In March, I provided a number of Road Race Formulas. I’ve decided to add a few more here. As stated the last Road Race Formulas post, I receive a lot of emails from event directors asking me if I have any “magic formulas” when calculating “how much” of a particular product is needed or equipment or having to do with the race budget or administration of the race. I always respond by giving a strong disclaimer that whereas I am happy to offer some advice in this regard, what I am suggesting is not necessarily an industry standard but is just “Dave’s Formula” based on my own personal view of things and my experiences during the past 35 years in the business. In many cases, there is no right or wrong, just personal preferences.

Additionally, with every formula, there can and should be lots of conditions and parameters included because many times “one size does not fit all.” For this exercise, I will limit my responses to races of distances between 5K and 10K and if longer, I will indicate that.

As such, I could write a novel on each one but for the sake of brevity here, I’ll just give my best general response with the caveat that I know everything is conditional and dependent on the unique circumstances each race is faced with. Here are a few more to add to the list I started in March:

What size t-shirts do I order and how many?

FORMULA – if you are able to capture this data when runners register for the race and still have enough time to order your shirts, then that is the best case. However, most of us have to order the shirts well in advance and before everyone has registered so we have to “guess” at what those final numbers might look like. And, if you are committed to ordering both male and female shirts, then the guessing game becomes even more challenging. If your race has been around for a number of years, you have data you can refer to but if your event is new or just a few years old, there isn’t much data to go on. It’s not a perfect science but for me, I have been fairly successful with these percentages for the competitor shirts:

Male: S – 15%; M – 30%; L – 35%; XL – 15%; XXL – 5%

Female: S – 25%; M – 40%; L – 25%; XL – 10%

How many police is enough for my race?

FORMULA – This is always a challenging one because the local police may request or worse require many more police than you feel is necessary or can afford! The key here is to have a GREAT relationship with your local public safety officials first. Redeploying some officials around the race course is also an option sometimes but the timing has to be perfect as you don’t want to leave an active post unmanned. The number of police is more a function of your course than it is the number of runners in the race although there are many variables that can impact how many officers will be needed. A good rule of thumb could be 5 officers per mile. So, if you had a 5K, you might need a maximum of 15 officers. At a 4-hour minimum and a rate of $50/hour, that would cost you $3,000. If a course is a double loop, then you could possibly cut that in half. Again, these are just “round” numbers.

How much can I expect my runners to raise for charity? Per runner average or percentage of runners raising money?

FORMULA – it all depends on the charity and it depends on whether the purpose of the race is to raise money or if it first is just a race for the community with a charitable component. On average, I would think only 10% or so of the runners in a race would raise pledges for a charity. And, maybe the average amount per runner would be about $150. Thus, if you had a 2,000 person race, then 200 would raise $150 which would equal $30,000 which would equal $15 per runner in your race. Again, this is for a non-marathon race.

What percentage of runners should we expect to see in our medical tents? Transports?

FORMULA – Of course the percentage of runners expected to be seen in our medical tents is much higher for marathons than say a 5K road race. The longer and harder the event, the more casualties you will most likely see. Another factor, believe it or not, has to do with how many medical stations, medical facilities and medical personnel you have and how many runners can be accommodated based on the severity of the injury. Regarding the marathon distance, an average percentage seen by medical personnel could be in the area of 3%. A tough day could generate 5% and a really bad day (say temperatures in the mid-80 degrees) up to 8%. Transports are all based on what you have for medical resources at the race itself but if bad conditions you could have as many as 1 for every 500-1,000 runners.

So, if you had 5,000 runners, then 3% gives you 150, 5% gives you 250 and 8% gives you 400. For distances less than a marathon, these percentage could be proportionally decreased, that is, cut by 50% for a half marathon and by 75% for a 10K or 5K.

What is the percentage of race day registrations for races that allow it? 

FORMULA – For races that allow runners to register on race day, the expectations for new registrations can be tricky. Variables include the distance of the race, the race day entry fee, weather, how much promotion and marketing was done prior to the race, how long the race has been in existence when the race opened registration. All that being said, an average number of race registrations could be in the 10%-20%. So, if you had 1,000 registrants going into race day, you might see an addition 100 to 200 to sign up on race day.

Four important numbers – official entrants, number of runners picking up bibs, number of starters in the race and number of finishers in the race…what are the average percentages?

FORMULA – when planning your race, you always need to think of four different numbers or quantities in order to plan properly: 

  • How many sign up – this is your largest number and you need to minimally order this number of bib numbers as you don’t know who is not going to show up.
  • How many pick up their number – many times runners will pick up their number but still not show up on race day or run. Based on historical or average no show rates, you can choose the option of ordering t-shirts and other giveaway items based on this number, but it can be risky if your no show rate significantly decreases for some reason.
  • How many start the race – you need to plan on enough space to line everyone up properly.
  • How many finish the race – you need to base your finish line food and drink based on this number and more importantly the number of medals you order if you provide them.