Dave McGillivray writes about what it's like to run races he directs.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I’ve always wanted to be a drill sergeant. Why? Because they never tell a recruit to do something they can’t do themselves. They’ll say, give me ten and then get down on the floor and do ten, too. Well, I feel the same way about putting on races. I’d never want a participant in a race to do something or experience something that I wouldn’t want to personally experience myself as a runner.
As such, I’ve decided to run in a number of races that I direct or my company, DMSE Sports, Inc., manages. Such recent races have included the Run for the Dream 8K in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Run to Remember Half Marathon in Boston, the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon and Festival (ran 5K, 10K, and half marathon) and the Bellin Run 10K in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
In each race, I ran with a voice recorder and recorded any and all interesting things I saw or personally experienced. One benefit of doing this is that I get so caught up looking around and focusing more on what I’m seeing and experiencing that I usually feel “no pain” when I’m running!
So what exactly am I looking for, you ask? Here is a simple list of just some of the things that I look for and which I am sure most other runners may not even remotely be either sensitive to or interested in.
- Are there any long lines anywhere, at registration and at the port-o-johns, in particular?
- What is the “look” of the start and finish venue? Is it clean and professional looking?
- Did the race(s) start on time?
- Could you hear the PA announcements? Was the announcer effective?
- How crowded was it on the course? Once you crossed the start line could you run your own pace or not?
- Were there enough water stations? Were the tables spread out? Enough volunteers to hand out water?
- Were there mile markers and clocks? Were they in the right locations?
- If it was a closed course, did cars get onto the course?
- Was there adequate public safety throughout the event?
- Enough medical on the course and at the finish?
- Did you ever get confused on the course as to which way to go?
- At the finish, was there an appropriate amount of refreshments, that is, food and drink?
- Did they have an awards ceremony? Did it drag on too long?
As you can see, this list could go on and on and on…and it usually does. It’s easy to criticize someone else’s race but to critique your own is an interesting challenge. How critical should you be on yourself and your staff? You know all the challenges that went into pulling off the event so maybe you would have a tendency of cutting yourself some slack or even being “defensive” with yourself.
I’d love to say my own events are perfect but they are far from that. The beauty about running in my own races, however, is that I learn more about what worked and what didn’t and when others comment on the same I can either agree or disagree from personal experience.
Another thing I’ve learned in running my own races is that it can be a very different experience in the middle of the pack than it is up with the leaders where I usually am on a lead motorcycle or at the back of the pack where the slower runners or walkers are bringing up the rear. A race director has to plan for three different races – the race up front, the race in the middle, and the race at the back - all of which present very difference experiences and specific challenges.
Lastly and quite selfishly, it is fun running in my own races since I am able to get my own workout in during the race vs. having to have to do it after a long day directing and feeling very tired and sluggish and as such blowing it off many times. I guess having a great team of race management people around me has its benefits, too!