Getting entire families to sign up for your event is a great way to increase your participation numbers. At the same time, you don’t want to alienate your competitive base. While not all or even most competitive race participants are grouches who dislike children, there are those who may find the safety measures needed to appeal to families to be restrictive to their usual race routines.
Furthermore, few competitive runners will be happy if a small child or stroller gets in the way of their path and therefore their time. If your race has traditionally been an event marketed to individual adults, you may get some pushback for trying to bring families into the picture.
Here are a few tips for making your race family-friendly, while keeping it competitive.
Make Competitors Feel Special
If you’re trying to increase family registrations for an existing event, you’ll want to make sure your competitive runners still feel taken care of. Make sure single runners — especially those returning for the event — have specific messaging geared to let them know they’re not being left out. Make sure longer distance competitors have their own party-area at the finish line, preferably with an enforced 21-and-over age limit (Beer garden, anyone?).
Give your competitors their own space and their own registration perks so they don’t feel like you’re edging them out for families. Remember also that there are plenty of competitive race participants who would probably love to have their children welcome at an event. Provide an ample cheering section and encourage families to cheer on their loved ones so that the family-friendly vibe is a positive for everyone.
Race Registration Perks for Families
Give parents a reason to register their kids by offering discounts for families that register together. You’ll obviously have shorter distances available for younger kids and families, and those race registrations won’t cost as much as marathons or half-marathons. But you can encourage families further with 10% off an adult registration for every child under 12 who registers.
Buy-one-get-one-free offers for young children are a great idea as well, so that larger families don’t have to feel like they’re breaking the bank to bring all their children with them. This is also a great opportunity to partner with local family-friendly restaurants who might be willing to offer coupons to participating families.
Make a Separate Area for Kids
You’ll need to make sure children and families have a separate area for their races and post-race celebrations. This is important to keep children safe as well as to make your competitive runners feel like you’re taking their concerns seriously. Stage your one-mile and two-mile runs on a separate course if you can, to allow children plenty of time to finish.
For instance, the Naperville Marathon recently changed their race format to include a Kids Marathon and 5K. You should also consider a child-friendly play area for after the race, so that people with kids don’t have to get in the way of your more serious competitors, and so that the families will feel like this was a worthwhile event for the whole family.
Make sure you have plenty of stroller parking out of the way and in a safe space, too. If you can get some family-friendly entertainment like face painting or a magician, you can make the entire race feel like a carnival event for your families, while still letting your competitive runners have their moment elsewhere.
With the right planning and mindfulness, you can make your race event both family-friendly and competitive without alienating either group.