Running

5 Pieces of Advice Race Directors Wish They Could Give You

Longtime race director Carl Ewald polls the running community to see what they would say if they had no constraints.


race advice

Race directors are bursting with advice they wish they could give you. Here are some of the best tips. / Photograph courtesy of iStock

The internet has expanded our connected world in a great many ways. But candor is not one of them. In today’s environment, with the fear of backlash on social media, most people have been in a situation where they stayed quiet to avoid conflict. With race competition higher than ever, that’s certainly the case for race directors.

So, we asked a few dozen race directors, if they had the liberty to do so, what might they tell runners that they don’t want to hear. Here are a few of the things they reported.

Please do everything to avoid sending an email/calling in the last week. Planning races takes months. Hundreds of tasks must come together in that last week for a race to go off successfully. Dozens of vendors and contractors must be choreographed together. A good race director will send out an email the week of the race with all the details. She will then get dozens of replies asking questions that are specifically answered in the very email the runners responded to. Please, read through the emails, check the website, and then Google it before you send an email during race week.

Please don’t bring your dog.  Over the past few years, runners have requested personalizing their race experience in several ways. They want to run with dogs or roller blades or scooters. Often, these emails come with an implicit or explicit threat that, if the race director does not allow the request, the runner will not register. Introducing dogs (or skates or bikes) produces new risks and can potentially alienate other runners. We want you to have a great experience and love our race. Please enjoy it as it is planned.

We legally cannot allow you to “just” use your friend’s bib. Runners who run under another person’s bib have not registered. They have not filled out a waiver. The race doesn’t have emergency contact information for them. If a race director allows someone to run who has not gone through the registration and waiver process, the insurance company may void the director’s insurance plan or impose $10,000 penalties. That’s why we need you to follow any rules regarding transfers or exchanges.

Most races are organized by small mom-and-pop organizations. There are only a handful of races that are organized by large corporations. The vast majority are organized by small businesses and nonprofits. When you bandit — running a race without registering — that money comes from the race director. She’s already bought the materials, paid the police, and worked long hours on your behalf. The last registration fees of a bandit come out of her ability to pay the bills or from a charity program’s budget.

Pee early.  This one is easy. Mom was right. Do it now. There will never be enough port-a-potties if you wait.

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