I often get asked questions regarding race management so have tried to put together some helpful information. Please let me know if you have suggestions for additions.
Step One: Pick your date carefully.
Check the Macon Tracks race calendar, the Run & See Georgia website, and e-mail Kerry to make sure the date you've got picked out does not conflict with a nearby race. Having two races in close proximity on the same day means both will suffer. Consider holding your race on a Friday or Saturday evening to distinguish it from other races.
Step Two: Plan your course.
You will need to get approval and a permit from the Parks & Recreation Department if your race is held in the city of Macon or Bibb County. The office is located near Central City Park behind where the old driver's license office was located. Getting approval can take time so apply early. Download permit forms and an informational handout to get started. Ben Hamrick handles Bibb County events and Steve Lawson handles city events, though they will work together on many of the events. Police coverage is expensive ($25 per hour with a two-hour minimum per officer) so you may want to plan your course so as to have as few intersections as possible.
While certification is certainly a bonus in attracting dedicated runners, for most small 5K races it isn't necessary to go to the expense of having your course certified. The exception would be a fast 5K or 10K course that runners might want to use to qualify for the Peachtree Road Race. This doesn't mean that the course does not need to be accurate, because an accurately measured course is very important. Runners get annoyed when they've run a hard effort, only to find out the course was a tenth of a mile short so they don't have a new personal record after all, or that the course was long so they have no idea how well they did in comparison to other races. The best way to get an accurate course is to measure it with a distance-measuring wheel, taking care to push the wheel along the tangents or shortest possible path. There is a wealth of information on this subject on the USATF website. GPS systems can be helpful to sketch out a preliminary course as can calibrated bike odometers. Do not use a car odometer. Measure carefully, marking each mile split along the way.
Step Three: Get your race flyers out.
Think carefully before deciding on an entry fee. Getting a good turn out is important not just for your bottom line, but also because large numbers of participants will help tremendously when soliciting sponsorship money the following year. Don't scare people away by setting the price too high, especially for a newly established race. The most expensive races typically do not charge more than $20 to pre-register or $25 on race day, and often these races will offer technical fabric race t-shirts, chip timing, and other amenities, and/or they are able to attract a lot of participants despite a high price by virtue of a cause many people are supportive of, such as breast cancer research. For a first year race offering only a 5K with cotton t-shirts, the price should be less than this. Consider offering a discount for kids or offering a family rate.
Check race flyers for other races to get ideas of how to lay out your flyer. Microsoft Publisher or Word both work well. You'll want to include basic race information as well as a waiver. You'll probably want to convert your flyer to pdf format. A free program to do this can be downloaded at http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp .
You'll want to place flyers around town at health clubs and other locations, and also add them to online listings including Run & See Georgia, Run Georgia, Cool Running, Running in the USA, and Runner's World. Races within an hour's drive of Macon can be listed on the Macon Tracks race calendar. Races further from Macon can be listed on the South Georgia race calendar on the Macon Tracks site.
You can list your race on the Run & See Georgia website regardless of whether you decide to have your race be part of the Run & See Georgia Grand Prix. Being part of the Grand Prix will most likely increase the number of participants at your race, especially if your event has two races of different distances timed such that runners can do both races and get additional points without having to travel. The fee for your race to be part of the Grand Prix is $250. Contact Gary Jenkins for more information.
Runner's World is no longer offering free bib numbers or bags for supplying a participant list, but you can get free bib numbers from Road I.D. and all you have to do in return is put their flyer in your race packets. Another good source for race supplies such as numbers and safety pins is Rainbow Racing.
It's a good idea to offer online registration for your event. We highly recommend Racer Pal, a service offered by Macon Tracks member Andi Berger. She charges just $35 to set up an online form. The credit card transactions are processed via Paypal. The Paypal fee is about $1 per registration for most races. If you contract with an event registration company such as Active.com, runners typically pay the $3 or more service fee. Encouraging runners to register online by keeping fees low means less work manually inputting information off of paper forms, less work processing checks, and also helps with accuracy.
Step Four: Details, details, details!
You will most likely want to hire someone to do your race timing. Getting accurate results is critical. For smaller races, a system where a volunteer pushes a button to record the time each time a runner crosses the finish, then the runner is given a place of finish (POF) card to fill out so that the numbered card with the runner's information can be correlated to the time recorded on the time machine or printable stop watch, is sufficient. Larger races will find it worthwhile to incur the added expense of chip timing. Steve Corkery and a few other Macon Tracks club volunteers time a select number of races each year, donating the money earned to Macon Tracks for equipment maintenance and other expenses. The fee for this service is $125 for up to 100 runners, and 75 cents per runner after that. E-mail Amy Tarpley to inquire about race timing services. Unfortunately the current demand for timing services has far exceeded the number of hours our timing volunteers are able to donate, so we've had to turn down many requests for race timing. We recommend contacting Classic Race Services first, since they do a good job of race timing and they provide other race support services as well. E-mail them at email@example.com or call Tim Bagley at 770-714-2935 or Carole Black at 706-680-7223. SD Race Timing Services is a company out of Atlanta that does timing for races as well.
Line up your volunteers early. At a minimum, you'll need volunteers to help with race day registration, to direct runners along the course, to pass out water, and help with the finish line. Having many volunteers keeps any one person from getting overwhelmed (especially the race director!).
To really raise money for a cause, you'll need to solicit sponsors. Plan ahead as to what benefits will be offered with each level of sponsorship (some possible benefits you can offer are the sponsor's logo or text on the back of the t-shirt and on race applications, a certain number of free race entries, recognition at the awards ceremony, the opportunity to put materials in the race packets and to have a table at the race, etc.). Work hard to treat your sponsors well so they'll come back!
T-shirts and trophies:
A well-designed t-shirt will be worn long after the race is finished and will provide good advertising for your race in the future and for the sponsors as well. It's very important to plan carefully when placing the t-shirt order. It's a costly mistake to order too many, but you do need to ensure that all the people who pre-register get the size shirt they order (be sure and set aside enough shirts for all pre-registered runners as they get upset if they go to the trouble to pre-register only to show up on race day and find out you've given their shirt to a race-day registrant). Keeping records from one year to the next can really help. A good starting point is to order 20% small, 30% medium, 30% large 18% XL and 2% 2XL. If you do run out of shirts on race day, you can always take $5 off the entry fee or offer to mail a shirt to the runner in a few weeks. It's often possible to have the shirt vendor do a second printing after the race.
Awards don't have to be expensive, but they should be plentiful. Creativity is a bonus. Typically awards are given to the top 3 male and female overall winners, the top 3 masters (age 40+) winners, and 3 deep in each of 15 age categories (10 & under, 11-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75 & up). This means you'll need 12 awards that are a little nicer plus 90 age group awards. Smaller races can go just one deep on the overall and masters awards. Probably not all age groups will fill (there usually aren't 3 women in the 75+ age group, for instance), so you may get away with ordering fewer 2nd and 3rd place awards.
Bib Numbers and Supplies:
Runner's World is no longer offering free bib numbers to races, but Road I.D. will give you numbers in exchange for putting their flyer in the race packets. A good source to obtain safety pins and other race supplies is www.rainbowracing.com .
You can register as an "Event Member" through Road Runner's Club of America and obtain insurance for your event. Go to www.rrca.org for more information. If your event is in the city of Macon, you'll need to add the city as an additional insured to get your permit.
The most important aspect of the race is to have everyone run the same course. In other words, you don't want anyone going the wrong way! DO NOT rely on the police car driver leading the way to know the race route. Have someone ride with the police officer who is extremely familiar with the course. You can also ask a bicyclist to lead the runners. Likewise, do not rely on police officers to direct runners along the course. They are there to watch for cars, not runners. You need to make sure someone could follow the course even if they were out there alone. This means signs, cones, liquid chalk, caution tape, and volunteers at every possible place runners might get confused. Putting course maps out ahead of time helps, too.
Some things to bring on race day: safety pins, blank registration forms, change and a cash box, extra bib numbers, pens, trash cans, and a bull horn, air horn, or gun for the start. You'll need cups for the water stations. An amplifier and microphone for the awards ceremony is a real bonus. Of course you'll need the race packets, t-shirts, awards, refreshments, and tables to put them on.
For porta-potties, we recommend Taylor Services Restrooms 2 Go (478-808-7254).
Coca-cola will probably give you free PowerAde if you write to them well ahead of race day.
Kroger may give you a discount on refreshments if your race is for charity.