Running A Race – Race Director Pet Peeves

Run a race, I’ve ran a few, but too few to mention….So the old song goes, or it’s something like that.


I’ve run enough races from 5ks to 100 milers to know when a race carters to the running community vs. one that is more about turning a profit to fill the coffers of the race organizers. I can spot a well organized race from one that is lacking any organization. It doesn’t take long to size up an event and figure out if it is here for us (the runners) or are we there for them. Even with the best of races I have a few race director pet peeves.

Race Directors, and their volunteers and staff, I Love Ya…and I’m so very thankful for the jobs you do. I never hosted a race, but I’ve hosted a few large car shows, RC aircraft swap meets and been president of a number of clubs and organizations. I know the job you do goes off with very little appreciation or notice. We could never run the races we do without the love, commitment, effort and hard work that you put into these races most often at a cost to you and your families with little or no pay. I’m forever thankful… My post is not meant to dog on any of you but to take a look at a few of the logistical challenges that sometimes get over looked.

#1 Directions to the race site. To many times (more on small races) I’ve come across directions like this: “Once on Long Run Rd, turn left onto Short Road until you get to the old new body shop on the right, then go a little further until you see the big parking lot for the small church.” These directions might be great for someone who has lived in this small town for the better part of all their life. But for me, an out of towner I have no idea how to put that into my GPS. Race Directors, PLEASE make the directions to your race easy for us to MapQuest, Google or loaded into our Garmins.

#2 The missing race location. The city and state of the race location should be clearly identified on the web page, race flyers or advertisement in the national running magazines. Countless times I’ve been sucked into a flashy ad for a marathon and then spend the next ten minutes trying to figure out just where it’s being held. Most times to my major disappointment it’s out of my traveling sphere. Organizers and their PR staff, In my humble opinion the location of the race should be big, bright, bold and easy to find on all race related advertising…no sense communicating to an audience who just can’t get there.

#3 Age group awards that just don’t fit. I ran this one race really well. Finished near the front, set a personal best and had high hopes. I thought I might be in the standing for an age group award. When the awards/standing were posted I was crushed to find out that my personal best was not only not fast enough…that I had not even made the 50% line in my age group. I was floored…until I noticed that as a 47 year old male (at the time) was running against the 20 something crowd. Competition committee members, please establish the age groups based on some recognized standards or that at least provide a somewhat level playing field. Or am I the only mid 50 something who can’t run with the 20 year olds?

#4 Post a race day schedule of events AND stick to it. This is really important for longer races, ultras and timed races. As a sometimes solo runner for events over 50 miles, I plan my race day support around the event. If the event is providing food as advertised, this is important information for me. In a solo run such as this I plan and count on that meal as an important part of my fueling. On more than one event, I’ve built my race day plan and pacing around the expected “pizza meal” only to come around at the predetermined time to find a bunch of empty boxes.

#5 Start on time. I ran a small to midsized “City Road Marathon” point to point marathon where the organizers had transportation issues getting the “late” arriving runners to the starting line. For the majority that showed up early or on time that called for an additional 45 minute wait. 45 more minutes outside, sitting on pavement or grass with the early morning temperatures turning into mid day heat. 45 minutes into our refueling plan and race day plan. I understand the uncontrollable and I feel for anyone who may have arrived late, but to hold the majority of the field while we waited on the few…just did not seem like the best course of action. Starters….let’s start on time and runners…get to the race on time.

AGAIN thank you to all those who step up and host the races that we get the privilege to run.

What are your race day pet peeves?

4 thoughts on “Running A Race – Race Director Pet Peeves

  1. Amanda

    I’ve been running for a long time, but running races for a short time so I don’t have a lot to draw on. I was, however, disappointed by the swag bag and the finish line at my marathon. They talked big about chocolate milk being available at the finish, but it was fully consumed by the half marathoners by the time I arrived so it probably shouldn’t have been such a selling point. The swag bag was a virtual one, so there were random coupons for locations all over the area…very few within minutes of the finish line. It was a great race and I had a great time, but that was just a little thing I noticed with which I thought they could have done so much better.

    1. Brian Burk

      So sorry for your experience, I’ve heard about similar stories but so far have not had that happen to me. Such a bummer and after 26.2 miles….not sure I would be in the best of moods to deal with that.


  2. Ken Polleck

    Interesting thoughts. I have run over 100 events and really haven’t seen any of these things that you mention (with the exception of just one–a majorly-delayed start of the Cooper River Bridge Run.) In fact, many races start “on time” to a fault…that is, down to the second. Now, I don’t want to suggest that they should delay races unnecessarily or for minor issues, but there have been cases where the porta-potty line just was ridiculously long–maybe due to poor planning by the race committee or maybe due to the runners–but 5-10 minutes extra time could have made a big difference.

    My pet peeve is how hard it can be to find the date/time of races on race web sites. There are so many sites that will promote “race weekend” and list the full weekend, yet it takes a major investigation to figure out what day each distance is being held and their start times. I would love to see a standard format for that data in a rectangle on the home page.


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