Tips for race directors from us runners

Welcome to a brand new week, full of possibilities, exploring, fun + lot’s of coffee.    

Before we get to the post, the winner of SCB favorite BIC Bands is Laura!  Congrats Laura, I already emailed ya.

Beach day   BIC Bands giveaway  SCB favs   Skinny Chick Blog


I came across this post I wrote awhile back and thought it would be a fun topic to to talk about.  Especially after my race fiasco over the weekend. 

So from the SCB archives…

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 electrolyte 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?


28 Comments on “Tips for race directors from us runners

  1. Let us know if there’s swag, like a medal of t-shirt. Or water stations. Or chipped timing. Most race websites don’t tell me any of this information. I’d like to know what my $30 is buying me.

  2. Spot on! I agree on every single point. Two Cities set the bar on the most swag for any race I’ve ran. Hello hoodie AND hat along with a race shirt & bling! Plus they offer a hot breakfast and hot fudge sundaes at the finish. I mean c’mon! The SF Marathon always gets me with their extra challenge medals. What can I say, it doesn’t take much to take me to run a race.

  3. Thanks for the giveaway! I already emailed you back 🙂

    Great points about races. I definitely agree with you, I am willing to pay a little more in order to have some added perks (chip timing, better swag etc.).

    I think one of the most frustrating things I dealt with in a race was course not marked and volunteer not paying attention. I was running a 5k and was leading for women, a volunteer wasn’t paying attention and the course wasn’t marked so the first 20 or so runners got led the wrong way around and ran an extra half mile….5 in a 5k…that’s a ton!

  4. I agree with all your points and Mike’s. I would also like to add that I do NOT like virtual goody bags. As you said – Do NOT NOT NOT run out of water or refueling items. Ran a local race that ran out and it was awful and a hot day! We had to get water from the EMTs on course.

  5. I agree with the no cross-walks. It can make running fast through the finish unnerving if you have to watch out for random pedestrians.

  6. The best thing I ever got was from the Shamrock Marathon in March of last year. They gave us this fleece blanket which was amazing because it was freezing and windy at the finish! It was such a toasty way to end the weekend!

  7. Love this! So true. Plus one to add that I had issues with – Please get the times and winners CORRECT! Those of us that it matters to would like the result to be right.

  8. I agree with everything you mention! Plus, make sure there are LOTS of port potties for before the race, everyone is going to go :). Also, water etc. before the race. Lots of parking and if there isn’t a lot of parking, offer maps or directions to other parking lots nearby. And if there is only one road into the race, make sure that there are people directing traffic, encourage shuttles or car-pooling (mention on the website) or re-think the location.

  9. great list- I’d only add bag check and corrals for larger races.

  10. Your crossing the finish-line pic is the best! Made me smile 🙂 I need to remember to not look so serious in my pics. I typically zone out and look like I’m dead on the inside. Oops. I prefer for races to have BIG signage telling you what’s at the aid stations. I missed a gel at one of my races because the sign was so small. Luckily I’m a total Type A and brought my own for such situations. #dork

  11. I don’t run races anymore; the ones I ran were so long ago they didn’t really have any of those things you mentioned available except for sometimes T-shirts and medals. I’m pretty easy to please so as long as I didn’t get lost on the course I was ok!

  12. Water immediately after crossing finish line……Houston Marathon I swear I had to walk another mile!!!!!! Website should clearly on the front page say the date of the race (huge pet peeve when I am researching races) …..coolest swag was flip flops the gave you when you crossed the finish line……Hospital Hill Kansas City…..

  13. The Presque Isle half is giving away beach blankets this year since the course is along the lake!! Yay!!!! I always flee to the nearest starbucks after races so I miss out on the post race festivities too… grande caramel macchiato is all I need.

  14. Love this! My husband always complains that there are no coffee or food stands for the spectators! My worst race experience was at the Hot Chocolate 5k in Chicago. It was 2012 and my daughter was only 5 months old. It was a chilly day in November and because of the amount of runners (around 40,000) they start in waves. I didn’t know this. My husband thought I would be starting at 8am but my wave actually didn’t start until around 8:30am. He is at the finish line waiting for me and I hadn’t even started running. Turns out my daughter had a massive blow out diaper and he had to change her in the cold in the middle of Grant Park. The poor girls blanket and socks had to be thrown away. So now the joke is that she has been naked in Grant Park. Bad experience but my husband is a trooper and he and my daughter are always at my races cheering me on!

  15. Such a good list! I also think races need to be more organized at the starting line. Like you said its no fun to be weaving through walkers and stroller pushers during the start of the race, and if you make them start in the back there’s no problem – I like starts that are corralled by previous finish times!

  16. Here’s one: make sure your race route is well marked for the “slow people.” I’ve run races with friends who never completed 5-ks before. One of their Biggest fears are usually lagging behind and getting lost…well I actually ran a race with one of my friends whose mother and brother participated and then got lost because the course wasn’t marked well! It’s not too expensive to put up some signs at each street corner!

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