What are the best local races to include on your calendar? According to the recent Runners Survey most people find races to run based on recommendations from other runners. Now you can get those recommendations without having to actually ask your running friends because I’ve saved you the time! You can use your long run to discuss politics, the best shows on The Food Network or the flaws of the college football playoff system. You’re welcome.
I got responses from just over 100 runners and they were asked several running related questions and the final section asked them to rate 17 local races. I didn’t include every single race in town. There are a bunch of races that are just fun-runs and don’t even claim to be a race. There are tons of “One Hit Wonders” that appear for a year and then never happen again. I tried to select 16 races that had at least two years of successful running and met a basic level of race organization. If you are a race director of an event not listed and want to know how your race scored or you want to be included in next year’s survey, let me know!
Now for some nerdy statistical stuff. I asked for runners to rate the race only if they had run it in the last two years so each race had about 20-30 actual scores to get their average. You’ll notice the scores are pretty darn close! I ranked by the percentage of runners who scored the race “Good (4 stars)” or “Excellent (5 stars).” I also listed the average number of stars for each race which would shuffle the ranking slightly. However, that isn’t really the point here. Is the #1 race MUCH better than the #7 race? Nope. I listed the best scoring events to recognize the TOP events in town. All of these are really well-done races and easily worth the cost of the entry fee. A difference of 0.5 on the average star score is not statistically significant. The spread between all of the races below is 0.66 so all of these races were highly rated by the runners who did the events and the scores are extremely close.
Race % that scored the race 4-5 Stars # of runners Average stars
A note for statistical comparison from last year to this year- the survey site I used changed how the 5-stars system and blended averages are calculated. Last year’s ranking was based on the average stars metric expressed as a %. Confused? I was too for a while. The bottom line is this: If you want a baseline score from last survey to compare directly to this year, I can do that for you. I’m not sure there is a huge benefit to that unless you’re a nerd but if you want it, I can do it!
Many of us take our running pretty seriously and strive to get optimal performance out of our bodies each race or workout. Some of us use all sorts of products to enhance our performance or at least make it more survivable. GPS watches and heart rate monitors to zero in on optimal pace, special compression clothing to enhance muscular endurance, sweat wicking fabric shorts and shirts to keep cool and of course shoes with the latest lightweight foam midsole that will propel our feet faster than ever. Don’t forget the leder hosen and Alpine hat.
My friend, Kevin Love and his band or merry men and women known as the Running Tabs put on a race worthy of German costumes and post-race beer consumption. A course winding through Town of Tioga and ending near World of Beer isn’t a bad way to get in a race. The course was well marked and accurate so those who started drinking before the run didn’t get lost. The race registration included a nice pint glass and tickets for beer. The awards were fantastic. (Thanks Lloyd Clarke’s and Oakley!) Atmosphere after the race included a kid’s game area, music, and of course beer. The whole event struck a nice balance of a well-run, competitive race and a lot of fun.
Since Kevin and his crew set up a good balance, I decided to strike my own balance for the race. I ran hard, competed and took the running part seriously. I also wore a costume, had a beer with friends and completely enjoyed the whole event.
Here’s my note to Race Directors: Set the stage for the runners to have the full range of accomplishment, fun, competitiveness, social enjoyment and a unique atmosphere. If you hit all the bases well, you expand your audience. This race was a first time event and it was not run on a big budget. You don’t have to be a big event to pull it off. You don’t have to be an experienced race director to make it work. A lot of work is involved and having good teamwork with your core volunteers is essential. Gather your vision for an event; get some key people to buy into your event vision and then make it happen! I bet if you showed up at one of Kevin’s group runs, he’d be happy to log a few miles with you and give you his tips! The word is you can get priceless race director advice from him for the cost of a pint of beer.
Accurate mile markers on course- Make it obvious. Use a colorful sign, line on the road etc.
Clear marking on ground at every turn- flour arrows, spray paint, signs, flagging tape, cones, etc.
Confidence markers at a minimum of every 100 meters
Volunteers present at major turns
Appropriate traffic control (Police or volunteers)
Avoid turns for the first 100-200 meters and the last 100-200 meters
Manage the finish chute- Don’t let it back up and have a long enough chute for the fastest runner not the average runner
Complete course safety checks
Appropriate course maintenance completed before start of race
Cutting low-lying limbs
Removing debris along running route
Flag potentially hazardous spots- roots, uneven pavement
Completing one ‘run through’ of the course before the actual race
Accurate times (rounded to nearest second for hand timing or nearest 1/10 of a second for automatic/ chip timing) logged for every runner- may use chip timing, pull-tags and computer or hand timing (for small events).
Results including times for each runner and age groups posted online within 24 hours
One water stop approximately every 2 miles
Adequate volunteers to hand out water
Gatorade available for races over 6 miles
Clearly identify Gatorade stops separately from water stops
Other organizational requirements
Punctual Race Start
Available bathrooms- at least 1 “seat“ per 100 runners
Minimal recognition / ribbons for 5 yr age group awards (9&Under, 10-14,15-19,20-24 etc)
Have a medical plan in place and some level of medical staff on site: Doctor, nurse, EMT, or other trained first responder