Ka-Ching – Do I Really Want to Run in Your Race?

Okay another one of those old fart soapbox posts, so if you don’t want to read about my whining and blathering, this is a good place to stop. Especially if you tend to get your knickers in a bunch very quickly about one of running’s sacred cows.

I was looking at what races I think that I want to run over the course of the rest of the year and got to thinking about some of the races I have run in the past.

Believe it or not – not all of my race experiences have been positive and it has not had anything to do with how I ran.

The causes, charities, organizations and for-profits that seem to dominate organizing races nowadays do not always give the race experience we anticipated when we willingly, well coughed-up, errrr paid our registration fees for “their” race. I won’t even get into how much races cost in this post that is saved for another day.

I guess that is what bothers me, is that so many race organizers seem to believe or have the attitude that it is a privilege for us to run in their race/event and support their cause. Is it?

Now I know that organizing and putting on a quality race is a LOT of hard work, takes time, planning, LOTS of coordination and yes, more than a little up-front money for all the incidentals runners have come to expect when we decide to run in an event. Unfortunately, it is has been my experience on more than a few occasions that I have come to believe that many causes, charities or for profit businesses are seeing runners as simply another revenue stream.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t begrudge any organization attempting to raise funds or even for profit companies making a tidy little profit – after all that is the way it is and this system has given runners a multitude of race opportunities that we didn’t have in the past.

However, don’tyaknow that runners are “running” dollar signs?

Providing a Service

Unfortunately, from my perspective as runner and prospective race entrant – race organizers, your cause’s or organization’s need for money or to turn a profit from your race, is your thing, not mine. Especially, since in reality I am paying a registration fee for a service that you are providing, whether you want to acknowledge or like it – or not.

That service is:

• Providing a venue for me to run in a race/event with other runners and having a good experience while I am there. It doesn’t mean that I will run a great race, but it means that I will have the opportunity to do so.

Yeah it changes the perspective when you look at paying for a race that way – a lot.

My race selection factors

To be quite honest, the cause, charity or for profit organization, that my race registration supports is very seldom a big consideration, when it comes to choosing a race to run in.

What are the factors that I look for in a race:

  • What is the distance
  • Date
  • Location
  • Cost
  • Are any friends running it
  • The course
  • How much extra for day of the race (I tend to wait to the last minute to register)
  • My goals for the race
  • Have I done it before (was I happy with how things were done)
  • The cause (I won’t run in a race if I don’t believe in the cause, just being honest). Where the money goes becomes a tie-breaker for me, if there are multiple races in the area on the same day.

You can see from my list the importance that I place on supporting causes – unless it is a very specific one that I do really believe in and yes there are a couple that I strongly support. It is more about the actual race than what or who is organizing it.

In other words your cause or wanting to make a profit is not the reason I am running in your race.

What is important?

However, when race organizers focus so much on their cause, organization, or more likely the amount of money they can raise as a result of putting on the race… it has sometime seemed to me that they seem that they overlook something, well something very important when it comes to their event, err race.

The runner’s race/event experience:

  • Was it easy to register (online, in person or by paper and snail mail)?
  • Is there a monetary penalty for registering the day of the race?
  • Is packet pickup done efficiently?
  • Is there adequate parking for the number of runners/volunteers expected?
  • Port-a-potties or enough bathrooms for the number of runners expected?
  • If a t-shirt, hat, or some other running gear is included in the registration price, is it decent?
  • Do we have to stand around listening to people pat themselves on the back (err give long-arse speeches) before the start of the race?
  • Do things go off on schedule and are thing well organized?
  • Are there estimated pace zones (otherwise known as starting corrals) setup at the start or is it mill around smartly and then play dodge the walker after the race starts?
  • Is the course safe? Are police or volunteers at crossing points to manage/control traffic?
  • Is traffic a concern when running the race?
  • Water stops if necessary, if necessary are there enough?
  • Was the course properly marked so that runners unfamiliar with the area do not get off course?
  • Is there a pace vehicle or bicycles to show race leaders where to go?
  • Were there volunteers strategically placed at areas where runners could get lost quickly?
  • What kind of timing system was used?
  • Were there goodies (fruits, power bars or drinks, etc.) available to runners after the race?
  • Results were posted so that runners could see how they did?
  • Awards ceremony done in a timely manner?
  • If photos were provided by the race, were they posted online in a reasonable time and runners made aware of the website they were going to be posted to?

Those are the kinds of things that are important to me as a runner when I run in a race. I am sure that other runners have other or more requirements, but these all are pretty generic listing of what I think most runners would like from their registration fee.

If most of those things are not a part of my race experience, it is doubtful that I would return the following year.

Cause Races

Now don’t get me wrong many of the causes, organizations and charities that put on races are great and fantastic, but…

Unlike the race organizers or volunteers who are committed and enthusiastic about their cause or charity, I am there to run a race and to compete with myself or other runners rather than supporting your cause. If the money I pay to participate in a race does good things for others – that is a by-product of my running, an added bonus.

It really is not the real reason I am there.

Isn’t that being callous or arrogant?

Quite simply – No.

I am up front that I am not there for any reason other than the running and camaraderie that I am sharing with other runners or the volunteers, unless it is a specific cause that I choose to support.

For Profit

When I choose to participate in a for profit race, my expectations are even higher to have a positive experience – after all they are supposed to be professionals who are expected to provide at the very least – good customer service and a superior race experience.

Honestly

I will give small, local races more of a bye on many things and actually prefer them, since those races are mostly done on a shoe-string, support something close to home and for the most of the people involved really try to do right by the runners who are participating in their races.

However, that hasn’t always been my experience in larger races – even though the race is the focus of some serious money raising efforts. It has been my experience in some races that that the runners (who paid to be there) get treated like an after-thought or worse a tolerated, but not really a welcome guest – you know “one of them”.

Then it really becomes frustrating when runners start to complain about ANYTHING, they are quickly reminded that the cause is the focus of the race, not the participants of some silly-ass race. So unless you choose to be seen as an asshole you just shut-up and deal with it. However, if you are like me you remember what happened and talk to your running buddies and in social media about what happened.

Those same damn runners who happen to be so generously supporting their cause.

You will notice that there are not that many “bigger” races that I have done a second time – there are reasons.

The reality is that

Just because I love to run and race occasionally doesn’t mean that race organizers should expect me to be as enthusiastic about their cause and willingly give them carte blanche to do less than provide the runners who show up to participate in their race/event a positive experience.

Most runners are not high maintenance, totally shallow or want the moon for their races, but we do want to be treated fairly and not looked upon as after-thoughts. We simply want to have a good race experience that day, hang out with some of friends and see if our hard work in training is working or not. After all we are the ones who are paying for the privilege of running during your race.

I guess that I have to just remember in today’s world – races exist more to make money – for someone or something, than they are meant to be an athletic event where we are given the opportunity to challenge ourselves, compete with other runners, while having fun before, after and every once in a while during the race.

Yeah, the bottom line is that I get to choose where I spend my money. I think that sometimes race organizers need to be reminded of that fact and how in today’s world of social media word does get around pretty quickly whether your race is a good one or not.

Will I be running in your race this year?

I don’t know yet, but I do know that I plan to run in more races this year than I have in a long time.