What's more exciting than race day? Finally, all of your planning, sweating and Pepto Bismol fueled evenings have brought together a neon-colored mass of energy chew-hyped athletes who came here just to participate in your event.
But how do you make sure that the race day experience is so smooth that every athlete at the starting line is asking you when they can sign up for next year?
Let's be real - no matter how beautiful your course is, no matter how cool your schwag bags are and no matter how stoked your athletes are to run your race, if your race day experience is a total cluster, you can pretty much guarantee a good number of folks will not be coming back.
Case in point: I had an obstacle race that I was looking forward to for 6 whole months. I gladly shelled out the $100+ online race registration fee in anticipation of the bounce house and waterslide shenanigans I would get in return. On race day, my friends and I hopped in the car and made our way to the arena to check in, get our bib assignments and get racing...only to get stuck for over 2 ½ hours trying to get into the parking lot.
This completely ruined the race experience for me, and by the time I got to the starting line, I had already made my mind up that this was the last time I would do the event, no matter how much fun the actual course ended up being.
Do not let this happen to you. Don’t let all of your blood, sweat and tears go to waste because of race day logistics. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth race day experience for your runners (and a drastically reduced risk of a full on panic for YOU as event organizer):
Plan For NeedsParking, food, bathrooms, and first aid being the top priorities.
Now, obviously after my race day debacle traffic is a bit of a hot button issue for me, but it’s also a hot button issue for 99.9% of the other athletes registered for your event.
Have a concrete plan on how you’re going to deal with traffic, both car and foot. If possible, set up multiple clearly marked entry and exit points to your venue and make sure you have more parking available than you think you'll need.
Spread everything out so people have space to move from gear check to aid station without getting caught in a herd of sweaty athletes.
And for the love of hydration-conscious athletes everywhere, make sure your porta-potty/toilet strategy is rock solid.
Have Enough Volunteers On Hand
The best way to make sure that your race day experience is smooth as a velvet pantsuit (which, for you non-velvet enthusiasts out there is pretty g-darn smooth) is to have a ton of people on hand to make it smooth.
Volunteers are the icing on the cake, the cog in the wheel, the rum in the coke - they’re what make race day WORK. Who else is going to restock the water station when a runner knocks over a table or deal with the guy who forgot his running shoes?
Make sure you have plenty of volunteers on hand to put out any fires and make sure things run as smoothly as possible.
Feed The People
You know what’s not fun to deal with? People who are hungry, or even worse, HANGRY - that lovely hybrid between hungry and angry that happens about one mile away from the finish line and is seriously exacerbated by a lack of food on the premises.
Hangry people are NOT going to make for a smooth race day experience. Trust me, I’ve been one. So do your athletes a solid and feed them.
Hope For The Best, But Prepare For The Worst
There are a million and six things that could go wrong on race day that will totally mess with your flow. Mother Nature can start showing off her skills and bring on an out-of-season monsoon and subsequent event cancellation. A sponsor can back out at the last minute. Your volunteers could strike and insist that you pay them fair wages for their time (I know, it’s unlikely…but hey, it could happen!).
The point is, you want to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If you have a plan B (and a plan C, a plan D…and a plan E, just to be safe) that you can implement when sh*t inevitably hits the fan, it’s going to ensure a much smoother race day experience for your racers and a much less stressful experience for you.