road race management

TIPS AND TRICKS: HEAVY LIFTING

DAVE MCGILLIVRAY

More often than not, runners arrive to the race site about one hour before the start. Everything is usually all set up by then. Do they ever wonder how that all happened? Who set up the scaffolding and truss, what about the photo bridge or the bleachers and all the barricades and fencing? What about the tents and staging and the sound system? Who moved all the pallets of food and water into place with forklifts? Contrary to popular belief, it didn’t all just fall out of the sky…or did it? So, who exactly does all of this “heavy lifting” at road races?

As with everything, the answer is probably different for different races. The one thing that most races probably agree on is that volunteers shouldn’t be doing this kind of labor. So then who does it? In most cases it is either expert vendors who handle it and/or the race has a group of experienced, paid consultants who are strong and skilled at doing this type of work and heavy lifting.

Some tips when using paid consultants:

  • Consider hiring folks who have a license to drive a forklift and are experienced at doing so.

  • Same with consultants who are experienced and licensed to drive large trucks.

  • Experience is critical – guys who know what they are doing and don’t need a lot of instruction are so beneficial. Many times, time is of the essence.

  • Younger and stronger – you need some of these people. Don’t expect older folks or volunteers to be lifting, hauling, or toting.

  • Venue management – assign a knowledgeable consultant to each significant venue (e.g., start, course, finish) who knows exactly where and how things go. Someone on your team should always be present when the vendor arrives to drop off equipment, as you want to be 100% sure it all gets delivered exactly where you want it.

  • Loading and unloading trucks – again, there is a science to this. Knowing how much weight a truck can handle and staying under that limit is a law. How you load a truck can make all the difference in the world in saving time – what goes in the back and what goes up front.

  • Payment – you have to determine how much to pay all these folks and whether it is a day rate or hourly rate. Agree with them in advance (preferably in writing, at least via email) what each team member’s pay rate will be and whether it is a day rate, hourly rate or negotiated fee based on duties prior to race weekend. Try to be consistent and fair since they WILL talk about this with one another regardless of what you tell them.

  • If these consultants are working out of town, it is normal and customary to provide transportation, lodging and meals in addition to their pay.

  • After hours and even outside of race weekend, provide the consultants with opportunities for socializing with one another. These team building activities will help maintain a consistent and more harmonious staff in the long run.

Some tips when using vendors:

  • Have a written agreement with every vendor detailing out exactly what they are responsible for.

  • For example, if a vendor is bringing you 100 tables, is it their responsibility to set them all up where you want them, or are they just required to deliver them to one spot and then your crew will distribute them? Same for breaking everything down – does your crew have to gather them all into one location?

  • Include in the Request for Quote and/or signed agreement the delivery day/time and the post-event pick-up day/time to avoid problems.

  • Provide vendors with both detailed equipment/material lists and site plans or floor plans. The detailed lists will be used by the salesperson for quotations and the warehouse for loading items. The site plans and floor plans will be used by the field staff for actual set up.

  • Cellular numbers – require that the vendor provide you with the cellular number of the person who is delivering the goods. If they are late or your plans change a little, you want to be able to reach out to them directly to communicate with them. It is your event, not theirs, so you will be the one to blame if they mess up or don’t show!

  • Trash – no one likes to be responsible for picking up trash or emptying out barrels. Hire a company that provides this service or partner with a “sustainability” (recycling) consultant to work with you on this sensitive aspect of the race.

No one said putting on road races was easy (or light) work!!

TIPS FOR DEALING WITH ROAD RACE MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS

TIPS FOR DEALING WITH ROAD RACE MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS

No matter how meticulous your planning, sooner or later something unexpected is going to occur that is going to require you to make on-the-spot decisions. Veteran race directors Dave McGillivray and Sean Ryan offer some tips on what to do (and not do) when disaster happens. 

WATER STATION MANAGEMENT

WATER STATION MANAGEMENT

Lately, I’ve been running in a lot of road races in preparation for the World Marathon Challenge (in fact, when you read this, I'll be a week from landing in Antarctica for the first of seven marathons). I haven’t participated in this many races in such a short period of time in 20 years. Back then, however, I was running fairly well, like in the 6-minutes per mile range. Now I’m closer to 7-minutes or even 8-minutes a mile. It’s a different experience running with the masses versus running closer toward the front with the faster and more competitive folks.

RUNNER CLINICS

RUNNER CLINICS

When I'm hired to direct a race, the client will often ask, “Do you think we should put on a clinic for the runners, too?” I am always torn as to the best way to respond to this. I’ve been to many clinics that were well organized and well attended but I’ve also been to as many or more that bombed, especially in terms of attendance of participants running in the race. It can be incredibly embarrassing to both the organizer and the presenter to be talking to an empty room with only six pigeons and three squirrels present.

WHO OWNS AN EVENT?

WHO OWNS AN EVENT?

There was a time when I thought a road race could never be sold. Who would buy it and what exactly would the buyer be buying anyway? Today, however, races are now being bought and sold left and right. Boy, did I miss the bus on that one.

RACE DAY: YOUR LEAD VEHICLE PROGRAM

RACE DAY: YOUR LEAD VEHICLE PROGRAM

As event directors, our focus tends to be on making sure our course is an accurate and safe one, that we have plenty of water to distribute, that our race starts on time and that we deliver quick and accurate results…all extremely important aspects of producing a successful event.

WHAT DO I NEED FOR SIGNS?

WHAT DO I NEED FOR SIGNS?

I used to think the more signs (operational and functional signs, not sponsor signs) at an event, the better. However, throughout the years, I’ve come to realize more is not necessarily better, and it's not simply the number of signs but many other factors that come into play. 

THE LAST RUNNER

THE LAST RUNNER

When managing our races, we tend to focus a lot on the elite leaders in the race: we make sure they go in the right direction, they follow our lead vehicles, and they're cheered on by thousands of spectators. However, what about the last runner(s)?

RACE DAY EFFICIENCY REIMAGINED

RACE DAY EFFICIENCY REIMAGINED

Imagine not having to close online registration until the start gun fires. Imagine only needing five volunteers to manage number pickup for 10,000 people. Imagine ZERO data entry for your timer!

A ROAD RACE DIRECTOR SHARES HIS PET PEEVES ABOUT RUNNERS

A ROAD RACE DIRECTOR SHARES HIS PET PEEVES ABOUT RUNNERS

I am a race director, but I was a runner before I was a race director, so I’m not totally the enemy. Frankly, I think of myself as a runner first and then a race director.