how to register: in person, by mail or fax, via the Internet
  • where to register
  • entry fee (and late fee, if applicable)
  • name, address, phone number, age and sex
  • Prominently display sponsors' names and logos.
  • Include a map of the course (if space allows) and how to get to the race site (if location is difficult to find).
  • Obtain agreement from selected local specialty running stores or other outlets to handle a portion of the registration process.
  • Deliver entry forms to running stores, athletic clubs, recreation centers, and running clubs.
  • Mail entry forms (if funds are available for labels and postage). Use lists from your previous year's race and/or other races.
  • Distribute entry forms, by hand, at other races for several weeks preceding your event

Organize the volunteer effort.

  • Determine how many volunteers are needed and how they will be provided (from sponsors' organizations, scout troops, civic organizations, military units, schools, running clubs and citizens).
  • Compile the list of volunteers as early as possible. Call the volunteers to verify that they are working. Inform them of the check-in time and location. A postcard verification--detailing when to arrive, where to park and where to check in--could be substituted for phone calls if the race budget allows.
  • Make arrangements for all required positions. If time and budget permit, prepare individual volunteer assignment sheets with each volunteer's duties and assigned supervisor, and the time set for pre-race training.
  • Select supervisors and meet with them to be sure they understand their responsibilities, particularly relating to race-day training.

Handle any of the following responsibilities that are not being taken care of by the race sponsor/organizer.

  • Purchase liability insurance through USA Track & Field (USATF), Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) or other provider.
  • Obtain permits, if required, for use of parks and city streets.
  • Meet with the police to determine road closures and number of officers to be assigned to intersections.
  • Hire (or seek as in-kind sponsorship) medical assistance, e.g. ambulances, EMT's or paramedics.
  • Hire a sound system, if needed.
  • Rent barricades, portable toilets, scaffolding, etc. (During the week before the race verify delivery of everything you have ordered.)
  • Order bib numbers. Consider design, including use of the title sponsor's logo, if applicable. Order at least six weeks prior to the race. Order at least 10 weeks in advance if bar codes are being used on the bib tags.
  • Determine who will be doing the timing, whether you time in-house, or hire a professional Scoring Company with computerized systems that will provide results quicker and more accurately than manual scoring. Hiring a Scoring Team will also free you and your people up to accomplish all the other things needed to pull off a successful race.
  • While scoreboards, double-sided tape and ball point pens are sufficient for manual scoring, computerized scoring requires software, hardware (usually several PCs), perhaps a server to tie the PCs together, a laser printer and perhaps a copy machine. You may score one race a year, while the Professional Scorer you hire usually scores 3-4 a month and can speed the results to you and recover from any problems that might crop up, that you would stumble through.
  • Choose and order awards (trophies, medals, ribbons, etc.) based on the budget available. (This should be done at least four weeks before the race.)
  • Decide who will equip and staff the aid stations, and where the water will come from.
  • Agree on who will set up the course and be responsible for road closures and re-openings.
  • Decide who will do the announcing and be the master of ceremonies for the awards presentation.
  • Determine who will handle bib and runner packet preparation (and data entry if computerized timing and scoring is used).
  • Select a T-shirt color. Determine quantity. Decide who will provide the design and camera-ready artwork. Select a screen printer, deliver the artwork and agree on the delivery date.

Be sure all equipment required for the race has been secured (rented or purchased) and is in working order or adequate supply.

  • Be sure batteries are fresh in headsets and that all two-way radios and cellular phones are charged.
  • Determine how delivery of tables, cups and water will be made to the start, course and finish aid stations.

Arrange for delivery of all equipment and supplies.

  • Obtain/rent vans or trucks if needed for hauling equipment and supplies. Provide a volunteer check-in area with tables and supervisors.

Provide assignments (either verbal or written).

  • Distribute volunteer T-shirts or other volunteer gifts.
  • Distribute equipment, e.g. select time clipboards, bullhorns, timing equipment, etc. to those volunteers who will need them for their assigned duties.
  • Indicate where pre-and post-race refreshments for volunteers are available.
  • For larger races, provide each volunteer with an information sheet, detailing placement of portable toilets and aid stations, where the start is, when the awards ceremony will be held, etc. This will help them respond to questions from participants and spectators.

Set up all required areas on race day (or before if possible). Be sure setup crews are assigned to assist with finish line and course if necessary.

  • Establish the course, i.e. open (or close) park gates, place barricades, set out directional cones and mile/kilometer marker cones, signs or banners.
  • Set up the aid stations (tables, cups, trash barrels and bags, a lined barrel for dipping, water jugs, hoses, and surgical gloves).
  • Build the finish area (chute stanchions and flagging; table for timing equipment and spindles or stringers; crowd control fencing, particularly around the timers; scaffolding and/or poles for banners; tents or canopies for scoring and/or food distribution, etc.
  • Hang sponsors' and information banners or signs for start, course and finish.
  • Set up barricades and crowd control fencing.

Provide time in your race day scenario for volunteer training in every key area. (This should be done by the various supervisors assigned.)

  • Be sure volunteers know when they are to be in place.
  • Be sure critical spots have been covered by re-assigning volunteers if there are any no-shows. (This can usually be done by the volunteer supervisors at check-in.)

Conduct the race with as much enthusiasm and fun as possible.

Break down the start, course (including aid stations) and finish.

Determine, in advance, who will take care of post-race requirements.

  • Notify the local newspapers of the results, at least the top overall finishers and top three men and women in each age group. (This is usually handled by the race sponsor/organizer or a media coordinator at larger races.)
  • Order and distribute T-shirts, if necessary. (This will usually occur only when the field exceeds the anticipated number, the initial supply runs out, and orders for shirts are taken from race entrants at the time of registration . This is an expensive proposition and should be avoided; it is usually less expensive to over-order than to order, screen and mail T-shirts after the race.)
  • Be sure awards not picked up on race day are delivered or mailed to the recipients.
  • Return rental equipment, sponsors' banners, etc.

Hold a post-race evaluation meeting with the sponsor/organizer and all other involved parties.

  • Prepare, or review, final financial figures.
  • Discuss any problems or areas of the race management/conducting to be changed, improved upon or deleted for the next year's race.
  • Send thank you notes to sponsors, volunteers, the police, park personnel, etc.
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