Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So You Want to be a Race Director

So you want to be a race director? You want to be out exploring trails all day getting exercise while you work, marking race courses, high fiving finishers, fielding massive thank you emails from happy runners and dreaming up amazing races?

Whoa, whoa, whoa there! Let's put it in perspective. I'm going to go over some of the more major aspects of this work. First off, the majority of my time as a race director is spent on the computer. Yeah. It's a computer job.

It's a Computer Job
Computer time varies between dealing with permits, employees, emails, and business related computer work. Let's start with emails. Here is a graph of the breakdown of types of emails I get. this is why my phone number is not listed on the website:

It's a Business
The second big wake up call is in regards to the business. Yes, it's a business and while you struggle to make a living on this business, many runners believe that you should not. Yes, the naysayers have jobs that they can make money at, however, they do not believe race directors should. Sure, it's old school to believe that races should be non profits filled with volunteers, but the truth is in order to offer a series of high quality races you need to have an income. Key word is series. Anyone can put on a fat ass race or even one or two ultras a year without making money, but to put on races in regular intervals you need to have a source of income to either 1. Come from outside the business (invest in the business) or 2. Come from the business itself (entry fees, sponsors, etc). Getting sponsors is very difficult unless your race has thousands of runners, trust me.

You're going to have to know how to map courses, create profiles, and put all that info on the internet or hire someone to do it for you. I love maps and mapping so this one is easy!

Funding your Dream
In other words, being a race director as a job requires that you either come to the job with business knowledge or you learn it. This is one of the toughest parts of the job. I think we all want to give discounts, refund fees because you have a wedding instead of the race, or give your entry to a friend however, you have to set your limits somewhere. You need to decide where to draw the lines. This is where making "Race Policies" comes in. It's no fun to say "NO" but get used to it, here I illustrate: 
Permits & Insurance
Back to the business aspect. Without permits and insurance you should not and legally cannot charge runners unless you are doing it on private property, and then it better be yours or you'll need permission for that too. Permits are a pain, but they are important and must be taken very seriously if you want to be taken seriously. Insurance is always required for permits.

Websites/Race Timing
You're going to need to pay someone or create your own website. Same with timing. Timing is one of the most important aspects of the race. Gotta get it right. I make all my own websites. It saves money, but if you cannot create a professional looking website you should consider hiring someone as your website is the only "concrete" thing you have to show your professionalism and the quality of your race(s) until they actually happen.

Merchandise/Race Supplies/Transport
You'll need companies to produce your merchandise, which includes regular ordering and dealing with massive amounts of emails and there are always problems with merch, more time consuming. Sometimes I feel like all I do is order stuff.

Another big thing is that you will need to borrow or buy supplies to direct the race. Supplies can be very expensive. Borrowing from a local club to start out is a good idea. You may need a truck, trailer, timing equipment, clocks, a finish line arch, tables, canopies, marking supplies, generators, lighting, heaters, cooking supplies, and much much more.

One of the more important aspects of a race is its volunteers. Your race is only as good as the volunteers (and employees if you have them). You will need to find a way to get volunteers. this can be very stressful and challenging. It helps to be very well connected in your running community.

To summarize: 

1. Most your time is spent on a computer
2. You better love maps
3. You need to know how to run a business to be successful
4. You need to bring in money through the races or from your trust fund/bank/investors
5. You need permits, website, race timing, merch, race supplies, and a way to transport all the supplies.
6. You need a shit load of volunteers

Alright my rant is over for now! I am submitting that today be "Hug a Race Director Day" in memory of all our burned out and abused race directors.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post. And a RD hug from Texas. Keep up the great work!


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