Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do Race Directors REALLY Appreciate Their Runners???

Being a race director --from 5K up to marathons-- has to be one tough job! Each marathon has their own set of issues, including natural boundaries based on the nature of the city/course. But sometimes you have to wonder-- When does a race director start to lose sight on the runners IN the race?

We all know Boston is limited to the best of the marathon world (for the most part). And NYC gets so many registrations they need to limit their races due to the size of the city. But, some of these smaller races are starting to limit themselves!
Example 1 "Run Long, but do it locally" NipMuck Trail Marathon
~If you've read my prior post, you'll see that NipMuck- Man said "NO!" on letting me in the race even though we're a good 7 months out from the race. The reason (states on the website) was that too many non-local runners were signing up for the race and registration was getting filled 'too quickly.' Instead of letting it fill up, first come first serve, they closed it out to their local runners or people who have done NipMuck before, stating "No New Runners!"
~Well the plot thickens my friends: Melanie (AKA Tall Mom on the RUN) wrote to NipMuck- Man to see if she could try her hand at pleading with him to let me in! He not only said no, but also followed up with another reason he shut the race out:  "One reason I made this rule was to cut down on the carbon footprint created by runners traveling long distances to do a race. Run long but do it locally."
~ I'm all about being environmentally friendly and all that, but REALLY??? So, NipMuck-Man, you're telling me that you don't believe people should travel to races and enjoy not only the race itself, but the sites and culture of the places we travel for marathons??? We should limit ourselves to just what is in the non-travel boundaries??? How about I just run TO all my marathons-- would that make you happy???
~How about appreciating that people WANT to be part of YOUR race. They appreciate your hard work and show it by participating.

Example 2 "No Exceptions" Northern Central Trail Marathon:
This is a race that I signed up for and got in-- apparently on the LAST day before they closed out! Some, were not so lucky! Laura messaged me the week it closed out asking if I had gotten in. Apparently she had mailed her app in and after a few weeks they hadn't received it. Being such a small race, who would have thought it would fill up? Apparently since Laura's app was not in before the cutoff, they put her on a waiting list. Not ONE exception? I don't know too many runners that are lying to say they signed up for a race when they didn't!! Most people don't even WANT to run marathons, let alone trail marathons.

Now this is certainly not all races, and not even most! I've seen some incredible race directors who really care about the runners and appreciate that SO many people come out to participate! But, some of these are getting a little crazy. If I decided to start a race or marathon I would be THRILLED if people were calling and begging to participate!!! Wow! What a compliment! I understand a lot of these places have boundaries and limits based on the course and the towns, but 1) 1 extra person isn't going to kill anybody and 2) How many people are there that DONT show up? In a small race, at least 1 or 2.

On top of the field limitations, some races I've seen, seem to forget about the non-speedster marathoners! I've had a few marathons in the 4:20's and 4:30's this year becuse I'm either running doubles, or back-to-back marathons or altitude adjustments. And wow is there ever a difference in the treatment of runners who finish in the 3:40s and 3:50s to the runners who finish under 4:15! The water/food tables are bare-ish and the applause dwindles! That can almost be expected, but the directors job is to make sure there are volunteers encouraging and cheering on EVERY runner as they finish! In the Louisville marathon, the director was over giving awards out while the 5-hour finishers were coming in. Just sad!

My advice?
1. Keep posts up on how far you're away from capacity so people can sign up who are truly interested
2. If you want to encourage local runners, then offer them discounts early on so they get their entries in first
3. If your marathon is getting a little big for the original course, THINK about moving the course a little to accommodate for more runners, and let runners sign up for your race.
4. Sometimes exceptions need to be made on a person-by-person basis. Runners are honest people, if they said they mailed in registration a month before the deadline, they probably did! Yes, you CAN make an exception for one person and not everybody else-- that's why they call you the director!
5. If nobody else is at the finish line and the excitment is gone-- your top priority is to be at the finish line cheering your butt off until your last runner is in!
6. Make ALL runners feel important-- because they are! Have someone call out names over as many finishers as they can... right to the end!
7. Have a "later marathon" supply of goodies/food/drink that isn't to be pulled out until 4:15 or later. That way you know your later racers are getting their share. Ooooh-- and don't let those relay people into the marathon tent!!!
8. Let people worry about their own carbon footprint and appreciate that they have goals that may or may not include traveling. Just be happy that they want to travel to your race.

Sorry for the rant! I needed to get that out of my system. Thanks SO much for bloggie love and support from Melanie!!!


  1. You are very Welcome.. I would never have guessed that would have been the reply.. I wonder how he expects the Kenyans to get to US races? Hmm.. I sure wish the answer would have been different.

    I love your line about running to all your races. HEHEHE!!

    It is such a good reminder to the Race Directors that their purpose is to support, and encourage every runner regardless of Finish time..

    My friend Janice forgot to sign up for her race and it filled up. She emailed and they said No.. I truly cannot believe this. People are begging to get into these races..

    Keep on Moving and be sure to let me know once you decide on one of the MANY Washington races.


  2. Egg Nog Latte at Starbucks. I am told to get part Egg Nog part milk to avoid the sweetness.

  3. Good points, and trying to reduce the carbon footprint is kind of ridiculous, but opening up races to local runners first makes sense. There are many factors which limit the size of the race, and if you have more applicants than you need, letting the locals in first seems completely fair.
    Maybe he could have a waiting list for non-locals.

  4. You may want to remind Mr. Muck about how traveling runners will spend money in their towns thereby boosting the local economy... just saying...

  5. You'd think he'd at least understand that your trying to break a record. I know I want my first full tobe Chicago. I agree with Morgan think of the money that runners bring to the town (we eat well!) and many runners are GREEN so they keep the environment healthy.

  6. Excellent post, and I agree with all your suggestions! It's too bad that there are all these negatives to races, that we pay to participate in.

  7. Wait I have a better story about a race dir. (only a 5k) When Betty a 75 yr old 2 x ovarian cancer surv.finished the ovarian cancer race in alb ny the race director was looking for some older woman that ran the race. Some woman said to her, here she is pointing to Betty, the race director said, No I mean a real runner that ran the race. (Betty looked a little sad,being told she wasnt a real runner) I piped in and said she just ran this race and IS a REAL Runner! Race Director: No you know what I mean a "real runner" not her. and walked away. MY heart broke for Betty. (Steph your Grandmother) But She turned to me in all her wisdom as she had for years and said"We need Bitches like that to run these races because its very hard to put one on" Didnt know this then but she ran knowing she had the cancer back again and took 6 mins off her time!!!!!!!!! Now maybe you know where Steph comes from!

  8. Steph, not sure if I updated you, but the happy ending to NCTM is that they finally got my app and I'm in :) Drop me an e-mail to coordinate travel plans, but I still have the Marriott all booked and ready with a late checkout :)