DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World

I finished the Louisville Derby Half-Marathon and noticed the thousands of finishers' medals waiting for their owners. How do race directors figure out how many medals to order for any given race without getting stuck with too many, or (worse) too few?  I figure that they don't order one for everyone who's registered. But then you don't want to be caught short. - Bob

Thanks for the question, Bob.  On first-time events, it is always difficult to determine how many of anything to order.  The interesting point, however, is that there are four numbers we are all usually working with and they are all different. These are the number of participants who...

  • Register for a race
  • Pick up their registration material
  • Start the race
  • Finish the race

Generally, races know what their no-show rates are. Usually, these can be anywhere between 5% and 25% of those who enter the race. If you know what yours usually is, then you can order your medals based on that. So, let's say I have 2,000 entrants and my no-show is usually 20%. That would mean 1,600 would start. Not all will finish, but most will. So I would just use a 100% finishing rate. I would also add about another 5%-8%, just to cover myself. So, add another 160 back — and maybe even "round up" to order 1,800 medals.  
Others may do something different. But in the end, you're right: You don't want to be caught without enough.   
By the way, some companies may take leftover medals back and melt them down, giving you a credit toward your next order.