The Four WORST Practices for New Race Directors

As a new race director, sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.

Most people know ACTIVE Network as a race registration software company, but our offerings go beyond that: like marketing, data and insights, timing, and loads of free resources to help race directors to plan and promote events.

We’ve seen our share of race management success stories from new race directors along the way — and had a healthy serving of learning experiences as well.

Here’s a look at ways to learn from others’ mistakes so that you can avoid going through your own.

Worst Practice No. 1: Neglecting Medical Services

There’s no perfect protocol for emergency services at endurance events, but going without a plan is a rookie mistake that can jeopardize not only a new race director’s reputation, but also the safety of his or her participants.

Read 5 Easy Options for Providing Medical Services at Your Event and start drafting your emergency game plan now.

  • For small events: Prepare statements and maps of road closures, blocked areas, and entrances to relay to emergency medical services if you need to call 911. Not sure where to begin? Download our Sample Crisis Communication Plan.
  • For large events: Consider hiring a local ambulance to sit at the finish line, or a specialized medical company to do the preplanning for you.
  • For trail events: Contact volunteer search and rescue groups to stage resources and staff at your event. Often, they will provide services for an agreed upon donation to their organization.

This is also a great time to call in favors from friends who are off-duty doctors, EMTs, or other medical professionals willing to lend a hand (or stethoscope) at your event. Plenty of medical professionals are athletes themselves and are more than happy to trade their services for a free T-shirt or race entry at a later date.

Worst Practice No. 2: Letting a Tight Budget Restrict Your Marketing

The bad news is virtually no new race director has the marketing budget he or she would prefer. Worse, marketing is often the first piece of the budget to get cut. Don’t fall for this trap: You can’t expect anyone to sign up for your race if they don’t know it exists.

The good news is there are tons of free or budget-friendly ways to create a buzz for your event, starting online:

  • Social media is great for targeting potential participants and giving them a peek at the event you’ve worked so hard to create. It’s also a place where new race directors can engage with potential participants. If someone reaches out, be sure to follow up within 24 hours.
  • Email is your most compelling resource to get new participants to register, especially with a compelling, personalized subject line. (More on that below.) Remember to segment your email list into unregistered and registered participants. The last thing you want to do is confuse or spam your existing customers.
  • Instant Ads can be an excellent low-cost option for paid advertising. ACTIVE has its own pay-per-click advertising platform that gives you premium placement in search results. You can also get pay-per-click advertising on search engines like Google.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Get the full scoop in our blog 5 Mostly Free Ways to Market Your Marathon.

Worst Practice No. 3: Not Taking Feedback With a Grain of Salt (or Not Taking Feedback at All)

Step 1: Proactively sign up for one of these 5 Free Survey Tools to Gather Participant Feedback. By doing a little bit of work to ask for feedback now, you’ll be better equipped to make important race management changes down the road.

Step 2: Take every piece of feedback seriously — within reason.

There’s a healthy balance between taking constructive criticism and dwelling on your mistakes. The sweet spot is listening to learn. Try to view constructive criticism in a clinical way. Your event is a machine, separate from you. What parts of the machine worked well? Which parts were weak?

Don’t jump into action right away — as a new race director, you’re going to want to research, test, and react appropriately to make sustainable changes to your event. Ask yourself: Does this fix the problem today or for years to come?

Lastly, know your audience. The internet especially has no shortage of trolls stirring up trouble and taking down small businesses for sport. Disregard criticism from anyone but your target audience.

Worst Practice No. 4: Winging Emails and Hoping for the Best

Emails are the best way to get potential participants to sign up for your event — but they must be deliberately composed.

  • Your subject line is critical — if readers don’t understand or aren’t intrigued by your subject line, they’ll never want to read what’s inside. Review our 5 Tricks for Killer Email Subject Lines
  • The body should be short, direct, and urgent. Active people are busy — and you need to immediately let them know that opening this email was worth their time.
  • Personalize Try asking a question in your subject line and using the recipient’s name, such as, “Charlie, Can You Handle Dallas’ Muddiest Race?”

By keeping these less than best practices in mind, you’ll be better equipped to create success stories at your race. We believe in you — and you should, too.

Remember: every race director started somewhere. Take, for instance, Dave McGillivray: a philanthropist, author, athlete, and road race director we’re proud to call our friend. With the right toolkit and attitude, who’s to say you can’t get on his level?

Consider this your cheat sheet to success as a new race director – check out Dave McGillivray’s advice to his younger self in this quick video: