25 February 2017 – Athlone I.T.: I always saw a race director as a stressed looking individual busily moving around a race transition zone – clipboard in one hand, phone or walkie talkie in the other. Telling other people in hi-viz jackets where you can and can’t park your bike, or what time wave 3 was off.
A few years later I am that man, and found myself on a rainy Saturday in Athlone I.T., at a TI hosted “Event Summit” for race organisers. Btw, the indoor athletics arena there looks superb – full of kids doing relays and sprints under a noisy roof.
My expectations were to learn from others who had been in this game longer, particularly to hear about marketing, safety, suppliers, equipment and volunteers. Another 25 people from all over – Omagh to Kilrush to Mullingar to Ballina. From well established races to newer races to professionally run races. I was surprised by the age profile and experiences – turns out most are learning the ropes too, so we could all learn from each other.
Here are the thoughts that I took away:
- Bingo games are great icebreakers at the start to get people moving around and talking
- Marketing and sponsorship were one of the biggest challenges. Patrick Murphy from Atomic, gave a really good talk on how we should focus on a brand image/memory and not just race details. That overused word “experience” does mean something. Ask yourself “what would Nike do?” if they were promoting your race. Check out their “Find Your Greatness” series.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYP9AGtLvRg
- Race experiences have been really well done in my opinion by people in the Adventure Racing scene (Quest Killarney, Dingle Adventure Race, Gaelforce, Tough Mudder), by IronMan, by Virgin Night Run, etc.
- Focusing on your core customers: i.e. past participants, local clubs, etc was good advice
- Creative & cheap ideas like public toilet ads or local radio spots were new ideas
- Sponsorship should really tap into businesses who want to focus on employee wellbeing. We’ve been successful with our duathlon series on this front.
- Local sports partnerships can really help with junior events, equipment or event funding, training course and local promotion, although club experience varied by country. Belpark has benefited in DLR CC by connecting with other running/cycling clubs and getting equipment grant funding.
- We also got an entertaining and informative talk on weather forecasting from John Innes of www.sailaweigh.ie and South Coast Tri Club in Youghal. John has a long sailing background, so brought us through met charts, from high to low pressure fronts, over a few isobars, under a bit of fog, around a few choppy patches into the reality of contingency plans and the horror of cancelled swims or changed bike courses. His website has some excellent weather forecasting websites.
So I left invigorated. One of the guys said “yeah sure it’s work but it’s enjoyable too.” So true. I get a kick out of putting this even together and seeing how great volunteers can make a huge event take place. You just show up and 2hrs later are done with a banana, a t-shirt and a drink. Next time think a little when you’re racing on the bike, of the months that went into making it happen. A “thank you” to a marshal goes a long way.