Race Director

Three years ago, before I became a race director, I used to look at different areas where I ran and think, “Oh it would be cool to put on a race here.”  I don’t think that much anymore. Just kidding I do, but being a race director is a lot of work.

Race directors (RD) are amazing people (and not just because I’m one). Putting together a race is a lot of work. There are a lot of moving parts that need to move together by race day.  My race is a 5k and 10k called Run for Home. It has become easier over the three years, not because there is less to do, but because I know what I need to do and who to contact to get things done.

A RD doesn’t get paid for the hours spent filling out permit applications, waste management plans, and Americans with Disabilities plans.

They don’t get paid for creating race maps, talking on the phone with parks and recreation, local police officers, barricade companies, t-shirt companies, medal companies, and event companies.

They don’t get paid for days they spend seeking donations to support the race and prizes they can raffle off at the race. They also don’t get paid for gathering and organizing all the volunteers for the event.

RD’s are volunteers who love the sport and love runners.

So where do all the race fees go?? Alright, so I will say that some of the big races have employees who get paid, but most, dedicate the sweat and blood out of love. Still where do the race fees go?

Race fees pay for t-shirts, medals, permits (city and county), liability insurance, local law enforcement, port-a-potties, recycling bins, hand washing stations, reflective vests for volunteers, food and water that doesn’t get donated, bibs, timing company, start/finish arch, posters for advertising, registration websites, advertising with any other media. There is a lot of places for money to go and nifty new things always show up.

If you’re thinking about putting on a race, here are some tips:

  1. Pick a weekend that doesn’t have a lot of other charity events.
  2. Submit an application to the city or county where the race is going to happen. If you expect a large number of people you may need an additional application/permit for a “mass gathering.”
    1. Start contacting anyone required for the permit. There is usually paperwork that has to be filled out and submitted.
  3. If you are using an event company for the timing or start/finish line make sure they can be there on the date you’ve chosen.
  4. Start planning early: get your race listed on race calendars, hang up flyers, and start getting everyone you know to register.
  5. Gather your volunteers and make sure you know what you need them to do and how many you need. You may need police to close roads or to get barricades to direct traffic/runners away from each other.
  6. If you’re doing food of some type, you need to have the department of health check it out.
  7. If you are doing a raffle or getting sponsor, you have to start months before the event.
  8. There are lots of websites that you can use for race registration. I use Registermyrace.com
  9. Figure out if you are doing race day registration and if you are how are you going to accept payment: Square readers are awesome.
  10. You’ll have to order shirts and medals three to four weeks in advance.

 

 

Giving Back

Races of every distance could not happen without their volunteers. Giving back to the running community is essential because of this. We’ve all be “saved” by a volunteer at some point during our running careers. It could have been something simple, like them handing you a Gu or a cup of water, or as complex as helping you remove your shoes, take care of blisters, and get your shoes back on your wet muddy feet.

The volunteers out there may or may not have family or friends running in the event. I’ve run into many an aid station to find out the aid station is run by a family or community group who does it every year and no one runs.

I know we are all very busy with training, working, family, and some minimal form of social life, but there are races nearly every weekend, especially 5k and 10ks. They are not a huge time commitment either, just a couple of hours.

Experiencing the running world from the volunteer’s side, will give you a new perspective and much appreciation for what they do. It will help you make their lives easier when you come into their aid station. It will also help you, if you ever decide to be a race director or organize a race of your own to benefit a non-profit agency.

How do you get started?

  1. Contact the race director for a race you have run or that supports something you can get behind. There are always 5k and 10k races support things like prevention and research of medical and mental health problems. There are also a ton of races raising money for local non-profit groups. Even schools have them to raise money.
  2. If you don’t know about any races, go to your local running store or get on their website and find the race calendar.
  3. Search on the internet.
  4. Once you have a race selected, email/call the race director or volunteer coordinator.
  5. Let them know you’d like to volunteer.

If you are considering a big event, such as a ultra, it’s good to let them know your experience as a runner so they can place you at points in the race where you will be the most help to the runners. The other thing to know about volunteering for an ultra, especially if you’re going to be the captain of an aid station, is you have to bring a lot of your own stuff.

The bigger races such as Western States, Leadville, Hardrock and the like, will have bigger sponsors and more supplies. But your smaller races that draw mostly locals and rarely the top runners of the ultra world don’t have as much and you may be expected to bring things, including food items, canopies, chairs, cots, heaters, and whatever else you want for your own comfort and that of the amazing runners.

Don’t be put off by bring your own stuff. Call in friends and family. I’ve always been able to gather the things I need and haven’t had to buy more than some food items and even that cost is split between my friends who volunteer with me at the aid station.

Remember none of us would be out there without the amazing volunteers.

Respect for the Game

respect

There are a lot facets to the term, “respect for the game,” as applied to ultrarunning.

Respect the course in all ways. The obvious leave no trace. If you drop something, pick it up. If you see something someone else has dropped, pick it up. The not so obvious form of course respect is what Mother Nature can dish out during these events. Be prepared for the unexpected and train adequately for the terrain you will be crossing. Mother Nature has other children out there in the mountains too. Be aware of what you could come across, moose, mountain lion, bears and such. It’s a good idea to know what to do when you do see them.

Respect for all the other runners. I hate to see runners being rude to one another. We’re one tribe. Call out when you are approaching other’s from behind. If you hear someone call out, move over as much as you can. Watch out for one another out there, stop and offer help if you see another runner who is in need, stop and see if you can help. This is just one of the things that I love about trail runners. If you’re bent over on the side of the trail, the next runner will ask if you’re okay, and the next, and the next.

Respect for volunteers and race staff. Remember no one has to be out there for you. The race director and the staff are there because they love the sport. They love to see people succeed. They love to watch the strength and tenacity of the runners. It takes an inordinate amount of organization and time to put on an event that spans fifty to one hundred miles. Many volunteers are out there year after year. So, even when you are hurting and feel like you’re going to die, smile at volunteers and staff and say thank you with your whole heart.

Respect for your crew and pacers. These people are out there solely for you. They aren’t getting paid. They are just there because they care about you and want to see you achieve your goals. They are the people who make or break your run. The work they put into helping you is huge. They are out there all night and day. They deal with things you will never know about (because you have enough on your mind). They cater to your every need even when you’re smelly and have all sorts of bodily functioning issues. They brave the weather and the boredom of waiting for you.

Respect for yourself. You’ve put a lot of time and sweat into getting to race day. You’ve spent hours planning and organizing to make it the most successful race possible. Anything can happen out there. Even the elite runners have bad days and drop out of races. If something goes wrong, learn from it rather than beat yourself up over not meeting your own expectations. Finally, respect your body and give it the rest it needs to become stronger.

Rocking the Relay

Epic Exchange six

It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination. We have a better chance of seeing where we are when we stop trying to get somewhere else.

John Bingham

My relay team is headed out this weekend to finish our 5th Red Rock Relay in Southern Utah.

Every team is different and each race is different. It is important to make sure that there are not major personality conflicts in the vans, which will ruin everyone’s fun. Personalities who may conflict should be in different vans on the team.

This is probably my number one rule about gathering a team. The first year I put together my team I mixed two people who should not have been mixed. We finished the race with smiles, but it was a little tense at times. When you are sticking six people in a van together for 24-36 hours, with limited sleep, aching legs and feet, and weird eating schedules every precaution should be taken to reduce friction least a fire spring to life from smoldering embers.

Communication between vans is crucial when you are approaching to a major exchange point (changing from Van One to Van Two’s six legs of the race). Text messaging and phone calls are the easiest form of communication. Text messaging requires less of a signal than phone calls making it my first choice for contacting the other van.

When texting my other van, I send the name of the runner who is running, what mile they are at, and their pace. We learned quickly that if you don’t put the time the text message is sent the information can be pointless. The text message can be delayed due to inconsistent service. Your message should be something like, “Swiss Miss is running, 13:00 pace, three miles to go. Sent at 9:00 p.m.” If you don’t include the sent time and they don’t have service until 9:30 p.m. they will think they have 39 minutes until the runner comes in, but in reality they only have nine minutes to get their runner ready to go and in the exchange shoot.

Putting in the time that the text is sent, eliminates this problem, so long as they receive it before you roll into the exchange point. As a last precaution, once the van reaches the “One mile to go” sign, the van should pull ahead of the runner and make sure the next runner is ready to start.

Relays are the perfect way to gather new runners into the sport and get them super excited to run.

Good luck building your teams!

Run for Home

Race for Home

Together with the Volunteers of America, I organized a 5k and 10k race, which was on June 13, 2015. Organizing this event was a lot more work than I had anticipated.

The race was a huge success. We had 240 runners!

As a first time race director and this being our inaugural event, I anticipated being in the negative funds wise, but we weren’t. The cost of organizing the race was approximately $5,000.00. The money raised from the race will support the first overnight homeless youth shelter in Utah. There will be many onsite services including education, mental health, and substance abuse for the youth.

Run for Home 6.13.15 003

We didn’t want to just bring a race to the community surrounding where the shelter will be built, but to bring the community together to support the youth in need. To do this we included a breakfast and raffle in our event. Every runner was given a raffle ticket and more tickets could be purchased. All the prizes were donations from various vendors within the city.

Of course, we had minor complications and last minute arrangements to scramble to get into place, but it was all worth it as I stood at the finish line watching runners come across knowing I had helped make it happen.

Run for Home 6.13.15 005

The homeless youth shelter is a project I am passionate about because I was a homeless youth in Utah from the ages of 13-16. I struggled with the same issues the youth who are out there now. Access to services will provide them with opportunities I never had.

When you are living on the streets it’s easy to fall into a hopeless cycle of self-destruction as you meet road block after road block trying to fit the pieces of your life back together into some semblance of a whole picture.

All of the finishers received a medal, which was a dog tag with the VOA symbol on one side and the name of the race and date on the other side.

Run 4 home medal 001

I chose the dog tag as the medal because one of the first things you lose as a homeless youth is your identity, who you are. You become nameless and faceless in the eyes of others and yourself. For the youth on the streets, the most important rediscovery is that identity of self, and their singular importance in this world.

For a soldier, a dog tag is the last piece of home and their final identifier. It makes them different and an individual among their brothers who is next to them with the same haircut and same uniform moving in unison. The dog tag is a reminder that each of these kids is not nameless and is not faceless, but a person who has lost their self and their way.

I know we are all busy and not everyone can donate their time to those in need, but even just looking these kids in the face when you speak to them or acknowledging their presence as you pass them on the sidewalk identifies them as another human being and it only takes a second or two.

 

Organizing a Race

Race for Home

Have you ever thought about being a race director?

I have always been grateful appreciative of race directors, after all, without them we wouldn’t be running in such amazing places and maybe some of us wouldn’t be running at all. Putting together a race is a daunting task. It is more than just getting a couple of permits and throwing together a route for your race.

I’ve been setting up a race to raise money for the Volunteers of America (VOA), Utah’s Homeless Youth Shelter being built in Salt Lake City, Utah. When I agreed to set the race up, the only things I knew about being a race director were I needed an event permit and the things I had learned from being on the other side as a runner.

I decided for the first year of the VOA run I would put together a 5k and 10k. Honestly, I wanted to go for the big enchilada, the marathon, but once I learned a little more about the process and obstacles, I decided the 5k and 10k would be good enough for the inaugural event.

I googled organizing a 5k. There is useful information on Road Runners of America, they even have a race directors certification, from Road Runners, I learned I would need a few more things alongside the permit.

Before I could fill out and file the event permit application I had to have a route, liability insurance, and an idea of how much this would cost and what it would look like.

I wanted the race to bring the neighborhood, where the shelter is being built, together as a community to support the youth who will access services at the shelter. So my friends and I decided to do a breakfast block party after the race in the park where the race starts.

The VOA added the race to their insurance so that problem was solved. After much exploring, I opted for running the race along the Jordan River Parkway. The River Parkway was chosen for a few reasons, first, it’s close to where the shelter will be built, second it is more scenic than the city streets around where the shelter will be, and third it reduces costs by lowering the amount of police officer support the race needs.

Armed with the insurance and race route, I submitted our application for the permit and the fee of $108. My friends and I had planning meetings and raised some money. After a couple months, I received a conditional permit from Salt Lake City with a list of everyone I needed to contact to get the official permit by race day.

The list requires me to contact local law enforcement for assistance with traffic, road crossings, and barricade placement. The police look at your route and tell you where you will need police officers, barricades and if you need to shut down a roadway. Then they tell you how much all of that will cost you. For my 5k and 10k the police price tag is $1800.00. Luckily, our race is an out and back, which reduces the number of officers we have to have, and we don’t have to shut down roads or use barricades, which would increase costs. I also had to go through the laws related to raffles because gamboling in Utah is illegal. Raffles must be conducted to allow anyone to participate without cost.

Next on the list, I needed to contact the Parks and Recreation Department to get permission to use the park including the restrooms and garbage cans located at the park. Then I had to contact the person in charge of the Jordan River Parkway to obtain permission to use the parkway and provide them with a plan of keeping the parkway and waterway free of garbage.

Next, I contacted Utah Transit Authority to make sure that my route would not interfere with any bus routes or cross any of the train tracks. My original route actually did cross railroad tracks and I had to reconfigure the route due to the risk of runners running through the railroad barricades or hoping through a stopped train.

Next I had to contact, the Traffic Control Division to make sure I didn’t need a permit from them to shut down a road for parking cars, runners crossing, or the breakfast block party.

After Traffic Control, I had to contact the Waste Management Division with a plan for collecting the waste produced by the event along with a plan for recycling. They gave me an estimate on how many garbage cans and recycling bins I would need based on my estimated number of participants. Now I just have to order and pay for the drop off and pick up of those garbage cans.

Once I submitted my garbage plan and paid for the garbage cans, I filled out and submitted my plan to comply with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires that my event accommodate people with disabilities so they are able to attend and participate in the event as much as anyone else.

The last box I need to check off is getting a lease through Salt Lake City Leasing Office to use the public space of the park and parkway. I know this is going to cost more money, but I don’t know how much yet.

Of course this is all the behind the scenes stuff that happens for a race. I still have to organize volunteers, order port-o-potties, gather raffle prizes, order bib numbers and t-shirts, get finisher medals, set up race registration, find sponsors, set up the breakfast, get a timing clock and a starting/finishing line arch. We also have course marking and set up, packet pick-up, and course take down and clean up.

I really could not put all this together without my friends and the support at Volunteers of America.

The final piece of being a race director is Promotion, so if you live in Utah or will be there in June come out and run to support the Homeless Youth Shelter. You can donate to the cause or register to run at www.voaut.org/funrun