We’ve talked quite a bit here about how to create the perfect race experience for your athletes. And one of the key elements to a perfect race experience? The perfect course.
Your race course is KEY: if you have a “meh” course, your athletes will pass right by. But if you have the right course, the PERFECT course, you’ll have people drooling over course shots on your race registration website and sending in their race registration faster than a convict sprinter running from a cop after a double espresso and shot of energy goo (or in other words, pretty darn fast).
Previously, we covered how to scout the perfect course. And now that you know how to FIND your course, it’s time to teach you how to build it.
Go Big At The Start And Finish Lines
Where your race kicks off and where your race wraps up are two of the most important spots on your course, and if you want to build the perfect course, these are two areas where you’re going to need to go BIG.
The start line is going to set the tone for the entire race. If it’s awesome and energetic and exciting, your athletes are going to get pumped pre-race. But if there’s nothing going on and it’s so quiet you can hear the rubber squeaking as your athletes adjust their headphones…yeah, they’re probably going to feel pretty BLAH when the starting shot goes off.
And on the flip side of the coin, the finish line is just as important. Your athletes just raced over 3, 10, 26 or 100+ miles to get there, and they’re most likely tired, discouraged and hungry (scratch that - they’re DEFINITELY hungry). If they cross the finish line to zero fanfare (and zero snacks), even if the rest of the course was AWESOME the anti-climactic ending is going to leave them with a bad taste in their mouth.
Think of your starting and finish lines as one big party. Have music, have food (seriously…always have food) and have your volunteers and staff on hand to help your athletes out with anything they might need pre or post race.
Hydration Stations Please
There’s no quicker way to ruin a beautiful course than to have your athletes dropping left and right from dehydration. If I had a dollar for every race I’ve run that had a serious lack of hydration stations, I’d be a rich woman (who would’ve gladly used the money to quench my thirst during said races).
Hydration stations are hugely important to consider when building your course. Not only is it going to keep your athletes comfortable as they compete, it’s going to keep them safe; racing while dehydrated can cause some serious health issues, and having your athletes drop like flies along your course is not going to do good things for your PR and can put your future races at a serious risk for event cancellation.
A good rule of thumb is to have a hydration station every 2 miles (if you’re having a shorter race, like a 5K, set one up every mile so your athletes have plenty of time to H2O on the course). Make sure that each station has plenty of water and sports drinks on hand so that ALL of your athletes can reup at each station.
I love racing. But sometimes racing, especially endurance racing like marathon running, can get a bit…tedious. Running for miles and miles with nothing but my own thoughts and my 90’s boy bands Spotify playlist to keep me company is enough to drive a girl insane. That’s why the perfect course will have plenty of things to entertain me along the way.
You don’t have to get crazy and hire this seasons cast of American Idol or anything, but entertaining distractions at key intervals in the course will help to break things up for your athletes and keep them from burning out.
Have local bands set up along the course to play for your athletes at key mile markers or have “hype squads” line up on the course to give out high fives when your athletes make it up a tough hill. Just set some things up to take our minds off the fact that our legs are burning, our hair is soaked with sweat and we’re so hungry we could eat a hippopotamus.
Now that you've got the keys to the course scouting and building kingdom, go get it! Have other recommendations? Leave them in the comments!