Top tips for organising a safe and successful running event
From the initial planning stages through to promotion and on-the day logistics, planning a successful race takes a lot of organisation and careful preparation.
As running continues to grow in popularity, more and more road races are popping up across the UK. Road races can be great fun, enabling runners to test themselves across a certain distance, compete against other runners, and even raise money for charity. However, organising a race takes a lot of work, and organisers do not always get it right.
There are plenty of ways in which races can go wrong, from distances being measured incorrectly, to a lack of facilities, refreshments or information – and the result is invariably unhappy and frustrated runners, and a damaged reputation. We’ve put together some top tips to help you avoid the common pitfalls and help ensure your event is a successful one.
When it comes to organising a successful road race, planning and preparation are absolutely vital. There are a lots of different elements to consider, including choosing the location and route, setting the maximum number of runners, communicating with runners on the lead up to the event, timing the entrants, staffing the event and setting up a smooth-running registration process.
You will also need to think about what facilities and services will be needed on the day. As a minimum, runners will expect decent access to the venue, somewhere to keep their belongings, adequate toilet facilities, a well-signposted route, plenty of water stations, and a medal or similar at the end.
A good strategy is to attend other road races and learn from what they do (and don’t do!) well. The Reading half marathon is a particularly well-organised event with a popular route, excellent facilities with hired Templant power generators to ensure a consistent supply of power throughout the event, and a great finish at the Madejski Stadium. Incorporating elements of successful races, such as Reading, will help you make your event a success.
Watch your budget
The last thing you want to do is lose money on your event, so from the outset it’s important to have an understanding of how much the race will cost to put on. There is a huge number of potential items you will need to pay for, including permit fees, chip timing equipment, medals, goodie bags, refreshments, portaloos, venue or marquee hire, and promotion and advertising, to name just a few, so make sure you go through things with a fine tooth comb to ensure you have all elements covered. Once you know how much the race will cost you can devise a strategy to cover those costs, whether that’s through entry fees, sponsorship, or a combination of the two.
This is a hugely important point, but one that some organisers surprisingly overlook. Before you begin organising and promoting your event, make sure that you gain permission from the local authority and that you have all the relevant permissions in place. Failure to do so could see you having to cancel your event further down the line, resulting in disappointed entrants and lost money.
Engage the local community
Road races can cause a lot of disruption, with road closures and an influx of people, so it’s important to get the local community on side if your event is to be a successful one. Before ploughing ahead with your event, make time to consult with local residents and local businesses to find a way that you can work together and minimise disruption. In the run up to the event, be sure to circulate lots of information about the race so that people are aware that it is happening and can make alternative arrangements if their routine will be disrupted. It’s also a good opportunity to encourage local residents to turn up on the day and support the runners, or even volunteer to help out.
Promote your event
There’s no point putting the effort into organising a race if nobody turns up, so it’s important that your event is adequately promoted. Social media is a great tool for this so consider setting up an engaging and informative Facebook page or similar in the months leading up to the event. Additional promotional activities to think about could include sending out targeted emails, advertising in running publications and Internet forums, asking local running clubs to help spread the word, and advertising or placing stories in the local media.
As you can see, organising a road race takes a lot of work and forward planning, but, if you do it properly, it is hugely rewarding. Just remember to carry out some post-race evaluation so that you can do it all again, but even better, next year!