I'll be the first to admit that I am pretty picky when it comes to races. It drives me crazy if they are not well organized. I am annoyed when there are not enough port-a-potties. I am annoyed when the race does not start on time. I am highly annoyed when I do not get the t-shirt size that I registered for. I have been known to complain and whine about these things, as well as other things, at races...just ask Dan.
While some of those things still may annoy me, I now keep my mouth shut. Let me tell you - there is A LOT that goes into planning and directing a race. More than I would have ever guessed. Need proof? Just take a look at me. We're about 1 week out from the race that I'm planning, and I'll tell you the sight of me ain't pretty. Bags under my eyes. Messy hair. No make-up. Tired. Stressed.
And, my race is relatively small - around 600 participants. I can't even imagine trying to plan a race of greater size and distance.
Extensive planning goes into putting on a road race. Dealing with local officials, police etc can be (is for me) extremely frustrating. There is a lot of red tape. There is a lot of resistance.
And, it's expensive. Most road races are not big money makers.
Ever wonder exactly where your entry fee goes after you enter a road race? Producing road races has become a significant business that comes with a lot of risk along with a lot of hands in the till. The days of simply throwing down a chalk mark in the road, yelling out “ready, set, go”, letting the 200 or so runners fend for themselves as they weave through traffic jams they actually caused themselves and then finally handing a popsicle stick with a number (place) on it to runners crossing the finish line…are long gone.
Here, however, are the days where producing a road race is more about insurance, liability, medical coverage, media, security, technology, computers, charities, food and entertainment and less about road cones, ribbons and tear off stubs as in the good old days. And, of course, all this “new stuff” just costs more and more and more money. Additionally, where and when the race is held also contributes to the ever-increasing expense of an event. The days where “everyone” involved offered his or her services free of charge are also gone.
I got a phone call this morning from a lady in a neighboring town who called to ask me about putting in a road race. She was not a runner, had no idea how to go about putting on a 5K but wanted to know where to begin. My first question is…. why do you want to do this? Her response is pretty common - “to raise money for xyz cause”. My reply is that it is a lot less painful and much less risky to hold a car wash or cake sale and you may even raise more money doing that then delving into the complexity of road race management.
Without corporate sponsors, whether cash, product or services, it is virtually impossible to “make money” conducting a road race. Each race is different, of course, and as such, incurs different expenses. However, every race must deal with standard expenses in order to produce a half decent product. Typically, some of those expenses include but are certainly not limited to:
|Medical||Timing and Scoring|
I have found that generally, entry fees can usually cover reasonable event expenses. It’s the cash sponsorship that ultimately makes the difference in an event generating proceeds. Without cash sponsorship, the chances of the event making any money is pretty slim in most cases. And, in the current state of the economy, I've found it pretty hard to secure big sponsors...
There are tons of other things for race directors to deal with - finding and managing volunteers, guessing the right sizes of t-shirts since typically sizes need to be turned in 2 weeks prior to race day, dealing with the chip timing company, selecting awards, and more.
So, this is my thank you to all the race directors out there. You will not hear a peep from me anymore :)