It’s the holiday season, and in the spirit of giving, we have a gift for you: seven indispensable—and outside-the-box—race planning tips. Maybe you’re getting ready to launch your first ever race; or maybe you’re looking for ways to make your next event better than the last. Whether you’re a rookie Race Director or a seasoned pro, these tips can help you take the race experience you create to the next level of professional, unforgettable, and fun.
There are countless endurance sports events happening all around the country, and all around the world, every weekend of the year. That’s a great thing for everyone; the increasing popularity of running, cycling, triathlon, obstacle course racing, and other events benefit everyone involved. But it also makes it harder for a single event to stand out among a plethora of others. Having a hook is one way to highlight your event. What’s the special sauce that promises Athletes a different experience at your 10K than others in your area? Maybe it’s a spectacular and normally off-limits course, an iconic finish location, an unusual race format or distance, or a clever theme. Find something that makes your race one in a million, and promote the heck out of your unique concept.
Despite needing to make your race stand out, it’s also a great idea to be neighborly with your competitors. Develop relationships with your fellow Race Directors, especially those in your same region. Sure, you’re competing for the same Athletes, but you’ll all benefit by growing the sport in your area. Work together to ensure that your events are held on complementary, rather than conflicting dates. Consider partnering with another Race Director to form a series that includes both your events. Or give registration discounts to Athletes for volunteering at one another’s races. A healthy and reciprocal relationship will serve you both well. Especially the next time you need extra snow fencing at the last minute or your race announcer comes down with laryngitis.
Try something different at your event. Consider an afternoon or evening start time. You can even coordinate your race around a perfect sunset finish. Try having women and men compete at different times, or on different days. That way each gender gets equal time in the spotlight. Then men and women can take turns volunteering at aid stations and cheering for one another when they’re not on course. Nothing is set in stone about an event, so don’t be afraid to nix the norm and try a new tactic to differentiate your race. Think like the Miami Marathon, who have a custom neck ribbon designed for their event medals each year that reflects the culture and energy of the Miami community.
Sponsor support is critical to any event, and you’ll need to get creative to find the right partners for yours. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that local businesses are a sure bet, or that they’re the only option to bring on board. Businesses are often bombarded with these requests. In terms of local partners, hone in on the ones that truly stand to benefit from a partnership with you. And be sure you can deliver on your end of the deal. But also, think beyond the borders of your city and state. Larger national companies may well have an interest in getting involved. Especially if your participant demographic mirrors their target market. Additionally, do some digging online to find CEOs who take part in the type of event you produce. Extend an invitation to race, along with an offer to explore a partnership.
5) Serve Up Standout Swag
People love free stuff, but quality is also important when it comes to swag. Your Athlete awards and race swag should be cool, compelling, and on-trend. Think about items that your participants will actually want, cherish, and use. If you produce a series of events, create different items for each race to encourage Athletes to register for the entire series and complete a full collection of swag. Beyond finisher medals and tee-shirts, consider branding items like compression socks, hats, transition bags, beach towels, wine bottles, and more. The Leadville Race Series medals and awards are representative of the culture and history of the Leadville community. Finishers receive a belt buckle and those who place, a gold pan engraved with their accomplishment.
6) Try an e-Meet and Greet
Let’s be honest—how many Athletes actually show up to your pre-race meeting? And how many have questions about the event weeks or months, rather than days, in advance? Instead of scheduling the same old on-site run-through of the race rules, host a series of virtual race meetings (you can use Facebook Live for this). That way Athletes can attend, have their questions answered, and get to know you as the personality behind your race.
It’s a wild and crazy concept, but you should have fun at your own race. You got into this business in the first place because of your love for the sport. It’s easy to get stressed out when you’re responsible for all the details of producing a race. But it’s also important that you relax and have fun, and share the passion that brought you to race directing. If you’re not enjoying the experience, people will notice. But, if you’re whooping it up out there, your energy and enthusiasm will be infectious. So go on, get a little crazy in the name of fitness and good fun.
Want even more race planning advice? You’ll find all our free guides here. Help yourself, and Happy Holidays!