I was recently contacted by a friendly lady at Eventbrite who was keen to find out a little about some of the good and bad parts of races, and indeed what might make an awesome race. So I put my thinking hat on, pulled it firmly over my ears, and came up with a list.
I have done a few good races, and some great ones. Most of them have small things that would all add up to make one fun race.
The Race :
Hmmm, distance – well, over the last year or so I have loved the Marathon training process and running the races. However, in the future I know I want to change my focus a bit to shorter stuff. One thing I did like about the Cranleigh 15/21 race is that you can choose, at any point until you start the second short lap, whether or not you want to do that second short lap – so in my ideal race I think the opportunity to choose your distance would be great.
In order to support that notion, I guess the only real option is to go for laps. Now, I would not want to enforce 400m track laps on anyone, but I did quite enjoy the looped nature of the Roadrunner race. So, 1 mile loops of an interesting (but flat) course. Maybe a wide (at least one cars’ width, if not two) tarmac path around a lake / nature reserve type area would be nice; plenty to see!
Obviously the mile distance is easy enough to mark for 1 single lap. The 5km distance would be three laps then a 0.1 offshoot to the dedicated finish line. The 10km will have six laps before its finish funnel 0.2 offshoot, and so on, and so forth …
Aid / Water Stations :
Well, in a mile race, maybe this is less important – but as the distances ramp up people are going to want some sustenance. For this, there can be no other comparison than a Centurion Aid Station. These guys show the world how an aid station should be run, the different foods on offer are incredible, and the service would not be out of place at a five-star hotel (even if the fancy dress costumes might be.)
The Crowd :
Quite simply, I have never known support quite like mile 23 / Tower Hill on the London Marathon. The wall of noise is like nothing else, and it’s incredibly supportive. So, we want support like that at the event. From what I have heard, perhaps the best way to achieve something like that is through the use of a beer tent or two – à la night of the 10,000m PBs. Huge crowd support, up close and fully engaged (in a hands-off manner of course) with the spectacle shaping up in front of them can surely only be a good thing for the athletes – and an inspiration to those watching.
Additionally, big screens will allow those who want to step away from the beer tent the ability to follow the race too.
One concern I always have at races is how to keep my non-sporty wife on board, and how she can keep the little one entertained too. The laps nature of the course will help because it means that supporters can see there runner far more frequently. I would also suggest that maybe a funfair/ a carnival/ some other excitement, be on offer to families of those running the race – make it immersive for everyone.
The medal needs to be massive, obviously! Strung neatly on a quality piece of ribbon, not one of those horribly tatty bits of nonsense from the cheap-and-cheerful shop. Also, for the (very reasonable) cost of entry there would be free photography included. Again, this was taken from the Roadrunner marathon whose fantastic photographers take a great range of pictures and offer them for free to competitors – a far fairer price to pay than the extortionate offerings at the major marathons.
Well, it has long been a bug-bear of mine that every other sport seems to be able to produce an incredible array of statistics for any given athlete. Take cycling for example – the distances between groups are readily available on screen – but then, so is the pace, the gradient of the current section of course. It would be great to be able to see (at least for the elites) their working heart rate, what their cadence is like at the minute, and an accurate speed/pace on screen comparing with their nearest rivals. We are a data-driven society these days – so give us more data. Hell, a football player is tracked on the pitch these days on almost every available metric – what can’t we do this for elite runners too?
Well, obviously, all of this is going to cost money, but it can be sensible. The Roadrunner proved this with a perfectly reasonable entry fee. Ironman events on the other hand are absolutely ridiculous. Obviously costs need to be met, but I don’t think my mega event needs to be over costly for any runner. The City of London Mile is free, so why can’t my imaginary race be cheap to enter? And to enter, surely using an events platform like Eventbrite has to be the way to go – free to set up an event, large or small, and as an event director I could choose how the payment fee is absorbed either by the entrant, or as part of the entry fee.
Full disclosure :- As I mentioned at the top, Eventbrite contacted me to see if I would like to write a blog post; one that preferably highlighted their super simple online booking system. My brief was to talk about some of the good and bad aspects of races and what I might do if I were to stage my own race. I have not been reimbursed in any way for this blog post or indeed coerced into writing anything in particular – my views are my own etc.