Although it might sound like a simple proposition to run a race, there are many things that you have to anticipate, and things that if you don’t plan ahead for, that can put a huge kink in your event. It isn’t just about the branding, the advertising, and promotion, planning a race from beginning to end is a huge task and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly if you want it to be successful. Having a checklist in place will allow you to pay attention to the big and minuscule details so that you can cross things off your list, or better yet, delegate some things to others. That way you aren’t left micromanaging and missing the “big picture” or missing a “big detail”.
One of the first things you have to do is to define who you are as an event planner and why racers will want to participate. It isn’t enough to just put on a 5k, you have to get runners enthusiastic by creating loyalty or connectivity. For instance, if you are raising funds, then you will want to choose a cause that people are passionate about.
If you don’t know who you are as an event organizer, then you aren’t going to know where your niche market lives or how to target them. So, before you even pick the date, you will want to define why you are having the event and why runners would want to come to it over another race.
One of the biggest concerns you will want to consider is what day to hold your event. If it is a fundraiser, then you might have to hold it quickly. If it is for a charity, then you might want to make it symbolic, like a date during pancreatic cancer month if you are targeting money for pancreatic cancer. Things you will also want to consider is where to have your race.
You might not want to have it in the middle of the hottest months or the coldest, unless that is a part of the uniqueness of your run. Also, before you pick your date, you have to do some investigating to find out if there are other runs on the same one that you will have to compete with. When it comes to local or community runs, being cognizant of what is going on in the community is highly important. So, don’t just randomly pick a date unless you have thought it through and really pinpointed what day is best.
Once you have picked the date, you are going to want to figure out who your target market is, so you know where to find them. Sometimes people make the mistake of throwing out a huge net to catch as many fish as possible instead of throwing the net out in the right place and catching the fish you know will be present.
Social media is an excellent tool for your event. You might want to set up its own Facebook page, Twitter page, Instagram account and any other highly popular social media apps and pages. The more exposure you can get, the better. But, social media is not the only way to promote your run. The traditional ways of putting up banners, posting your event around your community, or even using flyers to distribute to local businesses, are all excellent ways to target runners to come to your race. They are also highly underestimated by race organizers.
The running world in most communities is pretty small. Regardless if you are running a huge marathon or a small 5k, word of mouth can’t be underestimated. Offer referral incentives to those runners who sign up and convince a friend to run alongside. Referrals are a great way to increase your participation rates. You can also use things like coupon codes to trace back to those businesses or online sites that referred to your race. The more buzz you can create the better. And, part of that buzz comes from people trying to get fellow runners excited about running in your event. If you offer things like two for one application registration incentives or a discount for groups, you will be amazed at how quickly your race numbers will rise.
The key to increasing participation rates is to get people to commit ahead of time. The best way to do that is to have an easy way for them to register online and to offer incentives to those who pre-register. That not only commits them to your race even if another one comes along on the same day if they can’t make it for some reason, although unfortunate, but they have also already paid for their registration fee. It is also a great tool for planners to use to be sufficiently prepared to accommodate for race day. If you don’t know how many participants to anticipate, then there is no way to ensure that you are fully prepared to cover the crowd.
One of the best ways to attract runners is to get sponsors onboard not just to help advertise your race, but to supply those extra perks that can be expensive. The more you can get sponsors to pitch in, the more exposure you will gain, and the less you will have to pay for. If you can get people to sponsor you, then it also creates validation for your race, especially if your event is new to the racing world. Many athletes aren’t that interested in trying a new race for fear that it won’t run as smoothly as they hope. Some will sit on the sidelines and wait a couple of years for event organizers to get it right. But, sponsors signal racers that you know what you are doing and will be ready to go on race day. It also gives them additional assurance that you will have the necessary tools to make everything “run” well, no pun intended.
There will be some people who will run the race just to say they did it, while others are looking to “win” something. Although acknowledgement is nice, being rewarded with a prize can be highly enticing for someone who is a good competitor. Even if the reward is that someone will donate to the charity’s intended purpose under the person’s name, that is still something that might make an athlete choose your race over another one somewhere else that isn't offering some "reward".
Although it seems like a fairly simple process, preparing for a racing event can be anything but. If you don’t know why someone would want to run your race, they won’t know why they would want to either. Define yourself, get people onboard, and get the word out to make race day as fun and engaging as possible.