Race start

I have very specific ideas about how races should be organized and managed (I have very specific ideas about lots of things, so it should come as no surprise that this extends to race directing).  When I directed my first race in 2006, I wanted to put on a race that catered to the athletes while raising funds for organizations I care about.  Over seven years later, I have expanded on that vision.  I want to produce races that are different.  I want them to be reasonably priced, provide excellent service and amenities to the athletes and raise funds and exposure for the organizations the races support.  I want to put on a really professional race while still providing a personal touch and local feel.  Runners are important, volunteers are important and charitable organizations are important and I want them to feel important when they race with me. This may sound like a lot of hokey gibberish, but I think I’m coming close to fulfilling this mission.

Fantastic corgi cookie from Cookie Cowgirl

I am race director for three races — Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon, Solstice Sprint 5K and Hogsback Half Marathon.  Each of these races require care and attention.  Planning for the race begins as soon as we put away the race equipment (right now my garage looks like a disaster area, Shaun is going to have so much fun).  Over the course of the next week I’ll go through all the positives and negatives about the 2013 Hogsback Half Marathon and will start planning for changes in 2014 and start making decisions for 2014 on issues such as when to open registration, permitting and pricing.  While the races are a year long endeavor, most of the work comes in the last month before the race and as Hogsback doubled in size this year, there was quite a bit of work.

Shaun and I pre-race

So, first, areas for improvement.

  1. Registration – While I thought we did a good job communicating with runners that the race would sell out, I think the fact that the race has never sold out before caught many runners unaware.  After the race sold out, we received dozens of e-mails / messages requesting “just one more” entry.  I was getting so frustrated with responding that I delegated the responsibility to Shaun.  He wasn’t happy but he was wonderful at addressing runner concerns.  Next year I think we need to be clear up front about how many slots are available and do our best to let runners know that the race will sell out (the reason for field limits is a whole different post).  
  2. Parking – As the race as grown, cars must park farther and farther from the registration area / start line.  For 2014, I am considering parking alternatives.  
  3. Aid Stations – When talking to volunteers, I wasn’t clear on which side of the road the aid stations should be set up.  Next year I need to be clear so runners don’t have to cross the road to get to aid stations.
  4. Water – We had some confusion with getting gallons of water back from aid stations to the finish.  Lesson for next year — more water.
  5. Food – We had tons and tons of chicken left over this year and no left over pasta (the post-race meal was baked chicken, potatoes, salad, meat and veggie lasagna and meat and veggie pasta, apple pie, pumpkin pie, cookies, brownies and rice krispie treats).  Runners — what do you want post-race???
  6. Sponsors – This is my biggest weakness.  I hate asking people for money (or the equivalent).  Most races use sponsorship dollars to fund the race.  With my races, runner registration fees (and lots of volunteered time) cover all expenses.  Sponsors means more services for runners and more money donated to charities but it also requires me to give up control of some specifics.  This is something I need to work on, but its also something with which I struggle.  

Kurt and his piggie tail

Its difficult for me to identify areas that went well.  I want everything to be perfect.  Here what I think we did really well:

  1. The Course – I have nothing to do with this, but the course is gorgeous.  Colebrook is beautiful and late September is the perfect time to run in Connecticut.  
  2. Early Start:  The 8:15 start for walkers and slower runners worked really well and gave even more of our athletes the opportunity to enjoy the post-race atmosphere and activities.  
  3. The Volunteers – We have a great group of volunteers, both regulars and from Running for Rescues.
  4. Runner Services – We did a good job providing runners with a lot of value.  I really liked both our shirts and medals.  Ashworth Awards did an awesome job with the design work and runners really liked being able to choose between a green and pink shirt.  I also loved the awards, both the glasses and the fantastic cookies from Cookie Cowgirl.  I also think we go out of our way to make sure we take care of all of our runners.  
  5. Running for Rescues – I love working with Running for Rescues.  They are a great organization and Jodi Dougherty does a fantastic job.  
  6. The Vibe – I think the race has a great feel.  I can’t exactly describe it, but “it” is there.  
Once of our rescue friends

Overall, I think the race went off really well. It was both a good race and a good experience for everyone involved.  I think we some minor tweaks in 2014, we can make it even better.

Female winner Amanda Kourtz

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05

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