Preparing for the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race

It’s 6am and I’ve been up for about 20 minutes. This morning, I’m race directing the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race. Although I’ve Run Directed many parkruns, this is my race directing debut. Gulp!!

This post details the preparation for the event largely in summary. A later post will detail what happened on the day and in the aftermath.

Approximately a year ago, I said to last year’s Race Director who was standing down from the role that I’d be interested in taking over and that brief conversation started the ball rolling for my involvement in this morning’s event.

In terms of preparation, things began about 5 months ago. To hold a UKA-affiliated and certificates road race, there are a number of things you have to do to ensure the event is safe for competitors, volunteers and members of the public. These things take time, organisation and patience.

Of course, I haven’t done it alone. I’ve had a great race committee to share the 100s of hours of tasks. These include (in no particular order) Irene, Kirsty, Chris, Darren, Di and Steve.

The event has been running for years and there’s a great deal of experience of preparing for and setting up the event. However, much of this knowledge is kept in the heads of those older members who have been involved. One of the key decisions made by the race committee was to elicit this knowledge and document it in order that in future, the preparation for the event would be easier.

The previous year’s Race Director had passed me information from several prior incarnations of the event and that included lists of tasks that needed to be complete.

With that information, copies of several emails and some background information, I set to work compiling a spreadsheet of tasks that would need to be completed.

The race committee had its first of several meetings and the ball was rolling.

As the race, like many, uses roads, footpaths and private land, one of the key tasks, after choosing the date the event is taking place is to obtain permissions from those responsible for the land.

However, first we wanted to explore the opportunity of using a different course to previous years. Due to the success of the partnership with Ordnance Survey for the club’s 10km Road Race in June, the option of using their facility again for the start/finish was discussed at length. After quite a lot of discussion, it was decided (for simplicity sake primarily) that we’d continue to use the course from previous years and review again for 2014. This decision meant that we didn’t need to have the course measured as our ‘course accuracy’ certificate from Colin Goater could simply be renewed.

Once the course’s route had been decided, we broke down the key responsibilities amongst the committee. These included Race Director (myself), Race Secretary (Kirsty), Marshal Director (Irene), Course Director (Chris). Both Di and Darren brought a wealth of experience having both RD’d previous club events.

Other discussions included mementos. Medals are a popular memento but several of the committee members liked the idea of a technical T-shirt. Medals tend to get chucked in a box and rarely see the light of day. A good technical T-shirt on the other hand can be worn when training, at parkrun, at other races and therefore, in my view ,has a value that is more than sentimental. For the club, all these opportunities provide a means of promoting both the event and the club. Local races do provide T-shirts as mementos but they tend to be cotton t-shirts – great for decorating, gardening and chillin’ but that’s about all. We wanted our memento T-shirt to be a runner’s most popular running T-shirt. The colour, quality and design were all key factors in reaching our target.

In terms of the T-shirt design, we had planned to hold a competition amongst club members to design the t-shirt creative. However, Irene came up with a brilliant T-shirt design which wouldn’t have been bettered!!

To reduce the cost of each T-shirt we found sponsors to offset the cost. In return each sponsor got their logo on the back of the T- shirt. Many thanks Alton Sports, Julian Porter Photography and RunCamp.

Having decided the date, course and memento, the other tasks could commence. I set to work contacting those responsible for the land used to seek permission for the event to go ahead. As the event uses public roads, it is also necessary to obtain road closures so that means contacting the local councils, police etc.

Irene designed the entry form and arrange for its printing.

Chris as Course Director was responsible for the course design in terms of route, signage locations, water station locations, identifying any hazards etc. This is documented in the Traffic Management Plan which Chris took responsibility for. As part of his role, Chris made numerous recces of the course detailing what he found for future reference.

Another critical document that needs to be prepared is the event’s Risk Assessment which details any risks to participants at the event (runners and marshals) and the general public, details how these will be minimised and mitigated. Darren took responsibility for this document.

Irene was responsible for the marshals both in terms of the event’s requirement for marshals in the day with regards the number of, their roles and responsibilities. For a medium sized club event, club members are needed for course setup, manning water stations, marshaling on the course, handling registration, on-the-day registration etc etc. In total about 100 club members are needed. This takes a fair amount of organisation.

We had to deal with the 100s of entrants. As Race Secretary, Kirsty was responsible for communicating with local clubs, entrants from previous year’s events and dealing with the entries as they came in either via online entry systems or postal entries. Kirsty was also responsible for collating entry lists, allocating race numbers, sending out informational emails regarding the event and race instructions. Kirsty also organised the first aid provision for the day.

Over the coming weeks, the committee worked through the task list day by day (in all, there were over 150 tasks to be completed). We used a Facebook private group for discussions and that worked well. We hit a few hurdles along the way and worked as a team to find solutions. It was a great team-effort.

Some of these issues included:

* agreeing the entry fee whilst not knowing all the expenses we’d have
* finding a good deal on the technical T-shirts and getting the brand we wanted to give a small wow factor
* eliciting at least some of the knowledge about the course set up, road closures, start and finish area set up from those with previous experience
* identifying the location of the many signs, water containers, tables, etc, etc that we’d need on the day
* deciding on when to close entry and whether to provide on-the-day entry
* finding the right person in some of the organisations we needed permission from to hold the event and get a response from them

Each issue had to be addressed and a solution found and we got to race day having resolved all the issues to the best of our abilities.

Now we had to deliver the best event we could to the participants. Between the race committee, we’d spent well 100s hours getting to this point.

Each of the race committee gave their all to ensure the likely success of the event. Many, many thanks all.

My next post will detail what we did on the day and after the event to make next year’s event even more of a success.

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