I proposed my track team to organize a road race back in the spring. I have gathered a list of names to contact and ask questions but have not done much since then. Now that I can, I am starting to scope an event. This is hardly a how-to on organizing a local running event but rather a memo for me to get things moving. Below is a list of important points that are apparent to me at this point. I am going to write updates in the process and post my learnings from this process as post-mortem.
- Purpose and value proposition
- Type of events
- Date and time
- Venue, permits and course certification
This is the why of planning a local running event. These days, there are many events that involve running from fun run to more serious running. A lot of fun runs are organized for charity. Are you organizing an event to benefit some good causes, or raising fund for an organization? There are pure running events, but the attendance tends to be small. Once you have a clear purpose, now it is time to clarify value proposition. Why should people participate? What’s in it for them? A clear value proposition will make it easy to name, market and promote your event.
OK, it is a running event, but how long is the running? Will you offer more than one race? 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon are popular. If you offer more niche race, such as one mile, it might be easier to attract runners. More planning will be necessary if you want to run multiple races or longer distance. You will need to get permits from local authorities. The longer the distance, the more permits you will need to secure. It is also a good idea to research what races are going on in the same time and around the proposed venue.
You might not have a freedom of choosing a date, but you want to have rough ideas as to what date you want to have this event. It will most likely be over the weekend, but some events are held during the week especially in the summer time. You want to avoid conflicts with other running events, non-running events, or major holidays.
I wish I could hold a running event at a place of my choice without any limitations, but that’s hardly the case. Wherever you hold a public event like a race, you will need permits, and potentially security personnels. The longer the distance, the more permits you will need and the more volunteers/equipment to ensure the safety, logistics and integrity of the race. If you want to draw more serious runners, you will want USATF to certify the course (possibly sanctioned as well), so that race results are made official to participants. In order to get USATF to certify your course (not free), there are other USATF requirements, such as Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
On the day of your race, what do you need to ensure runners’ safety and integrity of your event? Do you want to offer services for runners’ conveniences? Some of the basic items for smooth operation might be;
- registration desk and equipment,
- course signs,
- timing equipment,
These days, promotions are done through social media and digital media in general. Even if you don’t have a website, it is easy to set up a free account and start a website. Printed materials are nice to have and sometimes come in handy. If you are involved with local running clubs, gyms or school, you would definitely want to distribute printed materials through these organizations. A lot of races offer online registration these days and there are online websites that help you set up online registration. Depending on your expectation on size and target audience, you might be just fine with on-the-day registration.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, and these days, organizers are not afraid of charging high fees. Runners expect to pay, but fees can be a major consideration for some runners. Cost of participation depends on the cost of putting on an event and whether you want to make a profit or not. Major line items are venue and promotion costs, potentially insurance. You might already have a sponsor. If that is the case, it is easier but you still want to budget, so you won’t lose out too much.
Sky is the limit if you want to offer conveniences, awards and goodies. A lot of races offer difference services and entertainment to draw a large crowd. This largely depends on the purpose/value proposition and budget. Some runners do expect certain services/goodies from their past experience. If you want them to come back again, you might want to consider offering something that sets your event apart from others.
Again, this list is nowhere complete, but this exercise gave me better sense of how much effort as I continue scoping and costing. Stay tuned for updates!