The user experience when signing up to a race is important, but don’t worry, at Eventrac we take care of that. How can you curate a day where you minimise waiting times, shorten queues and let participants fully bask in the pre-race nervous hype and the post-race endorphins? Here are our top tips to manage your race day processes, so that your participants get the most out of your event.
Create a Slick Race Registration
If you’re not mailing participants their race numbers, having a well-planned registration area is key to starting your event off well.
Making sure that registration is as smooth as possible can have a huge impact on how participants perceive the events organisation and its professionalism. By reducing the time participants spend, the effort they’re required to exert and the ease of identifying and navigating the process, you can keep spirits high and minimise frustration. This will ensure participants keep those pre-race endorphins up, increasing your chances of boasting great reviews at the end of it. Here are some pointers to achieve this:
- Calculate queuing lanes accurately. Its always best to overshoot if necessary to avoid any long lines, queue jumps or delays in the schedule that could cause issues to your day.
- Registration staff should be trained appropriately to manage your entrant capacity
- Print out spare attendee lists to refer to, for each registration staff member
- Have enough stationary to go around for your staff to make notes and keep logs of any problems encountered which you need to review later
- Have laptops and iPads at the ready to double-check anything on your Eventrac platform
- Have a troubleshooting lane to solve issues as they arise and keep people out of the other lanes so that normal registration can continue. Think about what could go wrong and try to plan for it.
- Be clear about what people need to bring with them. Do they need to show you their ticket? Do they need to present some form of ID? What ID is accepted or valid?
Whether you choose to have a production line of people handing out bib numbers, wristbands, timing chips etc., or you have each member of staff handing out one pack for each person, practice your process and know it down to the T so that you can train your staff accordingly.
Smooth Bag Drop Offs Areas
Having an easy to manage bag drop off and collection area will give people peace of mind when they’re racing, confidence in your event and add to their overall race satisfaction. Here are some tips:
- Advertise your options well in advance via email, on your website and on social media so that participants know what is available and what isn't. Make it clear if you are not prepared to be responsible for lost or stolen items. Explain whether or not you police security in your bag drop, have a steward keeping watch, or nothing at all. Encourage participants to limit the personal property left in bag drop.
- Individualise the process for each person. You could have detachable bag tags on bib numbers, or put a numbered tag/sticker on each bag then write the number on the bottom of the participants bib with a sharpie. We don’t recommend giving participants a ticket as they are likely to lose it during the race, neither winging it with nothing at all!
- Signpost Bag Drop clearly so that participants don’t lose time prior to the race starting. Have a map of the area if necessary at all info points if you need to
- Give yourself space. Bag drop-offs can require quite a lot of room, you don’t want to be treading on other peoples bags to reach one in the corner from the racer who came out first. Stacking systems are a great option if you can afford to rent or buy one to help you manage things.
- Add staff for busy periods when all your racers start flooding back. At the end of a race when runners are tired, achey and ready to pay for a wheelbarrow service to carry them around, the last thing they’ll want is to stand in a long queue to collect their bags.
The Finish Line Experience
When signing up to a race, crossing that finish line will be one of the most anticipated moments of the event that runners will be looking forward to. With weeks or months of training building up top it, you want to make sure it’s worth it! Whether this is a distinguished area separate from the rest of the public, or its a production line leading into the crowds, it's important to plan the layout and process. This way, your tired and star gazed finishers can be swept up in the moment and bask in the post-race glory. Here are our top tips fo finish line experience success:
- Have a photographer at the ready. Racers love finish line photos. Whether you’re selling them or posting them for free, its well worth getting a decent bunch of finisher photos. They capture the moment which will make for some great content that could be emotional, funny or inspiring.
- Brand up the area with yours and your sponsor's logos. This part of the race set up needs to be taken advantage of as people will crowd around it. Make sure the colours and designs on your finish arch, your barriers and your flags are paparazzi worthy.
- Display your medals. Having staff or volunteers handing out medals and putting them on your participants might make them feel appreciated and rewarded for their efforts. There's nothing wrong with having them in finisher bags, but make sure you get some shots of athletes wearing them!
- Stash your merchandise well. You don’t want volunteers having to rummage endlessly through t-shirt sizes, crumpling the remaining. Have enough labels, boxes and sections to manage this well.
- Have enough staff. We know volunteers are difficult to manage, and staff are expensive, but not having back-up when you need to run to the other side of the site to get more XS shirts, or when the wind blows gazebos over, is worse.
Aid Station Management & Special Touches
Having enough water is key, but making sure it's laid out in a manageable format, is the next hurdle. Putting thought into your aid stations can help your runners get PB’s, reduce the stress on your marshalling team and give your event a great profile. Here are our top tips for managing your aid stations well:
- Have different sections for each fluid and nutrition. Make sure your water can be distinguished from your energy drinks and other fluids. Whether this is by having different cups or putting them on different tables, make sure it looks visibly obvious when you glance at it. Keep this layout consistent throughout your race, make sure all aid stations adhere to the same rules.
- Brief racers on the layout prior to the start. Explain the location of the aid stations, what will be offered on them and in what order, so participants can think about what they want and when, to prevent them hesitating at each stop.
- Spread your station out. Not having enough tables will mean runners cram around, increasing the chances of cups falling, liquids spilling and runners bumping into each other.
- Build A Devoted Community of Volunteers. Most ultras depend on loyal volunteers to perpetuate their events. And, for some of the most historic and iconic races, many of these volunteers return year after year to add to the allure of their events. An inspiring example is the group that works the Lookout Mountain Aid Station at the Grindstone 100 Mile in Virginia. This remote aid station, located at the mile 30 and 72 points of this out-and-back course and accessed only by a rough jeep road and not accessible for crews or available for drop-bag service, is staffed by a loyal group from the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners Club for an entire 28-hour shift. These club volunteers have become famous throughout the region’s running community for their friendly faces, deliciously prepared foods, and unwillingness to allow anyone to DNF in their aid station. To help you achieve this, see our guide on Integrating your Race with your Local Community.
- Going Beyond the Call of Duty. There is something a little extra special about those aid stations that seem to have done something a bit more significant than open a table, erect a tent, and throw together some supplies. For example making motivational sings, offering up unique products, playing loud music, creating a cool party vibe, dressing up in patriotic/fancy dress outfits or having foam fingers to cheer, the little touches make all the difference.
- Toilet positioning. There isn’t really a formula for this, but making sure they are positioned at the right mile so that they come at the right time can really make a runners day. Keep them well stocked with toilet paper! An great example of a truly special touch is from the Brighton Lodge Aid Station at the ‘Wasatch Front 100 Mile’, which is captained by a dentist. Each year, the bathroom at this aid station includes a large bowl of toothbrushes already applied with toothpaste. If you’ve never brushed your teeth at mile 67 of an ultra, Brighton is a great place to do it.
So just to recap, if you can get these areas right, you’re on track for an awesome event.
- Getting everyone to the start line smoothly
- Fuelling them up well along the way efficiently
- Giving them an epic finish line feeling
So keep up the staff training, special touches, and planning for every situation, to make people want to return for year on year.