The anatomy of a race – the inside life of a run director

Race day. You turn up, grab your number, have a laugh with your friends, complete those last minute stretches.

And then… GOOOOOOOO! You’re off. And for both you, and us, with a bit of luck you’ll soon be happily clutching your medal, having had a fantastic day out.

But, there are one or two little speed humps to avoid, bits of admin to complete, and residents to keep happy on the way to a successful event.

Today, I thought it might be worth looking at some of those crazy moments that become tick boxes on the way to running utopia.

So, in a similarly hectic way to how things generally pan out, here’s a whistlestop trip through the anatomy of a race…

  • Find a venue for the start/finish, must have car parking, must want to have runners there! Might be a loop (easier logistics) or potentially a point-to-point (needs more planning and access to public transport).

  • Write the webpage thinking about every minor detail. Draw the route electronically, test the route, trace the route to add voice cues, test the route again with the voice cues. Contact OS Maps and get them to draw the route too and include a link to print your map on the website. Make sure all routes are ridden on a mountain bike before the event. This last point is done despite the weather and in all sorts of conditions!

  • Create tickets on our booking platform, think about what other options you can add – a relay, a shorter distance etc. and create tickets for them too. Design a logo for the event and send a really bad mock-up to our long-suffering designer to make something incredible from bits of paper sellotaped together. Order medals (with an unhelpfully long lead time) and trophies.

  • Advertise the event, create a Facebook Event, load the details on every running event platform known to man, deal with the inevitable feedback of platforms offering to market your event for large sums of money. Do lots of amusing social media posts heading up to the event.

  • Sell tickets, pay commission to ticket selling websites, give tickets away in competitions.

  • Write mountains of paperwork, risk assessments, emergency action plans, medical operations plans, etc. Submit said paperwork to the relevant authorities, wait for some crazy questions and if you are really unlucky get invited to a Safety Advisory Group meeting. Let people you know on the route what is happening, send some emails and do some letter dropping.
From the mountains of Nepal to the meadows and roads of Northamptonshire, our events come with a wide range of challenges, trials and golden moments – and that’s just getting them ready!
  • Build your event team for the day and make sure there are briefing sheets, continuation forms, manual back-up sheets for each checkpoint, a briefing sheet for the marshals in general, a set-up sheet, a breakdown sheet for the checkpoints and information for the baggage team. Order a fleet of vehicles to make this happen for baggage (on a point-to-point), a sweeper van, a set out van and a breakdown van. Don’t forget your registration team who will need queue markers, registration sheets, go beyond merch (that we have ordered three months in advance with no idea how many we actually need!). Not forgetting race numbers , safety pins etc.
  • Also, buy food and squash, some in advance like sweets (not forgetting vegan options) and make sure the Go Beyond fruit cake is baked in a secret location known only to a chosen few and then cut it up into pieces. Pick up more food closer to the day, like fruit and savouries. Pack the food into bags and label the bags for each checkpoint. Fill countless 25 litre water containers, but only at a pace dictated by the water pressure.
  • Wait for the set-out driver to arrive at the end of the day before the race and load them with all of the checkpoint supplies, the food bags, flags, checkpoint boxes which we have already packed with cutters, cable ties, signs, bin bags, first aid kits, checkpoint folders and not forgetting the marshal goody bags, which we have already prepared. Build your WhatsApp group for the event team so everyone know what is happening.
  • Email race day instructions, film and send the race briefing via YouTube, spend time replying to people who have failed to sign up in the 360 days the event has been live online and explain how they can sign up on the day.
  • Pack the van with everything you can think of and some extra stuff just in case. Buy fuel for the generators and test start them just in case.
  • Arrive early on race day, set out registration, put signs up for car park, brief your parking marshals, meet your social media team and set out their plan, make sure the toilets have arrived and they are well stocked. Set up the start/finish line and the PA system, play some cool music, spend some time saying funny comments, call out friends who you recognise who are taking part, and make the odd official announcement too.
bedford triathlon team relays
  •  Make sure your timing team has arrived and are set up to dish out trackers or timing chips. Not forgetting your long-suffering photographer Adrian, agree a plan with him too.
  • Before you know it, it’s time to start the race, sit back for a moment and breathe but then unpack the medals, get the trophies out, get your commentary sheet ready and your prize-giving matrix. Make sure the podium photos are done and posted online. Welcome every runner as if they were the first to cross the line. Keep an eye on the trackers to make sure everyone is going the right way, and thank each checkpoint for their hard work as they close down.
  • Take an occasional call from someone angry on the route; ie… if a runner goes the wrong way or they have to wait for one minute while some runners pass!
  • Celebrate the efforts of the last runner crossing the line, after all they have put in the most effort. Pack down all of the event equipment, empty the checkpoint breakdown van into the Go Beyond van. Go home and put your feet up then post links to the results and photos… pray everyone enjoyed the day!
  • Drive all the vehicles back to the hire shop the next morning, unload my van, sort out food and equipment, repair or replace damaged or missing items. Send out emails requesting feedback and reply to each and every piece of feedback. Thank the marshal team for their hard work and make sure they know the lovely things people have said about them.
  • Prepare the results in a specific format for several statistic sites in France, Germany etc. Deal with any timing queries and calls from people who forgot to hand their trackers back in!
  • Relist the event on multiple platforms, update the tickets, update the website for the following year and start all over again…

It’s a good job I love it – look forward to seeing you at a race soon.