As a race director, there are a lot of fun things that you get to do leading up to race day: you get to pitch and work with great sponsors, you get to gather all sorts of awesomeness for your schwag bags and you get to plan a post-race rager so good that runners of the future will write about it in their history books (when they're not busy playing with their robots, that is).
But one of the first tasks you have to tackle in the great big world of race planning is finding a course. And you don’t want to find just any course. You’re better than that.
You want a course that’s scenic, that’s just the right amount of challenging and that will have your athletes smiling from the starting buzzer all the way through the finish line.
You want the perfect course.
But how exactly do you find that? Where do you look? How do you scout the perfect course?
Figure Out The Permit Process
Step numero uno in scouting the perfect course is figuring out what the permit process is for the locations that your scouting. Because the last thing you want to do is find a course so perfect it puts *NSYNC era Justin Timberlake (aka my version of perfection) to shame and get super stoked, only to find out that road closures aren’t actually allowed on that side of town or that the course you're planning is already booked out to infinity and beyond. Très bummer.
Head down to your city or town hall and meet with the permit office. Find out what the protocol is for applying for a race permit, how long they take to process and any procedures you have to follow in order to keep the permit, like posting road closure signs on your race registration website or hiring additional staff to man crosswalks along the course.
Consider Traffic Flow
If any or all of your race takes place on the road, obviously the perfect course is going to involve some road closures. But you might not be able to close the entire course from beginning to end, or you might need to keep one lane open on certain parts of the course. That’s why it’s super important to consider the traffic flow when mapping out your course to make sure that none of your athletes end up as a hood ornament for a careless driver.
Avoid having any areas on your course where your athletes have to cross busy intersection and stay far away from streets that are known for being a breeding ground for speeders, text-while-drivers or silly amounts of traffic.
Think About The Neighbors
One of the things that you absolutely need to do when scouting the perfect course is get the neighbors on board, because nothing ruins an awesome course more than picketing neighborhood groups at every mile marker. Seriously, it’s not a good look.
Before you move forward with finalizing your course (and actively driving race registrations), have your staff or volunteers go door to door and make nice with the neighbors. That way, they’ll be lined up race day high fiving your athletes, not trying to trip them.
Know Your Athletes
The biggest thing to keep in mind when choosing the perfect course is that “the perfect course” means different things to different people. To the seasoned athlete, hills are where it's at. To the beginning runner, a flat course with nice views is the bee's knees. And for the athlete who forgot to train, an event cancellation sounds pretty much perfect (I joke, I joke).
Know your athletes and who you’re planning your race for, and build your perfect course according to what would be perfect for THEM.
Alright, now It’s time to find your perfect course. So get ready, get out there and start scouting! And be on the lookout for a follow up post on how to BUILD the perfect race experience once you’ve locked in the perfect location.