Shen Valley Track Club

Advice For Organizing a Large-Sized Running Race.
Joseph D. Rudmin, January 7, 2011.


I have frequently run in 5K races since 1983 and I am a member of two local running organizations. I have organized and hosted two small races, and helped with many races, including a few medium-size ones, and two large-size ones. So, I don't feel confident in giving much specific advice on organizing a large race with more than 500 runners. I would suggest asking to help a race organizer of a large race, who has a good reputation with that race. In order to effectively handle the large volumes of registrations, and direct the hundreds of volunteers, the race director will have to delegate authority for every aspect of the race, including financials, publicity, registration forms, legal support, venue and facilities, water stops, results, security, and a sound system. So, the race director will need a formal organization supporting him. For reasons of liability, that organization should probably be incorporated. As with any project, every volunteer organizer should keep a lab book, in ink, with a table of contents, to record successes, failures, and contact information, so that they can build on experience, and pass it on to their successors. With more than 500 runners, large groups of runners will be crossing the finish line at the same time. So, either you will need many parallel finish line chutes, or you will need to contract with a reputable company that provides chip timing. It is strongly recommended that video of the finish line be recorded from at least two different directions, both of which show a digital timer, to help resolve disputes. Runners often like to view such videos after the race. Copies of images from that finish can be sold to runners for additional revenue. Video recordings from mid-race also can help check that every runner ran the entire course, if it should become an issue. For more specific advice, please see the advice for a medium-sized race.

I have some experience helping with one of two water stops in a large 10-mile race. Eight hours before the race, about 5 tables with folding legs were placed in series, about 5 meters apart, along the side of the road. The top of each table was filled with 12oz cups filled with water. Then a cardboard sheet was placed on top of those cups, and another layer of 12oz cups filled with water was placed on the posterboard. The water cups were thus stacked three or four levels high. Next to each table was placed a 15 gallon trash can with a garbage bag filled with water, and several bags of paper cups. As cups were removed from the table, some volunteers would fill cups from the trash can and place them on the table. It was known before the race that volunteers would not able to keep up. So, as soon as one table was completely depleted, its legs were folded flat, and moved off the road. The volunteers then retreated to the remaining tables. Even with all this impressive planning, and with a hose providing additional water, the water station ran out of water! I learned at that race that the most effective way to deliver water to runners is to offer each runner a cup of water placed on the palm of a flat hand. Some volunteers should be placed 10 meters ahead of the water table, so that runners have multiple opportunities.


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