DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I've been a runner for most of my life, and I love running in races. I've volunteered at a handful, too, and recently realized I would love to make it a career—working for something like, say, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series. How should I go about meeting the right people and gaining the experience to do this? - Allison
You raise a number of good thoughts here, Allison. First, I think it is great that as a runner and participant in many races, you also volunteer for a number of events, too. Not only is that appreciated by all of us race directors, but just as important, you're learning a little bit about what goes on "behind the scenes" of producing a race. Many runners, unfortunately, do not have a good appreciation for what it takes to manage a race. By volunteering and helping with a few events, runners can get a good sense for the hard work and dedication of the many, many people who make an event happen.
In terms of getting in the business, years ago I would have highly discouraged you from doing so. However, nowadays, things have changed. Many organizations are turning to runs, rides, and walks to promote a cause or raise funds for a worthy cause. As such, there is a proliferation of events these days, many of which may need some expert management assistance. Here are a few organizations you might consider targeting, or ideas you might explore:
- Established event management companies who produce a wide variety of events
- Companies that currently sponsor many races and need internal staff to oversee this division of the company
- Nonprofit organizations and charities who produce events as fundraisers
- Local city or town special events divisions who may be looking for help in managing events within their jurisdiction
Lastly, you could even consider starting up your own event management business.
The keys to getting started in this business are no different than in most other business. First, you need to gain some event experience, so it would be wise to intern or volunteer at as many events as possible. Second: Network, network, network. Use every contact you have to get in the door and meet people.
Years ago, when someone asked what I did for a living, I would mumble with embarrassment, "I'm a race director." Now when I'm asked, I say, "I help raise the level of self-esteem and self-confidence in tens of thousands of people in America!" In other words, although labor intensive and sometimes challenging, this is a great profession to be involved in these days.