Rules and policies — the U.S. government has the Bill of Rights, the Catholic religion has the Ten Commandments, but what does the sport of road racing have? Not a whole lot, really. If you defer to the USATF Rulebook, you won’t find much on what the rule is, say, if someone jumps into the wrong wave at the start or if they want to push a disabled person in a wheelchair.

So, as a race director, where do you turn for guidance as to what the rule or the policy should be for issues like these? Good question! I can’t tell you the number of times I have received calls from race directors asking me what the “rule” is regarding a certain issue. My response: “It’s your race, they're your rules!”

Race directors need to anticipate all the issues and unique concerns specific to their race well in advance. In doing so, you have to determine your own rules or policies specific to all these concerns, some which are unique to just your particular race.

Outside of the USATF competition rules, unfortunately, there aren't a lot of “standards” in our business that we all adhere to. Frankly, most RDs simply determine what's best for their customers and their individual race. Reasonableness and common sense are usually your guide.

A few topics and issues which you may identify with that come to mind include:

  • Runners going in the wrong corral or wrong wave – What is your policy if you “catch” them and they don’t relocate to their proper assigned location? Do you even monitor this or even care?
  • Runners “relieving” themselves in public and not using the race port-o-johns – How do you handle this? Do local authorities get involved? Can your runners actually be arrested for indecent exposure or trespassing? What if a case can be made that you are not providing enough units for them?
  • Headphones – USATF rules leave it up the race to determine if they are allowed or not. If they are not allowed in your race, how do you enforce this?
  • Dogs – Do you allow them in your race? Many races “turn their heads” on this issue as they want to be a family-friendly event.
  • Baby joggers – Same with this one.
  • Handcycles – Do you allow them to participate? If so, do you have a separate division for them with awards?
  • Rick and Dick Hoyt – most know of this inspirational father and son team where Dick pushes his disabled son Rick in a wheelchair. Would you allow this in your race if approached? If so, what is your criteria to allow someone to do this? I am assuming that most haven’t even considered this.
  • Bib transfers and deferments – we all struggle with this one. Yes or no?

And the list goes on and on and on. We all have a list of these unique considerations but do we all have rules or policies for each topic on the list?

Some quick tips to consider:

  • Timeliness  Whatever your rules are, set them well in advance and well before you open registration for your race. Runners should know before they sign on the dotted line what all the rules and policies are for your race. If they take exception to any of them, their option is to not sign up for your race.
  • Communication of rules — Put your rules in writing, especially the key ones, and be sure every participant has the opportunity to read them. Post them on your website, include them in the confirmation email, and insert them into the race packet insert.
  • Penalties for rule violations — Is it just disqualification or something else? If something else, what is that? 
  • Less is more – The fewer rules the better—don't make rules just to have them. You want to project a positive image, not just promote “you can’t do this and you can’t do that."
  • Enforcement – How will you enforce these rules? USATF officials? Volunteers? Race staff? This is surely not the fun part of putting on a race. 

As much as we all may not like to go by rules and as much as we all may not like enforcing the rules, rules are important for fairness and especially safety. You don’t want to learn safety rules simply by accident.

The key is anticipating this all in advance. The more prepared you are and the more you communicate in advance, the fewer issues arise and the less confrontational it becomes for everyone.