Race Director Suggestions

Here is a list of race suggestions that may help to make a runner's race experience a better one that it already is.  These are good to help improve an existing race as well as things to keep in mind if you are organizing a brand new race.  If anyone has a new suggestion, email it to me, and I'll add it to the list. 
For race directors- these are just ideas from those that love to race!  We realize that not every suggestion can be implemented.  Feel free to email me regarding any of the ideas.

Race Suggestions:
  • Planning your first time charity 5K?  Here are few links to check out:
    A Primer for the Novice Race Director, Organize your first race, How to start a 5K race
  • For a charity race please remember it is indeed a Race that you've chosen as your fundraiser and runners are coming to your event to run a serious Race.  A quote I've heard a few times from both runners and race officials at a couple of charity races was that the organization did not care about the runners, only the amount of money that was raised.  Please, if the runners are an afterthought in your fundraising event, consider a bowl-a-thon or another fundraiser instead.  If your run is intended to be non-competitive, then you should indicate as such- better to call it a fundraising walk, not a 5K race/run.
  • With that said, if you are organizing a 5K Race, you need to have a timer and a fairly accurate course.  Runners are of all abilities are coming to Race- knowing your finish time is important. 
  • Very important- Please check the date for your proposed local race on my calendar (or find a race calendar for your area).  Really try to look for a date that doesn't conflict with another race on the same day (or weekend), in the same county.  Runners can't support two races on the same day and the only people who lose out are the two charities competing against each other for runners.  I've seen it happen more than once where races on the same day, in the same general area, have very low turnout (one race in particular had less than 20 runners).  Don't let this happen to your race.  Just email me if you have a question about a race date in Atlantic, Cape May, or Cumberland Counties in NJ.
  • Include a family rate for races.  As my children get older, I find they enjoy racing as much as I do.  However, $80-$100 for a family of 4 is cost prohibitive.  When choosing a race for the weekend, the overall cost is a factor and we look for a family rate or a student rate.
  • Consider including a 1 mile fun run to involve grade school children.  Many adult racers have children that feel left out.  Parents may not go to a race without an option for children.  Simple participation ribbons for children under 12 are nice (and very inexpensive).
  • Please have at least one water table on a 5K course, especially if the temperature is higher than 75*.  (Yes, I have been on a course without any water in 90*!).  Runners also need a drink after the race, please have ample water at the finish line.
  • In regard to water- use Paper Cups!  Runners can't squeeze the top of plastic cups closed, they break and then spill all over.  Additionally, if any paper cups get swept away due to wind, at least they are more earth friendly (but please try to have volunteers available to pick up the cups).
  • Please post a responsible person at the turnaround or any turns.  This person needs to recognize the racers and make sure they are following the course/ make the turnaround.  More than once I have run right on by the turnaround point without a word from anyone.
  • Bathrooms- Please make sure there is an adequate bathroom or enough port-o-potties available.  Yes, we need to go to the bathroom before and after the race.
  • Announce where faster runners/casual runners/walkers/runners with strollers should be starting.  Walkers/strollers should line up in the back, casual runners in the middle, elites/competitive runners up front.  Also it's a MUST to announce the pace for those in the front few rows (this is usually 6:00 minute/mile pace).  I routinely come across children and 8 minute+ pace folks on the front line that wind up causing tripping/collisions because they are in a place where their speed actually causes a bottleneck for the faster folks behind them.  An easy way to prevent this is to make an announcement at the start line, something like this- "The first two rows of runners are for those running the race in 6 minute pace.  If you don't run that fast, for your safety and the other runners, please step back off the front few rows".  It really helps!
  • If your run is for a 501(c)3 eligible charity, please place this info on the flyer/registration.  Some runs may be missing out on Matching Gifts from participants employers.
  • Make race results available online.  We really want to see our results and finish place online after the race.  On a budget?- I'll post your local race results on NJShoreRun.com if I am provided an electronic document with the names, places, and times of the event participants that I can cut/paste on to the website.  More details on the results page.
  • Don't forget about awards!  Runners come to compete and like to be recognized for their hard training.  Trophies and medals are typical for overall winners and age group winners usually 3 deep.  On a budget- simple generic inexpensive medals or even a home printed certificate is acceptable- just don't skip recognizing overall winners and age group award winners.  Runners train hard to hone their race times, even a paper award is good recognition for our hard work.  
  • Expand age groups to include over 70 age group awards. <15, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70+.  See Herb Townsend's age group letter below.
  • It's nice to include children's age groups awards for 5Ks when there isn't an accompanying Kid's 1 mile race.  <10, 11-13, 14-15.
  • At larger races, use 5 year age group awards.  If you have 250+ runners, you ought to have 5 year age groups. 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 40-44, etc.  Awards can be inexpensive and go a long way in getting repeat year runners.
  • Another option is to go 5 deep awards instead of 3 deep in larger races.  Runners work hard to hone their race times, even a paper award is good recognition for our hard training.
  • If the children's race (like a 1 miler) is competitive, they need their own age group awards.  Typical groups for competitive children's races- <8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18.
  • Trophies and medals are great- however if in the budget how about something different: Pint glasses, mugs, beach towel, running socks, running gloves, hats, something different for us to remember your race.
  • Everyone has cotton shirts, how about the new tech shirts instead?  The cost is coming down for these and they are great to actually run in instead of just a casual shirt.  Mix it up as well, a singlet would be cool as a change.  At one race I got a pair of shorts with the race logo- neat!


The following letter was written by local runners, Herb Townsend and Carol Montgomery.  As part of the ever growing segment of older runners, they'd like to see more races recognize these older age groups individually (60-69, 70-79, 80-89, or 70+) rather than just a 60+ category.  I agree!  At every race, I regularly meet many runners in these age groups (or about to enter them).  They are the folks I see racing just about every weekend.  In fact, right here in South Jersey, we have local runner Mike Bertolini, who at 89 years old still enjoys racing! 
Herb has indicated to me that if anyone would like to use parts of his letter to send to your local race director, feel free to do so. 
Herb's letter:



Recently, Carol and I have entered several local races that had a lot of excellent features, such as a good course, ample volunteers, post-race refreshments, and nice prizes.  However, our enjoyment would have been greater if the results been made more available, and if the awards included older age groups.     


First, consider the age-group issue.  As runners who began competing during the running boom of the 1970’s grow older, the number of older runners participating in races is increasing.  It follows that older age groups should be included in the awards.  


Providing age-group awards for older runners will attract more participants.  We personally at ages 71 and 74, consider over-70 age-group awards one of the most important criteria when deciding whether to go to a race.


Some race directors may argue that too few older runners show up at their events to justify adding the older categories.  Trust us on this one, have them, and they will come 


Moreover, recognizing runners over 70 will encourage younger runners to continue running and competing, adding to the numbers of race entrants in the long-term


Finally, adding awards for the older age groups adds very little to cost of a race (a few medals?) – The additional awards would be more than paid for by the additional entry fees they attract.



With regard to race results, most participants like to view the complete results of a race.  Not only do they want to see their own times and places, but they are keenly interested in the performance of their friends and rivals.  To many age-group winners, the recognition of their performance in the results is more important than trophies or medals.  One of the best ways to make the results available is to post them on the internet.


Making the results available online will definitely attract more participants.  We consider this to be one of the most important criteria when selecting a race


Posting results online adds very little to cost of race (One race management group charges only $50 to post results on their website) – This should be more than paid for by the additional entry fees attracted. 


Alternatively, the results could be posted at no cost on the web site of the host

Organization, or at Active.com.  Call Michelle Ulrich at 856-964-3871 for directions for utilizing this popular Active service.


We also note that posting results on the web where they will attract hits from search engines will help to advertise and promote the race in future years - again at no cost. 


Finally, E-mailing a copy of the results to the sports editor is another great way to distribute the results, and publicize the event, to a wide audience.


Respectfully suggested for making your race more runner-friendly,


Herb Townsend

Carol Montgomery