Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Challenging long held ideas about racing

As a race director these days you have to be creative with new races. As was mentioned in an earlier post, everything under the sun has been done before.

This sort of creative thinking has led me to challenge some long-held ideas about foot races.

The first, and most baffling being the notion that every race has to give out shirts as part of the package deal. Why, oh why has this become a tradition? I realize that people want a commemorative something to show off that they completed an endurance event, something to mark the occasion. And, I get that sponsors want their logo to be seen around the city.

But the reality of the situation goes something like this: most regular runners participate in a lot of events, which results in lots of t-shirts in their running drawer (and, most, like me, can't even close the drawer because it is too jam packed). This results in a lot of those expensive and well thought out shirts either at the bottom of someone's storage unit, or at the Goodwill. This is especially true of smaller races who don't have a budget for tech shirts and have to settle for cotton short sleeved shirts.

The first year I put together Run Scared I did mugs, and people loved them. Why not mugs/hats/blankets/backpacks...These days you can put a logo on just about anything. So, why, oh why, do we still give out shirts at races?

Other suggestions? What would you like to have instead of a t-shirt?

The second tradition being questioned? Well, you will have to wait till the next blog posting about that (we need to iron out a few details before making the announcement).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Obsessive Email Checkers Anonymous

Hi, my name is Ilana, I am a Race Director, and I am an obsessive email checker.

I do not know if this is a phenomenon amongst other race directors or if it's just my own brand of crazy. But, after something public happens related to any of our events such as an email was sent out, or a Facebook mention on something huge (like we got this morning on A Million Cool Things To Do In Seattle for Get a Clue which has over 19,000 likes on Facebook), or registration opening or an ad hitting, or whatever it is; I obsessively check my email for race registrations thinking, naively, that this one thing will make people want to sign up instantly.

After something like this hits I rush to my email, with high hopes, like a kid on Christmas morning, expecting my inbox to be filled to capacity with registration confirmation emails. Sometimes this happens, but most times people sign up at the most random times.

I also find that on days I think would make people think about running outside, like a particularly sunny winter day, or a warmer than normal spring day, that people would sign up on days like that. But, alas, it is usually the really nasty weather days that gets the most sign ups. Perhaps like me, everyone is already outside on days like that and not surfing the web looking for races to sign up for.

So, on days like today I feel like I should start my own support group of obsessive email checkers. I have one of those email programs that automatically updates when a new email comes in, yet I think that if I hit refresh they will magically appear faster than if I had not.

I check it first thing when I wake up and the last thing before bed.

Thank god for Smartphones, or else I would never leave my office!

Even just now, while writing this post, I must have absent-mindedly checked my email about 5 times.

Please, get me some help!

Friday, February 24, 2012

We Have Arrived

You know you have arrived as a race director when:
  • Your friend spots last year's Run Scared t-shirt at the Goodwill (and you yourself haven't donated it). Sort of a bittersweet moment as you want your participants to love and wear your shirts, but that also means that there were enough people at the race to have your shirt circulating through Goodwill. I hope someone buys it!
  • You get harassed by event t-shirt companies, almost on a daily basis, to get your business.
  • Your company gets invited (unsolicited) by REI to their first annual Running Expo at their flagship store (stay tuned for details).
  • You are on a first name basis with almost all the running store owners in town.
  • Other people come to you for advice on how to put on races - I love this and almost all the people you talk to walk away shaking their heads saying, "I ain't doing all that work!"
  • You have companies contacting you wanting to give away their products at your events. In the past I have always had to beg for cool stuff to give away. Now its just rolling in!
  • Being approached by volunteers offering to volunteer on race day. Also, in the past I have had to beg and bribe friends and family. Now for Good Karma (still 3 months away) I already have a good chunk of my volunteers.
Milestones still to look forward to as a race director:
  • Selling out a race in advance of race day - Seattle? You up for it!? Good Karma is open for registration!
  • Landing John Curley as an MC - John? You up for it!?
  • Having one of our races featured in Runners World - Every issue I get in the mail I flip straight to that section in hopes, but alas, not to be, yet! Runners World? You up for it?
  • Getting an airline to donate two round trip tickets as a prize! Alaska Air? You up for it!?
  • Attracting a world-class athlete to participate. Deena, Haile, Paula, Shalane, Ryan? You up for it!?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Odd things found in a race director's car

We are still months away from an event of ours. Yet I still have odd things in my car, things that a non-race director might not have.

Right now in my car:
  • Garden stakes with laminated signs taped to them of various companies and groups - picked up from West Seattle Runner, left over team signs from Run Scared 5K
  • Sponsor kits for Get a Clue, should I happen to be near a business that I think should sponsor an event
  • Posters and flyers for Get a Clue
  • Camping chairs - I frequently find myself volunteering at races or training run waterstops where it is handy to have chairs
  • 200 plastic wrist bands from LifeCenter Northwest that were sent to me for Good Karma 5K that haven't made it into the storage unit quite yet
  • A bag of safety pins that my dad has gathered for me over the last year, so I can save money on ordering safety pins for the next event (isn't that sweet?)
  • A megaphone borrowed from a friend for Run Scared that hasn't been returned yet, waiting till I see her - she is not too concerned over it, after-all, how often do you need a megaphone in everyday life? He is affectionately named Mr. Mega.
Although not in my car at this exact moment the following items have been known to kick around my car:
  • Water jugs
  • Plastic folding tables
  • Empty produce boxes - to store goody bags in for race day
  • Boxes of old race shirts - awaiting a nice Goodwill drop box
  • Timing system bollards - I didn't even know what a bollard was before race directing, and still don't really know, but I had one in my car for that emergency timing purpose!
  • Tarps
  • Noisemakers - for course monitors so they can show the love to the participants
  • Piles and piles and piles of flyers and magazines to stuff into goody bags - so much so that one time my car was so heavy it got stuck in a steep driveway and had to be half unloaded before getting started again
  • Leftover energy bars - good for emergency low blood sugar moments and to give to people on the side of the road who asking for help
  • Cones
Hey, at least I will be well prepared if I ever get stranded in my car somewhere and need to feed, cloth, cheer and time hundreds of people!

You do not even want to know what is in the storage unit, a place that only the strong and brave, and those with quick reflexes (for when the door bursts open because of too much stuff) go to. That is for another post.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Volunteers make the race go around

This past weekend my boyfriend and I volunteered at one of my most favorite local races. I am still on the injured list and thought that I would take this non-running time to volunteer at as many races as I could, to get an insider scoop on other races inner workings as well as giving back a little bit to the community that supports me and my business.

Well, it was hard work! Harder than running!

So, here are some further thoughts on making volunteering a little easier on the volunteers, coming from a race director and a volunteer. Perhaps a little bit more work on the behalf of the race director, but goes a million miles for the volunteer experience. A lot of races I have volunteered for do most of these things and I applaud the ones that do. But, for those that don't please consider them. Every single race should have enough volunteers and if someone has a bad experience volunteering at one race he/she may think every race is like this and never volunteer again.

First, volunteers make your race happen, without them nothing wo
uld get done on race day. Therefore you should treat them like royalty. Have a cup of coffee waiting for them when they arrive, give them some breakfast treats, make sure you have enough t-shirts so they get one, take the time to answer questions, provide hand warmers if its cold....

Second, thank them! It drives me crazy when I volunteer for an event, even one that I absolutely love, and the race director does not bother with a thank you. Even at the event itself, a thank you goes a long way. And, take the time to

send your volunteers a thank you email post race. Be sure to include some interesting numbers in your email, like how much money they helped to raise, how many people were at the race and any positive comments you heard about volunteers from race day. Its free and only takes a few minutes.

One local race company actually goes so far as having an annual volunteer thank you picnic. I love that idea and might adopt it as this company grows a little bigger.

Third, at the event itself, tell your volunteers everything there is to know about their job. I know from first hand experience that race day can be a crazy
few hours and that you do not have time to devote to any particular person or problem like you should. But, there is a remedy, write out in advance every aspect of a volunteer's job and send it to them in advance. Have that job description printed out and have one place where volunteers check in and get their information. Don't make the volunteers track you down. Give them maps and timelines and anything else they might need. It is the worst feeling as a volunteer not knowing the answers to some basic race questions - where is the start line? where are the bathrooms? what time does the race start?

Fourth, if you have any sort of raffle or drawing or door prizes, be sure to throw in the names of all your volunteers so they also have a chance at winning.

So, to all my volunteers: A huge thank you for showing up on cold, rainy, blustery, early mornings and donating your time so that others may have a great time and so that we can raise lots of money for lots of great causes. We love our volunteers!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nothing New Under the Sun

I am in the midst of developing a new event, an event I thought was pretty unique. Apparently I am not as special as I lead myself to believe. Maybe there are just too many people in this world, having too many creative ideas. But, maybe that can play to my advantage because if there are too many people in the world that means that there are plenty of people for each and every good event to have enough participants, right? That is the hope.

It is always an interesting thing to try and start a new event from scratch. You have to answer a lot of questions; Can it be done? Should it be done? How many other people have done it in the past? Would people be interested if this were to be done? How many people would be interested in doing this? How much would they pay? How big should you make it?

Get a Clue Seattle is the new event. It is a clue based/geocaching/romp through the streets/come out of hibernation (it happens the first part of Spring)/discover new parts of the city/rediscover your own neighborhood/learn something new/treasure hunt event. See, how unique does that sound?

Well, it gets even more unique when you add in that the event happens over a two week period, that is right, if its raining, you don't need to get out of bed and fight for parking and stand in long lines. You do it whenever you want to do it. Do it all at once, do one clue a day to drag it out, do it at night, do it during lunch.

It gets even better! There are three different neighborhoods to choose from! Capitol Hill, Queen Anne and Downtown. There will be prizes for people that do all three neighborhoods.

But wait, there is more! All three benefit a very local nonprofit!

My god, does it get any better!?

Apparently it doesn't as I will be competing with a similar event in Phinney Ridge and another city-wide event that happens in April and another event mostly aimed at tourists just in Downtown.

Stay tuned for details on this fun, and utterly unique event idea!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I just want to give away some money!

Jeez, you would think that giving away money would be a more than easy task. It is proving frustratingly hard and I am confused as to why.

Run for Good Racing's whole idea is to produce awesomely fun running events while raising funds for local nonprofits. While planning for a couple of new events I have approached, and been rejected by three separate organizations to be the beneficiaries for these races. I am confused! Free money? Exposure for your cause? Access to new donors?

Are people and organizations so jaded that they think if they are a beneficiary there will be a catch? I think people are afraid of people doing good and don't quite know how to react to it anymore. Or maybe I am just confused.

So, anyone out there want some free money!?