It seems appropriate at this time that I write a post about Race Directing. As I sit here writing, I am physically and emotionally coming down from directing The Bulldog 50K Ultra & 25K Trail Runs on August 22 in beautiful Malibu Creek State Park, CA.
- 31-miles of rugged, mountain terrain
- 8000 feet of elevation gain and loss
- 600 Runners
- 100 Volunteers
- 5 S&R Medical teams
- 4 Aid Stations
- 4 Ranger Monitors
- 1400 lbs. of ice
- 6 liters of Coke
- 29 Sponsors.
What you see on race day is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface are hundreds of hours of work, planning, meetings, organized training runs, and quite a few sleepless nights.
My husband Larry and I presently manage four popular Los Angeles trail races each year from March to August and the crowning event, The Bulldog, is a huge effort for both us as race directors as well as for all the runners.
From Lamaze to Race Director
Before becoming a Race Director in 2002, my talents always gravitated in the direction of “organizing”, starting with running a successful Lamaze childbirth practice for 20-years, followed by coaching ultra runners and organizing the UltraLadies Running Club since 1995. When my interests changed from child birthing to ultra running, I knew that race directing would be in my future, but when we started there were no certification classes and no templates to follow. Fortunately, Larry and I had vision and we knew from Field of Dreams the whispering mantra of If you build it, they will come; and that’s exactly what we did with the creation of our own first race, the Valley Crest Half Marathon on historic Mulholland Fire Road. People did come and they liked!
The Bulldog founding race director, Ingrid Shattuck, also came and liked, to the extent that she asked Larry and me to take over directing The Bulldog Trail Runs. She felt it would be a very good fit because we had already been supporting the Bulldog aid stations with our UltraLadies for several years. So instantly, we became race directors for two trail races, including an ultra marathon!
I think that one of the most important criteria of being a race director is to anticipate and provide for the runners’ wants and needs. Our years running marathons and ultra marathons around the country perfectly prepared us for knowing what runners say they “want” and what they say they “need” – and there is a difference between the two. My experience as a nurse prepared me for these differences.
- A beautiful and challenging racecourse
- Good value for the money
- Nice swag
- A race organization that prioritizes runner safety while providing for their “wants”.
As a medical professional for years, I created lesson plans, patient care plans and risk management plans, all of which were great preparation for becoming an effective race director.
A good race director will:
- Create very thorough plans for
- race course measurement
- medical care
- road closures
- Food and drink
- packet pick-up
- Have a timeline for each of the above tasks
- Not “reinvent the wheel” every year, but just tweak the plans as necessary.
Being organized allows me to sleep easily as the race day gets closer.
Race volunteers are the backbone of any event and a race with the magnitude of The Bulldog. It really does take a village to bring everything together. An effective race director will appreciate this and will work throughout the year to recruit, train and retain volunteers with the knowledge that come race day, the volunteers will make or break the experience for the runners. To paraphrase a quote I once heard: Being a race director means you spend 364 days dotting each “ i ” and crossing every “ t ” just to turn it all over to a group of volunteers on race day!
This sentiment is humorous but at the same time, very true!
By far, the biggest joy for us is our passion for running and for our community. Running invites people into the sport and the sport of running gives back to the community. The synergy between runners, race directors and volunteers is something special that makes it all worthwhile for us.
As of today, we have directed 31 events including 12 Bulldogs and even three cross-country ski races. I guess you would now call us experienced, but since we aren’t dealing with static objects, things always do seem to change and keep us on our toes. Most important to us is to give our runners quality events that will be beautiful and challenging while maintaining every possible aspect of safety for our runners.
Hope to see you on the trails!