Tips for race directors {from a participant}

Happy Thursday!!  Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? 

This week feels like it’s going by so slow for me.  Anyone else?  Anyway I’ve wanted to put this post together for awhile now and finally got a chance to work on it.

I’ve done a few races, almost all of them were on the smaller side. While the SLO Marathon was my first “bigger” race, there are a few things I think every race director should consider when planning a great running event that will bring runners back year after year.  


I am really easy to please, I don’t really care all that much about course entertainment or t-shirts, but offer me a hoddie and/or a medal and I am all over it.  I’m looking at you Two Cities!  🙂


Here’s a little check list of things I think “make” a race:

  • Water and/or Gatorade stations at every other mile.  Of course that’s give or take depending on the race distance.  Also for marathons & half’s offer some type of fuel.  GU, Cliff Shot Bloks, etc.  And please, please do not run out.  I missed out on a 1st or 2nd place finish in my AG because I had to stop and ask for water from a local spectator.  That killed my little racing spirit.
  • Swag.  Shirts, medals and anything unique to your race.  I’ve seen races through vineyards give out bottles of wine which is really cool.
  • Roving medical aid stations that are clearly marked.  The SLO Marathon set the bar for this, I saw no less than 6 medical aid staff on bicycles, motorcycles and on the side of the course.  Even one about a quarter mile from the finish line.  I felt confident that if anything were to happen, they were capable of quickly taking care of us and that is very reassuring.   
  • Offer chip timing.  I am willing to pay a little more on the entry fee for this.  It’s so worth it.  Also make sure they post the results online in a timely manner.  I even had chip timing company email my results within minutes of crossing the finish line.  Woo!
  • Look for a photography company with reasonable or negotiable fees for prints and make sure they offer downloads.  The last time I was interested in purchasing 2 pictures, the cheapest package was about $60 for 5 downloads or 1 for about $40.  If the pictures cost more than the entry fee for the race um, no thanks. QPPlus Packages.aspx

{click on the pic for source}

  •  Post a course elevation map.
  • Make your website easy to navigate, with the correct information (you’d be surprised ha!) and register.  If I have to jump through hoops, I’ll likely give up and find another race.
  • Start the walkers and shorter distance races after the long distance.  I’m not a happy participant if I have to waste energy and add unnecessary distance weaving through them. 
  • Start on time.  This is a huge thing.  Late starts can completely throw off our pre race fueling routine. 

From a spectators point of view (A.K.A Mike):

  • Wider, longer spectator viewing at the finish line so we can see runners (and snap pics) coming into the finish line. 
  • No crosswalks within a quarter mile of the finish line.
  • Have food trucks at the finish line or area so Mike can eat breakfast while J runs for hours.  Winking smile

Add your thoughts to the list!

I usually don’t check out the post race festivities, so those of you that do, please leave your thoughts.

What was the most unique thing you saw a race do for participants?

What brings you back to same race year after year?

What was the biggest negative experience you’ve had at a race?


0 Comments on “Tips for race directors {from a participant}

  1. I agree with all these ‘suggestions’ to make a great race! I’m heading out of Cali tomorrow for DC to run the Nike 1/2! Never done a race out of state so I’m excited and nervous! Get to add a new Tiffany charm to my collection of race medals 🙂

  2. I know Big Sur has the Bring Your Own Bottle Stations where you can refill your bottle at certain points. It was just about the 1/2 way point in the 1/2 last year. I thought that was pretty cool. I managed to avoid a lot of the cluster at water stations and only refilled my bottle with the guy holding the pitcher and dropped in a new Nuun. Granted it was extremely fizzy for a while 🙂

    Big Sur 9 miler is the only race I have done multiple times (excluding the 408k). I love the atmosphere, the VIEWS, the aid stations and the entertainment. That and the medal is always lovely.

    Only bad race experience I had was the Hellyer 10k which turned out to be pretty short. A volunteer accidentally marked to turnaround point too soon and we only ran like 5.7 or something. BUT Brazen racing company did offer one free 10k to any of their races as an apology, which I thought was very cool of them.

    I like the idea of Food Trucks near the finish line. I know my Husband would love that too. Or at least a coffee/hot chocolate truck for the spectators.

    And . . . for some reason Big Sur loves serving chili after a race. Personally, I am not a fan of chili (more so now since I food poisoned myself with one in my fridge) and the smell of it while I wander the the crowd after 9 or 13.1 miles does not appeal to me at all.

    What’s the weirdest food serving post race for you?

    • Oh you poor thing with the chili. I have got to get over my fear of crazy roads and do Big Sur. It sounds right up my alley.
      Although I’ve never really seen anything too weird post race, I think it’s odd when they offer ice cream or anything like that. It’s the last thing on my mind. I love fresh fruit and a bottle of water. Maybe that’s just me??

  3. I think my husband would agree with yours on the food trucks. I won’t lie sometimes I get jealous that I’m going to go run for hours while he gets to just eat and wait for me to get back. Makes me look forward to the finish line more. Ha!

    • Seriously!! And the really funny thing is we pay to torture ourselves like this while they kick back and drink a warm cup of coffee. Ha!

  4. I totally agree with these. I just ran my first non-chip timed race. And their clock was broke. So without my watch I would have had no idea what my time was. Plus it was a trail run and let me tell you, NOTHING would have prepared me for those hills. I wish I would have had an elevation chart. It was a very small run just put on by some track coach, (my medal was not exactly what i had expected i.e. a ceramic pine tree?) but I expected a little more. Maybe I should send this to him!

    • Oh man, that’s brutal. I’ve ran some poorly run races where they didn’t even time it at all. I think it was all because of lack of experience, which is no excuse but still. I would love for you to share this with him and I’m sure he’d love some feedback too.

  5. I agree on the not running out of things…I’m a slower runner and I cannot count how many races I’ve been to and everything is completely gone (even water!) by the time I finish (11-13.5 min/mile) it’s upsetting to feel like not only do I know I’m slower but to feel less important than faster runners.

    I also appreciate races that offer water, I’m not a fan of sports drinks, so it is refreshing when they have large water tanks at the end.

    A clearly marked course or enough volunteers to direct runners. I’ve also had racers that had too many confusing loops and different distances running at the same time….talk about a train wreck 😉

    • I agree with you 100%. You shouldn’t feel unimportant at any point during the race. And yes, lots of water at the finish.
      Great point on the course support too. Happy running (and racing) my friend!!

  6. I love this post! I’m organizing my first fun run this year and this information is very valuable, now I know to invest in some good swag 🙂

    • That’s awesome!! Let me know if you have any questions or would like an opinion from a participant since I’ve never been on the other side. 🙂 I would love to work with a race director some day.

  7. One little thing that I know would be a big thing for my wife…offer women’s shirts, not just men’s or unisex. Those Men’s Smalls are huge on some of you ladies!

  8. Maybe I should consider finding smaller races. Some of these I take as a given (chip timing, swag). The photo thing frosts my pumpkin something fierce. Sometimes I don’t want to sign the likeness/image release because I’m thinking “if my image is worth that much, I should be paid to show up to this thing! I am BEAUTIFUL, MAN!”.

    • I have to say I really do prefer smaller races over the larger ones. Easy parking, not an overwhelming amount of people, heck even a shot at placing. 😉
      And dude, you’re so beautiful, they should pay you to show up!!

  9. This week is dragging! Maybe it’s because my husband is out of town, and I work from home so I hardly see anyone! Like the tips, and I also enjoy the smaller races – it’s not so daunting.

  10. My 1st 5k has signs that read “stay right” then had an arrow underneath pointing LEFT. A little ways later, there was a sign that read “stay left” with an arrow pointing {wait for it} RIGHT. When I am huffing and puffing, I am more likely to follow arrows than words, so get it right {or left}!

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