Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Going International

Sorry I have been MIA lately, a lot going on around here. 4 major events within 2 and a half months and planning for next year's calendar can make a race director disappear for a while.

We kicked it all off with possibly the hardest event, The Biggest Loser Half Marathon and 5K, then two weeks later one of our most fun events, Run Scared 5K and then we just finished The Mustache Dache with over 2000 participants and in a couple of weeks we finish out the season with an awesome event, Girls on the Run 5K.

But, the upside to all this craziness now is a pretty good, well deserved break coming up. I am sitting here with my passport in hand signing up for international races! What fun! And what a different experience from signing up for local races.

Even though we come from a very litigious society where there are warnings on everything and for every event you sign away your life rights to the organizers, international events are not like that, but funny in a different way. I have been lucky enough to run in a few other international big events in the past and for almost every one of them I had to submit a doctor's note verifying I was healthy enough to compete. An interesting concept. What if a person gets the note, and then something happens, who gets sued!? The doctor?

Do we really think that this practice will reduce the number of medical instances out on the course. I have no idea really and would love to study the number of injuries and deaths in international races versus US races which typically do not require this step. But, quite frankly, I am too busy now to look into it, and I will just be happy to be eating a croissant on the streets of Paris after my marathon!

Another fun thing about signing up for a big international event is looking at the entrant's list, which one of my future events does post for all to see. Looking through that list and seeing only one Seattle, WA is fun. I guess I will have to run my hardest to represent.

It is thrilling to be planning my own personal running races, as opposed to planning them for you, my loyal and awesome participants. I love you all, but feels good to focus on myself for a little while. See you at the starting line, but please do not be faster than me, I really want to win my category of participants from Seattle, WA!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I'll show you my cart, if you show me yours!

I assume if you are reading this you are somewhat into fitness and health. From that basic premise I assume that your shopping cart is filled with healthy things like apples, carrots and whole grain bread to fuel those long runs? Not so much here at Run for Good!

I do not know why, but I somehow get a perverse pleasure out of shopping in mass quantity for somewhat unusual things for races. 

One of my most memorable shopping experiences for a race happened at a regular grocery store, which was kind enough to donate a gift card for volunteer food. I have been told by many good volunteers that what they crave in the early morning of a race is sugar and carbs. Well, take a look at this cart! I got so many stares, presumably from people thinking I was feeding this to what must have looked like my big brood of children. And, of course the comments from the checkout staff, "Wow, that's a lot of donuts!" Thank you, yes, it is a lot of donuts!

For Run Scared this year we are doing a candy corn tasting bar. So exciting! That is right, did you know there is more than one flavor of candy corn? I found 7 different kinds ranging from traditional to caramel apple to Starburst flavor. After doing extensive candy corn pricing (another fun race director job), it turns out that Bartell's has the best price. When they went on sale last week I took my cart and wheeled on down the Halloween aisle with glazed over eyes and proceeded to pile in bag after bag of candy corn! Do you know how hard it is to predict how much candy corn 1200 people will consume? I still do not know if I got the right amount, I would hate to run low on candy corn. You know this stuff never goes bad either so pile in the bags! I actually use candy corn as a source of fuel for my long runs, its the perfect amount of sugar my body needs (my stomach cannot handle Gu's). So really it is an investment into my running future, right!? 

My mantra this week is, "Do not eat, do not eat, do not eat!"

I always feel slightly awkward about this situation, our runs are supposed to get people off the couch, motivated to be healthy and here we are feeding our participants candy corn. But, I guess running to earn your candy is better than just eating the candy without the run. We usually try to provide healthy items too like bananas and whole grain bread, chili and healthy energy bars. And, what is Halloween without candy? 

What is in your cart!? I bet you it is not as fun as mine! See you in the grocery aisles! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

2 of the best compliments paid to a race director

Yesterday marked the culmination of almost a year of planning for a big national event that we had been hired to help produce. Run for Good was hired to do all the very local stuff, including all things course which consisted of finding a course, getting permits, arranging for street closures and no parking, measuring the course, notifying residents and businesses that would be impacted, marking the course, cleaning up afterward, planning for water stations and medical, getting volunteers out to their positions.. So basically everything that makes a race a race, aside from the finish line festival.

It had been a year of back and forth with the City, hours of planning, hundreds of emails and phone calls. 3 days of going door to door for neighborhood notifications, 4 days of course measurement where literally I walked the entire 5K and Half Marathon courses with my trusty measuring wheel, doing very hard S.A.T style math problems.

It was our first time working for a national race series and it was definitely a learning experience.

After a very harried, very very early morning we had finally gotten everything done and set up, the race had started. My crew and I went back out to ensure that the course was, well, coursing. It was in fact. We saw everyone making all the right turns and volunteers exactly where they needed to be. That fact alone was great enough to ease my stress that had been building about this event.

When we happened upon the Mile 8 mile marker (which were beasts of things to set up) the banner had shifted in the wind so that participants could not see it at all. We stopped to fix said banner when the best 2 compliments came my way, right at the moment I needed them most.

The first was a woman runner, as she saw the mile marker being swung back into place, looked at her GPS watch and said to us, "You know, these have been dead on!" That made my 4 days of measuring seem worth it. The second came literally on the heels of the first compliment. A gentleman running with a Run Like The Wind shirt. Oh, what joy! I ran with him for a few paces and told him I was the race director for that event and he said, "oh yeah, I remember, that was great and so is this!"

A race director's job is hard, often times thankless, we have to take the fall for all the problems, listen to complaints, deal with stress and behind the scenes work that goes totally un-noticed. But, just sometimes, there is something that happens that makes it all worth it. Usually I see it at the finish line when people are smiling, happy and sometimes crying with the joy of accomplishment. Or in the thanks we get after we have donated all of our money. But, sometimes it happens out on the course, when you need it most.

Other compliments a race director likes to hear:
- Heard at Run Like the Wind - "That downhill mile was the best mile of my entire life!"
- Seen at Run Scared 5K - a wheel chaired man, being pushed by a friend, with a beaming smile as they crossed the finish line who said "thank you for allowing me to feel normal and have some fun!" He then made a large donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
- Heard at Run Like the Wind - "That was awful, I loved it!" (Sometimes you gotta be brutal on your participants!)
- Heard at Good Karma 5K - "That was my first race ever and I am hooked!" She then signed up for several of our other races.

There are many others, but it was a long day yesterday and my brain needs a rest.

So, to those two runners yesterday, thank you for easing my morning and I hope you had a great rest of your race!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

For the Love of Our Participants

Sometimes race directors do funny things to demonstrate love, love for our participants that is. This was one of those times. I ordered a batch of safety pins for an upcoming event. I have to admit, I ordered them from China. I know, I feel bad, huge carbon footprint, outsourcing to another country and all. But, they were cheap, plus I figured if I ordered them from somewhere in the States, most likely they had been imported from China originally, so I am just cutting out the middle man. (Look at me, justifying my obviously guilty behavior).

They arrived in a giant plastic bag. All 6,000 of them. Each pin was connected to a group of 9 other pins. All stuck together. Yeah. All 6,000 of them, Well, you can't have participants reaching in and trying to undo the group, getting poked, stalling the registration lines. I love my participants too much.

So, what did I do? I put on my current favorite tv show (The West Wing), sat down on the floor and undid those little clumps and freed each and every safety pin, released it to its own personal freedom! Go forth, be free! That was 600 clumps that had to be undone. After two episodes my fingers were silver from the residue. But, my love for my participants was demonstrated once more.

This is my final pile. 

Making mountains out of safety pins! 

Other things I have done for the love of participants:
  • Waking up before another human being on the planet is awake to get to the park to set up in the cold, dark and rain
  • Figuring out how to cook, transport and keep hot pumpkin soup hot for Run Scared (never again)
  • Baking for hours so our participants can have awesome finish line food
  • Figured out how to keep bottles of Gatorade cold in the middle of a dessert in June with no shade
  • Made sure our favorite furry participants have treats too
  • So many other things, I mean really, my entire job is showing the love to our participants. I hope you agree next time we see you at a race and are feeling the love!!! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Odd tasks as part of my job

One of the things I love about my job is that it allows me to do some pretty unusual tasks as part of my legitimate work day. How many people can say they get paid to count candy corns!?

Today, I spent a few minutes combing through bags of candy corn to find the unbroken ones to count to put into a jar for a fun little fundraiser guessing game for Run Scared 5K. Each guess is $1 and goes straight to LLS and the closest guess without going over wins a prize.

Some other unusual tasks recently have been weighing bags of candy corn to determine how much we need to purchase for Run Scared, researching where to park 18 wheelers in the City of Seattle (surprisingly a hard task), adding "Zombie Horde" to the list of volunteer positions, talking very earnestly to a participant about a team name she was concerned was too long, counting porto-potties at another event  and running corners on a course over and over to see how sharp a turn they really are.

It's not all fun and games though. There are a lot of accounting tasks, list making, insurance brokering and tedious other things as well. But, it is the fun stuff that keeps me going.

All in a day's work!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Let's see what happens when we all work together

I have been at this race directing thing for a few years now and have mostly learned on the job and I have always thought there should be a race director's symposium of sorts for local directors so we can each learn from each other. So, being an organizer I put together a list of local directors and organized a meeting.

We had our first get together yesterday, and while not everyone showed up we had a good mix of people. A trail running company, a company that has been around for a while with some seasoned vets, us and I reported notes to another road racing and tri company. I think it showed how much better we can be as a team rather than trying to each individually reinvent the wheel each and every time. We can be a united front when trying new things with the City, or with marketing or with any number of things. Sometimes you just need some friends.

The best thing I think happened is the beginnings of an initiative to keep things local. The retail world has a 'shop local' campaign, why not a 'race local' campaign? It would raise awareness of where your racing dollars are being spent, which local companies are putting on these races and which local nonprofits are being helped. Perhaps a logo on each and every race? Perhaps one day where we all give a discount to you, the local runner, perhaps a package deal or a punch card or one day where we push a run local campaign.

Now we just need a snazzy name for ourselves!

Do you have any ideas that you would like to see happen on the national running race scene?

Friday, August 23, 2013

I helped a friend move and all I got was this awesome cone!

Yes, that is right. I helped a friend move today in exchange for her letting me keep a cone that she had. Pathetic, I know! I love cones!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A famous follower

Subject: Bernard Lagat (@LagatUpdate) is now following you on Twitter! 

I have never really understood Twitter, what it can do, what its point is, who actually looks at it. I guess that is why we have an awesome Marketing and Communications intern, someone who can really utilize this tool in a way that I never understood. 

Regardless, it was thrilling when I woke up to an email from Twitter with the above subject line. Really!? Bernard Lagat follows Run for Good!? Well, I won't question and I will accept the following of a really famous awesome runner. Hello Bernard, should I tweet about you following us? Will that even be seen by anyone?

Is anyone famous following you? Are you following us on Twitter? 


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Run me to the moon!

Some people aspire to run in all 50 states, or even on every continent. While that is an admirable goal, it ain't nothing! How about a space station!? That is right, our race bibs were sent to space! How cool. 

The story is a friend of a friend emailed me, she was part of a project  put on by NASA and UW and she was looking for extra left over race bibs. I said sure, not really knowing what they needed them for, but I assumed it was for something cool.  We had extra Run Like The Wind bibs and we dug them out of storage and handed them off. 

Only later did I get this patch in the mail and was informed that our humble bibs were part of some grand experiment in space! I will be honest, I am no science and math wiz so I really had no idea what she was talking about, but it had something to do with tracking bodies as they moved through zero gravity and something to do with velocity or some such thing. All I know is that our race bibs were in space and we got this cool patch to prove it. 

So, next time you are thinking about running each state, just remember, we have already been to the moon! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Useless race stuff - bibs, medals and more

We here at Run For Good Racing try to be a little bit green but it is a hard task. Races produce a lot of useless materials. Everything from plastic bottles, to shirts people just donate back to Goodwill, to medals and race bibs. Some of these items are hard to just do away with. You need your bibs for timing purposes, photo identification and safety. The material most used for race bibs is Tyvek, a nearly indestructible material that can be recycled, but it is a pain. You have to pay to have it recycled and send it off to a special company to handle it.

So, what to do with all this useless race material?

Well, here is an idea - make wall paper out of them. Hang them together with their own safety pins and hang them down like curtains. They are usually very colorful and make for a great conversation piece, a sure way to impress your visitors, and you can see your entire race history every time you walk down the hall. It is so satisfying to complete one row and start on another. As a race director I not only put the races I have personally finished but also all the races I have directed as well.

What do you do with your useless race stuff?

I have seen quilts made out of old shirts, coasters made out of race bibs, special hangers for medals, I even recently saw a very cute apron made out of race shirts.

Here is what I do with my medals. I have so many of them now that they are on 3 different door knobs and they provide a nice clangy sound every time I open the doors.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Damn you nice weather!

I have what some would call a "reload" problem. If you read this blog you know that I have an obsessive personality when it comes to checking emails, especially when we have just sent out a big email blast, or posted something on Facebook.

I get an email every time someone registers. Its a good way for me to tell what marketing is working, what is not, what the trends are and which neighborhoods people are registering from.

I have this theory about the weather. One would think that on a nice sunny day one would imagine oneself running a glorious race, crossing the finish line in a sunny park, blue skies gleaming down on your accomplishments. Then why is it that not a lot of people are registering on days like this? It has been gorgeous here in Seattle and registrations have slowed down for a couple of our races. It always boggles my mind when we get a ton of sign ups on the most rainy nasty cold Seattle days. Who would think about running on those days?

Well if you are from here you know that Seattleites do not stay indoors on sunny days, it just does not happen. You see happy people walking on the streets in their flip flops and shorts, lounging in parks and happily biking and running down trails. People are not sitting on their computers thinking about race registrations.

So, I say, damn you nice weather! Please let it be gray and rainy for a couple of days so people are forced inside to browse through race calendars and sign up for our awesome races! But, then, please be nice and sunny, but not too hot, on race day!!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reading Materials of a Race Director

I am about to admit something very personal here - I have reading materials in my bathroom, that is right, mostly magazines and catalogs, like a lot of you, admit it! You might be interested to know that Race Director's reading materials might differ from yours. At least this race director's.

There are the typical running magazines, both national and local. One would expect that.

The interesting thing is the catalogs. I get all sorts of things sent to me. From promotional items catalogs, to safety equipment catalogs, party supply catalogs, and probably one of my favorites is Harbor Freight Tools. I do not know why I love that place so much. Perhaps I fantasize about one day organizing events that are worthy of heavy equipment. I do drool over the shiny brand new cones (if you read below, I sort of have a cone obsession) and the bright orange vests that I dream my volunteers will wear one day! I look at new sorts of items to give out on race day, would you be interested in getting a calculator with a Run Scared 5K logo? Yeah, probably not.

These catalogs are a time suck, but they do make for a great bathroom read! There you have it, personal habits of a race director revealed!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dreams of a race director

You know you are an obsessive race director when...

I have had race dreams many times, most are anxious nightmares, usually right before an event. Things like I have told everyone the wrong date and nobody is there except for participants, or I can't get to the race start and everything I do is preventing me from getting there. But, last night was a bit much.

In my dream I was organizing a marathon. A marathon with only one person, a fast woman. As I was walking the course in the morning, I realized that the course was marked with faint chalk. I happened to have a highlighter built into my shoes (dreams, right!?), and quickly realized that this was just the thing I needed to mark the course. I went along until time was running out and I had to get to the start. I ran over there (the start happened to be at my childhood home in Seward Park) only to realize that only half the course had been marked. I sent her off on her marathon start and ran back out to the course hoping to beat her to a couple of tricky turns so she wouldn't get lost.

As I am out there I realized that it was getting very very hot and that I had completely forgotten any aid stations for her. I panicked.

And then....I woke up!

As I lay there I realized the reality and that this nightmare was not actually happening. But, as a concerned race director I really truly tried to fall back asleep quickly so I could get back into the dream to get her hydrated. I still don't know if I ever got to her in time. I hope she is OK in the heat!

You know you are an obsessive race director when....

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I have made it as a race director

It has been a long time since I posted last, perhaps that is because Run For Good has been swamped with work, which is a good thing! But, just this morning I was feeling anxious, about our upcoming brand new event that needs more participants, or perhaps because of my meeting today with a major sponsor. Anyhow, I forced myself out the door for a run, something I have been very very lax on lately.

My knee has been grumpy the last several months and it has been a frustrating process. As I first started out I was tired, my knee was screaming at me, I was forced to walk way more than I wanted to. I was unhappy.

Then, like a mirage, coming toward me, a woman, whom I have never seen before, running, wearing one of our race shirts! It was our Good Karma shirt from the first year of that race. I smiled, briefly considered trying to take her picture with my phone (thought better of that one) and moved along, beaming.

I cannot believe this is the first time this has happened to me. Other people have reported spotting our race shirts on strangers, but never have I seen it with my own two eyes.

I now know I have made it as a race director. It put a whole new spin on my day! Goes to show that you never know what the smallest act will do to another person's day. I bet you she has no idea!