So far, all of the ‘Oops’ Factors have been for runners and participants. This edition is dedicated to Race Directors, specifically new Race Directors hoping to build their event instead of destroy it with not-so-well thought out logistics.
Some of these are simple enough to understand. Some will enlighten the participant as to why things are done a certain way. Some, hopefully, will be “Ah ha! moments” that will help improve an event for future editions.
- Put yourself in the shoes of participants who are going to your website to learn more about the event. Does the flow of the site make sense?
- Try to minimize the number of ways information is disseminated to participants; inconsistencies are common when there are too many versions of the same information out there.
- Make sure you have enough volunteers with assigned tasks before the morning of the event.
- Directional signage should be set up so a not-so-familiar-with-the-course person can follow them—often RD’s or Route Coordinators know the route too well, and assume things are obvious to all, but they are not. Send a friend out to see if the signs all make sense to them as well as to you.
- On out-and-back routes, remember water stations get hit once in each direction, and therefore require twice as much water and cups.
- On a fairly hot day, water stations are only partly for hydration. Participants use them mostly for cooling off—a small cup to drink and another to throw over their head. Plan your supplies accordingly.
- It has been my experience that planning post race food quantities when it is simple bagels or fruit should be limited to a third of the number of participants (i.e., 300 runners = 100 bagels, 100 bananas, 100 oranges.) Not many people take one of everything. Post race burgers and beer would be different!
- Having said that, do not leave food to be freely accessed by runners or others; monitor how much runners are taking, especially if packaged or bottled, as people will take liberties.
- Volunteers who are handling food should always wear sanitary gloves.
- Figure of eight shaped routes are a bad idea.
- On multi-loop courses, it is important to make sure the front end of the pack does not catch the back end of the pack (in the case of waves or multiple events with staggered start times).
- In an event with several waves or race start times, leave a lot of time between the different start times—calculate 3 minutes per kilometre for the front end of one wave and 6:30-7:00 for the back end of the wave ahead, and set your schedule accordingly.
- A race announcer’s job is also to keep participants informed of the time to departure, and of which event is departing. “The 10K starts in 5 minutes! Everyone should be lined up now and ready to go!” as opposed to “the race is about to start!”
- NEVER, EVER start an event early. People plan to be on the start line for a certain time, and waiting for a minute is one thing, but arriving at the start line at the scheduled time to find everyone down the road is not acceptable.
- Courses with right turns are easier to marshal than left turns which require stopping traffic.
- All volunteers should know as much as possible about the event, or how to get that information.
- Simplify registration as much as you can.
- Speaking of registration, expect a rush to pick up kits, and a line-up 30 minutes before kit pick up actually opens.
- Always remember that most participants care about four things: not getting lost; accuracy in measurement; efficient timing and results; and properly set-up aid stations. If you take care of these four things, your participants will be satisfied, and your event will likely be considered a success.
Rick Hellard, head coach of Zone3sports in Ottawa, is a lifelong running addict. He’s also made or seen just about every mistake under the sun, making him a world-class expert in oops-prevention.