To round out 2014, we’re celebrating Bill McDermott of World Run Day as our Event Director of the Month. Bill’s idea to let people participate in whatever way they want brings people “together” globally, for the love of running. That’s why he stands out as our Event Director of the Month.
Each year for the past decade and a half, the first Sunday closest to November 8 has marked World Run Day. On this day, over 10,000 runners from around the world create their own race, alone, with a small group, or with their community to celebrate running and charitable giving. World Run Day allows participants to become their own race director – deciding what time, how far and where to run, as well as the charity of their own choosing. All runners receive a World Run Day t-shirt and can share their race details online. We spoke with Bill to learn how he brings out the inner event director in all of his runners.
How did you start World Run Day 15 years ago?
Back in the day when the Internet was relatively new, I was experimenting with those programs you could use to print your own t-shirt designs using iron on transfers. Being a runner, I began to wonder what the ultimate t-shirt would be, and that is how World Run Day came to mind. The idea was to let runners decide how they would celebrate, how they would run and where they would run. I debated linking this event to a charity but I realized it was much simpler than that. Every runner would donate to their own charity. We take the pledges and the runners mail in their own donations to their charity.
What challenges did you face in starting World Run Day?
I figured if you just put something on the Internet, it would just catch on. It wasn’t that easy. Finding money to advertise the event and get the recognition was a problem. I spoke with event directors around the world. I would send out the t-shirt design to print up for their events. After awhile, people in faraway places, like Malta, were hosting World Run Day. Year after year we got more people. We reached over 2000 people after the first few years.
What’s your marketing strategy to keeping World Run Day successful and growing each year?
It is not a textbook strategy. I have a website. I’ve been collecting emails over the years. Right now we have over 9000 people in that list – including the media. I use ACTIVE.com and other websites to get the word out.
We also rely on our runners to spread the word in their communities through social media, email and word of mouth. Creativity is key and that’s what people love about this event. It’s like decorating a Christmas tree. Nobody tells you that you that you need an 8-foot tree with a certain amount of lights and ornaments, you get to be creative. Do it in your own way. People love that.
How has technology growth affected World Run Day, especially with the growth in mobile?
Facebook and Twitter have played a major role in getting the word out about World Run Day. People are on their phones and they use them to share their passions, especially running. Our participants get excited when they see that they get to create their own course, or participate in their own town. You can run in the middle of a prairie or at the beach. No need for a permit. Because of technology, we are able to share all of that.
What are some pieces of advice to offer to other race directors who are just getting started?
If you don’t have an event and want to do something that’s low overhead, link up with World Run Day. You can wear the World Run Day shirt but make money for your own charity. There is no need for board meetings or police permits. We just celebrate the day. I invite anyone to join us.
Why did you choose ACTIVE?
You guys are the best. You are the originators of online registration. You’ve got great tools. I often get calls from other online registration companies asking me to switch, but I always stay with ACTIVE.
World Run Day is truly an event for all ages and fitness levels, no matter where you live, how busy you are, or which charity you want to support. There’s just no excuse not to join Bill!