I’ve run a lot of races over the years, 89 if you only count the ones listed on my Race Results tab. A few more, if you count the others that I ran way too long ago for me to remember the race names or distances…
I’ve run enough races to make me appreciate a well organized race. I know it takes a lot more than a good race director; it takes volunteers willing to spend countless hours behind the scenes. I know this from running races and from directing The Tortoise & The Hare 8K for six years from 1989 to 1994.
When my oldest son was about a year old, I decided to go back to work. As soon as the general manager of my new job at The Health Club of Reston found out that I was a runner, he asked me to take over the responsibilities of directing their one-year-old race. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I had eight months to figure it out and make it work.
As the race director I had the following responsibilities:
- Come up with a budget, and get it approved
- Pick race date
- Obtain VDOT road use permit
- Obtain race insurance
- Notify local police of the race
- Hire auxiliary police to manage traffic
- Hire timing company
- Find sponsors
- Determine which charity race proceeds will go to
- Design race registration flyer
- Order race bibs and safety pins
- Contact local fire department/EMS
- Have course measured and marked
- Order awards
- Design and order race shirts
- Find a sponsor for post-race food
- Work with marketing director to get information to newspapers, radio, etc.
- Recruit volunteers and assign duties
- Obtain tables for registration, packet pick-up, water stops, etc.
- Order water cups, water bottles, miscellaneous items
- Put race packets together
- Oversee and coordinate all race day duties
- Write post-race report
- Approve invoices for checks to be cut and mailed
- Write thank you notes to all involved
Our club was very much into community outreach, and the first year that I was in charge we created a family festival that started immediately after the race. Fortunately for me, my hands were full with the race, and the marketing director took over the responsibility of organizing the festival. I don’t have any pictures from the race, but I found this picture of Joseph and me hanging out with two clowns after the race. Don’t you just love his little Nike shoes?
Each year I worked with the same Fairfax County police officer, Officer W, who was in charge of community programs. He was a great guy, and in my opinion went way beyond his job description in assuring we had a good event. In 1993 he saw my sons hanging around with my husband as they watched the festivities before the race, and invited them to ride along in the lead police van. Talk about the good life… Joseph and Daniel talked about riding in the police van for weeks!
Additionally, we hired auxiliary police to work our race based on Officer W’s recommendations. We usually had the same retired officers from year-to-year. They always seemed to like working our race and we always made sure we had coffee and donuts for them before the race, and invited them to the post-race food tent afterward.
Officer W always had the auxiliary police help him pick up the cones after the race. This should have been my responsibility, yet every year the police picked up the cones as they followed the final runners/walkers in. It wasn’t until my final year working with the race that I realized that this wasn’t the norm. One of the guys from the timing company saw the police van with the cones and asked me how I’d convinced the officers to pick up the cones. He said he’d never seen them do that before.
The only major problem we ever ran into was the year that it absolutely poured rain, and wouldn’t you know it, that was the year that we decided to offer a one mile untimed fun run. The chalk that we used to mark the course got washed away which resulted in the volunteers getting confused about the race course, and sending the runners to the finish line a little early. In the end we had runners (mostly kids) running all over the place. Most people took it in stride and didn’t mind that they had run a little less than a mile, especially in nasty weather. A few were upset, and I couldn’t blame them!
After the race our runners were treated to a feast, at least for several of the years. When we could, we worked with club members who owned restaurants or catering companies and our food usually went above-and-beyond the normal expectations. We were able to offer family memberships in exchange for free (or discounted priced) food, which was a huge savings for us.
After a few years our race actually broke even and we were able to donate proceeds to the Embry Rucker Shelter. We were never able to cut a huge check, but for a few years we donated what we could.
At the time we didn’t realize it at the time, but 1994 was the final start of the Tortoise & the Hare 8K.
As always, Bill and the boys were there with me, and between runners we let Joseph, Daniel, and the other children run into the chute!
One of the best parts of being race director was awarding trophies to the overall male and female winners, and age group winners. One year I was able to present an age group trophy to my good friend Miles (unfortunately I don’t have a picture from that year). At the time we were merely gym acquaintances, and had no idea what a deep and lasting friendship we would soon form.
Looking back, this is a “What were we thinking” moment, but each year our race shirts were cotton tanks with the logo on the front and the names of the sponsors on the back. Last year I got rid of most of the shirts, but I still have these two even though I haven’t worn them in years (no surprise there). The rabbit in the logo the first couple of years was pretty creepy so we had the logo redesigned.
Eventually our race stagnated at about 300 runners and the time and energy it took to put on the race with such a small number of participants just didn’t seem worth it to our health club. I’m not sure what we could have done to have grown it more, but new races popping up all around us didn’t help. So after seven years of sponsoring the Tortoise & the Hare 8K, we decided to stop running it. It was a fun little race while it lasted; and you know what, that hare never did beat the tortoise!
- Have you volunteered or worked at a race?
- What the cutest/coolest name you’ve ever heard of for a race?
- Who’s racing this weekend?