Race Director 101

If you are looking to put on a Road Race, there are a few things you need to do before you start.

Road Race Management Organizing Running Events: The Complete Guide to Staging a Successful Road Race [Order from Here]

RRCA Race Director training and certification [Click Here]

Not sure where to start? [Book on Amazon.com – Organizing a 5K]A quick read to help new races out.
RRCA’s Race Director Code of Ethics – [A Must Read]
RRCA’s Guidelines for a Safe Event – [Please Read]
Race Director HQ [Lots of Great Info]
ChronoTrack’s Guide to How to Plan a 5K [Good document to read]
More Information from Active.com on How to Organize your Road Race [Click Here]

  1. Why do you want to put on a Road Race? That will determine many of the things below.
  2. Are you a Non-Profit, i.e. a 501(c)3? Are you associated with one? – if not, who/how will you receive entry fee funds and sponsorship funds? The IRS will want to know where the money went.  You can use this online cost calculator to help sort out your costs and try out different registration fees to see if a race is within your budget.
  3. Have you created a budget? That is the first place to start. For small races up to about 600 participants or so, you will typically find that a race can cost $5,000 – $10,000. For races 2,000 – 3,000 participants, count on $30,000 – $50,000 in costs (All depending on race distances & location of the race).
  4. Do you have a dedicated Volunteer Committee – One person cannot do it all, a good committee with a good leader is a must for a successful race. For a non-profit, that also means having board members that may or may not help with your race.
  5. What is your reason to put on a race? – that will be your marketing strategy.
  6. When putting on a race – Knowing “who is your client” will help you to keep folks coming back. Who is your client, that is the race participant, your sponsors, and your volunteers. Each will need something different from the event.
  7. Picking your Race Date – First time to put on a race – Start a year in advance. Primetime for road races, spring and fall in the southern states. Your date will largely depend on a date a race timer is available or a venue is available.
  8. Design your course(s) Early, you will be making several revisions. Here is a suggested Mapping tool. RunGoApp.com or PlotARoute.com or WalkRunJog.net or mapmyrun.com . Though they are not 100% to scale for a “Certified” Course.  WalkRunJog.net  or mapmyrun.com or RunGoApp.com or PlotARoute.com does allow you to map out a course. Run the course yourself, if you don’t like it, neither will the participants.
  9. You should also look into getting insurance for your race. RRCA does offer insurance, as does USATF. Personally, I would never put on a race without insurance.  [Good Article on Why you need Race Insurance]   [Kinds of Insurance]

Once you get through those things, the following are some “general” guidelines on how to put on a road race.

Race Directors Checklist

Typical things that are expected for a Road Race:

  • Determine the Following:
    • Race Name
    • Annual Race
    • Race Location
    • Race Date
    • Race Distances
    • Race Logo
    • Estimated registered participants
    • Who is the race benefiting
  • Develop a Race Committee, Race Director, Course Manager, Sponsor/Fundraising Manager, Food Manager, Volunteer Manager, Fun Run Course Manager, Marketing Manager, Registration Manager, etc.
  • Develop a Race Course for the Runners. 
  • Need the course USATF Certified?  What is that, and who can certify my racecourse? [Click Here]
  • If a parade permit is required, get it at least 60 – 90 days prior to race – Costs for Police vary from City to City.
  • Get the Course Certified after it is approved by the Police. [Course Certification]
  • Venue location for Registration and Awards area. There may also be a cost for this.
  • Set up a Website with a Domain name that reflects the name of the race. [Tools are available at RunSIgnup.com]
  • Social Media – Now a major part of getting the word out:  5P’s of Race Promotion.
  • Develop a paper-based (PDF) race application with the following information on the Registration form:
    • Date / time(s) of race
    • Date/time/location for early packet pickup, and race day packet pickup
    • Contact name, phone number, and e-mail address
    • Race Logo, beneficiary logo
    • Sponsors logos
    • Location of start and finish
    • Age division and awards (Age groups should be 0-14 or 0-19 and then 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, etc. up to 70-up or 0-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70+ etc. depending on your budget. The 1st example is referred to as “5 yr. age groups” and the 2nd example is referred to as “10 yr. age groups”) [Race Award Companies]
    • Entry fee/s Pre-register and race day
    • Mail-in Entry where to send check & application: name, address, email, deadline.
    • T-shirts sizes to choose from.
    • Date of Birth and Age
    • Who is benefiting from the race?
    • The website name for more information and can register online.
    • Additional Donation to the beneficiary.
    • Race application MUST have a Waiver Release [RRCA’s Sample Waiver]
    • Location for participant Signature and Date (or guardian if under 18)
  • Online Registration will need to be set up, and match what will be on the Paper form. (Recommend using RunSignup.com)
  • Race pricing strategies – Click Here.
  • Develop a paper race application and have available for PDF on a website.
  • Race entry forms should be out at least 60 days prior to race day.
  • Publicity: entry forms to all running stores, YMCA’s, and sports complexes.
  • Determine Race Location of aid stations, minimum every 2 miles, for 5K halfway point and start and finish.
  • Mile splits to be called (not necessary if you have “large” mile markers on course)
  • Facilities – dressing, showers, restrooms, port-a-lets (1 per every 100 persons attending the event)
  • Time and place of awards (time approximate)
  • Course map (This should also be placed on your race web site)
  • Instructions for results to be available on the website.
  • Awards ceremony other things like giveaways, etc.
  • Trophies or awards need to be ordered in advance and available race day.
  • Order race numbers and safety pins in advance or race date. [Where to order Bib #’s] Takes 3 weeks to deliver – Plan to have them in hand 3-4 weeks Before race date.  The timer will have to apply timing chips and participant labels.
  • Get bags for race packet pickup – usually supplied by a sponsor.
  • Create a checklist of things needed for the race.
  • Get your volunteers early. Needed for: registration, start, finish, the course turns, aid stations on course, equipment setup, mile markers out on the course and aid station set up on course, start-finish and start area, awards, clean up.
  • Order adequate number and sizing of T-shirts well in advance. Size Distribution: 17% small, 30% medium, 29% large, 25% x-large and 2% xx-large. T-shirt design with sponsors logos on the back of the T-shirt. (or use the percentages from last year’s race). T-Shirt vendor usually needs 1 month before you need them for packet pickup.  Plan to get shirts with enough time to open boxes, count your shirts to match order, and fold with the label side up for faster packet pickup.
  • Make sure the Volunteer Manager is working to get Volunteers for all the volunteer positions that are needed (Registration, Aid Stations, Course Sentries, Mile callers, Food area, Clean up, etc.) [Volunteer Requitment
  • Plan for Packet Stuffing – this is putting the items into the runner’s goodie bag before packet pickup and having them available to hand out at Packet Pickup. (keep a count of the bags you stuffed, to know when you are done). Also a good time to fold t-shirts (Label side up) and organize boxes, label the sides and fold part of the box to identify easily.
  • Coordination to receive ALL items Prior to packet stuffing will be essential for this to be effective for all parties.
  • In Runners Goodie Bag Packets: (Swag In the Bag)
    • Safety Pins, if used
    • Map of course
    • Information sheet
    • T-shirts
    • Any goodies that a sponsor wish to provide

Pre-Race Day:

  • Make sure you have secured Race Insurance for the Event Date and for Police and Sponsors as needed. No Insurance – No Race!! – get this at least 1 month before race day – you may need the insurance papers to pay for a Parade permit.
  • Have a bad weather Emergency Plan thought out, aid stations, Medical stations, inclement weather, runner down, etc.
  • Order rental 2-Way Radios for Key Committee members if needed (Allcom)
  • Mark the course well with start, finish, mile markers and all turns (Survey Paint – Lowes sells by the case in the paint section. Done 1 month to 1 week prior to race day).
  • Call the police to remind them of the race date and time
  • Call your timer to make sure all is ready for chip timing or tear tag timing [List of local Birmingham, AL timers]
  • Secure race photographer – for large races only, unless you have a volunteer.
  • Secure a Race doctor or paramedic (EMS)  in advance of the race
  • Order Port-a-lets for delivery for Friday or day before the race (1 to 100 participants)
  • Get coolers, cups, sports drink, new water hose, know where you will get water race day for start, finish and aid stations, have the ability to re-fill coolers if necessary (One 10 Gallon cooler serves @ 200 8oz cups that are filled with 4oz – 6oz of fluid) Do the math on how many coolers will be needed PER water stop and finish line. Finish line you may need Double especially if hot weather.
  • Get tables for registration, aid stations, awards, Post Race Food area, etc.
  • Get cash for the day of registration and cash box
  • Get pens/pencils, highlighters for registration
  • List of pre-registers runners for registration table – Timer can provide this
  • Get Pre-registered participants Bib Numbers from the timer
  • Work with Registration manager or timer to utilize iPads or computers for race day online registration and CheckIn.
  • determine where you can access power or get a generator.
  • Blank entry forms for registration – if still using paper.
  • Trash bags for start/finish and aid stations
  • Minor medical: Band-Aids, etc.
  • Secure getting apples, oranges, bananas, bagels, cookies, etc. for post-race food. (coffee for colder weather).
  • Prepare written volunteer instructions for volunteer positions.
  • Email your volunteers with information on volunteer positions and where/when to be at the race. 
  • Make sure your volunteers know your emergency protocol when there is an issue anywhere on course or venue. 

Race Day

  • Registration – Early entry:
    • Allow to pick up packets before race day – this needs to be planned out
    • Provide bags for packet pickup
    • Provide T-shirts (pre-folded (Label facing up) in labeled boxes.
    • Power for computers/iPads for registration & Check-in
    • Set up online registration & Check-in apps for computers & iPads. 
    • Banners, signage for Pre-registered vs. Late Registration. 
    • Cut off online registration before early packet pickup, have an updated registration list available. – The timer can help with this.  (with Online registration No cut off needed)
  • Registration – Race day:
    • Get tables on course for start/finish/aid stations –
    • Table for registration (separate table for form fill-out and for paying)
    • Pre-registration
    • Power for computers/iPads for registration & Check-in
    • Set up online registration & Check-in apps for computers & iPads. 
    • Form fill out – if not using an online registration platform
    • Late registration
    • T-shirts
    • Bags for the t-shirt, and other stuff
    • Update registration list if paper registrations
    • Clearly marked signs for lines
    • Sufficient trained personnel
    • Pencils, pens
    • Cash to make change
    • Credit Card swiper (donations & registrations) Square or PayPal, etc. 
    • Safety pins, if race numbers are to be worn
    • Information sheet
    • Race Day Agenda
    • Emergency contact / Key Race personal phone number lists (hand out to volunteers)
    • Rules for wearing race numbers (front)
    • Previously best times if previously run
    • Previous year’s no., entries, finishers
    • Weather conditions expected
    • Instructions for the finish (chutes, cards, etc.) (Old School method)
    • Statement of courtesy (fast runners to the front, stay to left, etc.)
    • How race results will be made available. Website, printed preliminary results, iPad, Cell Phone.
  • Information Table
    • Signage – Info table
    • Sufficient trained personnel
    • Pencils, pens
    • Safety pins, if runners need them
    • Information sheet @ race
    • Race Day Agenda
    • Emergency contact / Key Race personal phone number lists (hand out to volunteers)
    • Medical Plan
  • Volunteer Table
    • Signage – Volunteer Table
    • List of Volunteers
    • Site Map to direct volunteers (plenty to had out to volunteers/participants)
    • Course Map to direct volunteers (plenty to had out to volunteers/participants)
    • Information sheet @ race
    • Race Day Agenda
    • Emergency contact / Key Race personal phone number lists (hand out to volunteers)
    • Medical Plan
  • Donations and / or Merchandise Table
    • Ability to take donations via Cash or credit card
    • Merchandise with price list
    • Donation jar
    • Receipt pad
    • Cash for change
    • Card Swipe and User Id for SmartPhone app (PayPal, Square, etc.)
  • Sponsor / Vendor Tables
    • Did you plan for Sponsors or vendors to have tables/tents/chairs at the race?
    • Determine setup and location for tables/tents/chairs needed for sponsors/vendors (Site Map)
    • Know the rules for staking Tents into the ground
    • Determine Number of tables/tents/chairs needed for sponsors/vendors
    • Determine the delivery/setup of tables/tents/chairs needed for sponsors/vendors
  • Start of Race
    • Start at the appointed time – THIS IS A MUST!
    • Prominently marked starting line
    • Portable PA system for Start and Finish.
    • Use starting gun or Air Horn so all can know the exact start
    • If larger race, ask participants to line up by expected finish time
  • Course
    • Clearly marked with signs and workers, and painted arrows on the road (if allowed).
    • Police protection guaranteed in advance – remind police early on the day of the race
    • Accurately measure course – This is done BEFORE race day.
    • Monitors at each turn OR Large turn arrows so all can see
    • Lead vehicle to clear the course (optional) and lead runners
    • Follow-up vehicle behind the last runner (SAG Wagon)
  • Splits of Mile Signs
    • Vehicle to carry out and pick up timers – Course Manager
    • 10K: 1, 3, and 5 miles minimum
    • If timers are used, make sure they are trained in calling out times clear and loud and make sure accurate reliable stopwatches are used
  • Aid Stations
    • Tables, coolers, cups, BPA free water hose, sports drink, and water. Know where you will get your water for each location and have the ability to refill.
    • Small medical kit in the Water Stop tub with supplies.
    • Trash bags, cleanup crew
    • Transportation to and from for workers and equipment
    • Well-staffed with volunteers
    • Well supplied
    • 10K – Every 2 miles and at the finish
    • Marathon – not less than 5 stations plus finish
    • 5K – halfway point, plus finish
    • Hot races – especially well supplied including a station at the start and ‘sponges’ if possible
    • Cleanup crew – Bring all trash and equipment back to a central location
  • Medical
    • Paramedic or doctor on course – for longer distance race 10K and above.
    • Paramedic or doctor at the finish – Required
  • Finish
    • Tables for coolers, cups, new water hose, water, sports drink.
    • Prominently marked
    • Workers to keep finish area clear of spectators
    • Worker to assist runners through chutes
    • Sufficient chutes to avoid congestion – one (1) chute can handle 300 runners, any more than 300 should plan on using “multiple” chutes – Timer will handle this.
    • Electronic timing if available
    • Manual recording by trained workers (back-up)
    • Workers to hand out cards (2 minimum) or collecting “tear-off” numbers
    • Numbered cards with blanks for required information (i.e. name, age, and sex)
    • Workers to keep finishers in line and direct to aid station and results table
    • Portable PA system (Bullhorn is OK)
    • Medical tent with Cots and blankets for 10K to Marathon events.
  • Post-race Food
    • Get tables for post-race food
    • Food can be provided by a store as a sponsor. Ex: bagels, oranges, apples, bananas, cookies, donuts, water, sports drink, etc.
  • Results Table
    • The location where results are posted; Printed results or on Computer, iPads)
    • Table for people to fill out cards (if used – really old school)
    • Plenty of pencils, pens
    • Sufficient trained workers to assist with Finish Cards (if used)
    • A separate table with finish “boxes or baskets ” for “file out” cards. Index cards Pre-numbered 1 – XXX.  The Index cards are pre-stamped with “Name, Age, Gender, Time” for the participant to fill in.  The “Boxes/baskets” are labeled Male or Female and the Age group So you could have 10 baskets, 5 Age groups M/F.  OR you can use Color coding [check Rainbow Racing for details]
    • Trained workers to list top finishers
  • Results
    • Complete results available within a reasonable time
    • Send age group results to Championship Racing for posting to the website. They must be in PDF or HTM format.
    • Searchable results if timer using an online registration platform.
  • Awards
    • Ceremony start on time
    • Results double checked before the ceremony begins
    • Be sure to mark who picked up their award at the Awards Ceremony.  Ask your timer for 2 sets of printed results.
    • Announcer and presenter prepared
    • Consider other trophies: medals, patches, ribbons, visors or ball caps
  • Post Race
    • The race is never really over till all the equipment is cleaned and put away. Coolers need to be washed out and dried. Tables washed and dried.
    • The location where Award winners can pick up their Award if they missed the Awards Ceremony.
    • Store your paper race applications for several years for the Waivers.
    • You can put together a survey and email it out to the race participants Survey Monkey (Free for 10 questions, $40 for a month).
    • Conduct a Post-race meeting with Committee members and review issues and improvements for next year.
    • Set your race date for next year and contact timer for setting the date in his calendar.
    • Send out Thank you letters to All your Sponsors with how the event went
    • Send out Thank you letter or email to all you Volunteers how the event went.
    • Send an email out to the race participants with race results, and link to race Photos.

Packet Pick-Up at the Trak Shak or Fleet Feet – Local Birmingham, AL races.
If you have made arrangements with the TRAK SHAK  or Fleet Feet Birmingham to have packet pick-up at their store there are some new requirements. They are as follows:

  • You will need to provide volunteers to handle the race packet pickup.
  • You need to provide the race packet bags, race numbers, and safety pins
  • Make sure that there is a race information sheet for the runners, to include:
    • What: name of the race, the distance of race(s)
    • Contact information: Name of contact for questions, phone number, email address
    • When: Date & Time of the race
    • How: race entry fee and the deadline for mailing, address to mail entry fee, awards breakout.
    • Where: race location, directions to race location, early packet pickup location along with date and time for early packet pickup. Race day packet pickup location and time awards ceremony location and time.
  • Make sure the TRAK SHAK or Fleet Feet has your phone numbers to contact you if there are any questions.
  • If there is any material other than race numbers and t-shirts that need to go in the bag, please put these in the bags prior to carrying to the TRAK SHAK or Fleet Feet.
  • Make sure that you provide an updated pre-registration list every day that you have packet pick-up.
  • Make sure and stop active.com online registration 2 days before the race day – Talk with your timer as well.
  • Make sure that you bring with you to TRAK SHAK or Fleet Feet “change” to use for cash at registration. The store needs its change for regular business.

Where to Order Race Bibs and Safety Pins: