RACE DIRECTOR TIP: UNIFORM OF THE DAY

DAVE MCGILLIVRAY

Race directors can be very particular about “the look” of their race. A lot of money and resources can be allocated to ensuring a professional presentation of the event. Signage, banners, and balloons all are designed and placed with extreme care. This is no more evident than at many of the iconic races throughout the country as they have the budget and time to spend on this important aspect of the event whereas other races aren’t as fortunate and most simply focus on “the basics” and just get the basic job done.

This really struck me when I worked the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. They went to great extremes to develop an overall theme and look to the Games. Although it was a ton of work and I’m sure cost a boat load of money, it just made the experience so much more special for all involved. 

What struck me, even more, is that they provided a “uniform” for every person who had a role in the Games — hats, shoes, shirts, pants, shorts, belts, jackets and on and on. The fact that we received all this “swag” (stuff we all get) also made us all feel appreciated and was an added incentive for all of us to give our best effort to do a good job.

Of course, not every race is fortunate enough to have sponsors who will donate all this gear or a budget to actually purchase all of it. Of course, in most races all volunteers receive an official race volunteer t-shirt and in some cases like the Boston Marathon and NYC Marathon volunteers may even receive a nifty volunteer windbreaker jacket. Additionally, some races are able to provide a merchandising packet to all members of their race committee to wear during race week.

There is something to be said about what all those in key, visible positions on race day, not just committee members or volunteers, actually wear in carrying out their responsibilities. 

For example, some high-profile positions would include:

RACE ANNOUNCERS – They are usually standing on either the starter’s platform or the finish line announcers stage for all to see. Having the announcer wearing the event gear should be a priority.

OFFICIAL STARTER OF THE RACE – We all careful select who we want to start the race but then sometimes neglect to offer race gear to them to wear while they are on stage. This is not only a must to do but a courtesy in return for those making this commitment to the race.

AWARD PRESENTERS – The same can be said about those presenting awards on the stage at the end of the race. They, too, should be given gear to wear. 

For these positions listed above, sometimes the individual will be happy to wear the race gear but sometimes they prefer to wear what they arrived in. And, of course, it all depends on the weather (as with everyone) as to what they are willing to wear as an outer layer of clothing depending on the conditions — cold, heat, rain, etc.

However, for the next two areas of responsibility, I would highly encourage they be properly outfitted in race gear for two key reasons. First, if you have gear provided by a sponsor (especially a clothing or footwear sponsor), you definitely want these folks to be in “uniform” given the high visibility roles they play. And, secondly, many times I see no attention what so ever given to this important aspect of the overall “look”, especially with those who are asked to hold the finish line break tapes as this can really be quite noticeable in photographs. 

BREAK TAPE HOLDERS – First of all, most races take care in selecting who is going to hold the break tapes. Usually, this is a high ranking community official or a representative of one of your key sponsors or representatives of your beneficiary. No matter who it is, most of the time these folks get in the winning photograph and as such it is important they are dressed properly and with race (sponsor) gear on.

HUMAN CHAIN OF VOLUNTEERS AT THE START – It is becoming more and more common to place a human chain of people across the width of the starting line to keep all the runners behind the line before the start of the race. This group typically walks the lead group right up to the actual start line itself and then stays in place until about 30-seconds to go before the gun fires. As such, they become very visible to the runners, the spectators, the media and photographers and especially to the television audience if the race is being broadcast. It is pretty disappointing to see all these people dressed differently and in many cases not too professionally. It is very important to outfit all of these folks with appropriate and similar jackets, hats and other gear.

So, even though the “look” is often “overlooked”, you can now see how important it is in leaving a lasting and professional looking image of the race. It’s these little details that can sometimes leave a huge impression, sometimes good or sometimes bad.