Race Director Suggestions

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 had local runner Mike Bertolini, who at 89 years old was still 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:

To Race Directors and Timers:


Since celebrating my eightieth birthday, it has been increasingly difficult for me to remain competitive in races that have age groups extending only up to 70+. Clearly, race directors and race timers should pay more attention to older runners. Consider the following:

1. The number of older runners is increasing.

People are living longer, and the number of older folks is increasing. As the general population ages, so do the runners. Decades ago, many races had age groups up to only 50+. That eventually evolved to 60+, and today 70+ has become common. Now, it is time for extending to at least 80+. Some may argue that it doesn’t make sense to have the older categories because there are so few over-80 runners. The counter argument is that if you have it, and you advertise it, they will come.

2. With computerized race results, it is easy to adjust the number of age groups.

Age groups can be added as needed according to the ages of finishers. Conversely, if there are no older runners, then the older age groups can be automatically deleted. An example of the approach is given in,


3. The incremental costs of a few extra awards is insignificant.

Compared to race entry fees, the cost of a few extra medals to be presented at the awards ceremony is trivial, and should not pose a barrier to having the older age groups.

4. Age-group structure can be tailored to the size of a race.

An article posted on BigDataRunning discusses how the number of age groups, as well as the age-group increments can be structured according to the size of the race, see http://www.bigdatarunning.com/tag/age-groups/.

The article, “Optimum Age Groupings in 5K races” states, “the most efficient age grouping structures have 3 awards per age group and use the following adult age group divisions:

· Races with under 70 total finishers: 18,35,50,65+

· Races with 70 to 129 total finishers: 18,30,40,50,60,70,80+

· Races with over 129 finishers: 18,25,30,35,40,45,50,55,60,65,70,75,80+”

It makes sense to include 5-year increments in the older age groups because the rate of decline in race performance is greater with age.

If all goes well in the next 5 years, you can expect me to be pleading for 85+ age groups.

Best regards,

Herb Townsend