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.

 

 

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