4 Problems Every Race Director Encounters (And How to Handle Them)

Every race director knows that the biggest part of a race is planning it! It can take months or even years to hash out every little detail. But every race director also knows that no matter how well you plan, something will go wrong.

Whether it’s your swag arriving late, your microphone giving out, protests, deaths, or a delayed start – anything can happen, and it can happen to anyone. Before diving into our 10 Commandments of Crisis Communication, let’s go over some race management advice for the situations that every race director is destined to face.

The Weather

“Whether” it’s extreme rain, snow, wind, heat or storms, some sort of inclement weather is going to come rolling into race day. So when looking at a date for your race, choose a rain date, too! Make sure to get permits for both dates and inform participants so they don’t make plans.

If a rain date isn’t feasible for whatever reason, make sure you communicate your refund policy at registration. If you can’t afford to give a full refund, give a partial refund to break even and combine it with discounted registration for next year. Whatever you do, take a unified approach: don’t give a bigger refund to someone with a good sob story or you’ll have to give it to everyone.

When debating whether to cancel or delay your race, think about the end of your race and not just the beginning – will people have a hard time getting home? Stay in touch with city officials and when you do decide to cancel, let everyone know immediately. This includes sponsors, vendors, and volunteers! Post on all of your social media platforms and send out a pre-drafted email. Restate your rain date or refund policy and make it clear that the decision was made for their safety.

Accidents & Emergencies

There will always be a few blisters and bruises, but we’re talking about heat stroke, heart attacks, and fainting on the course… the scary stuff! These things happen, but there are a few ways you can prepare your team and prevent problems from escalating.

First, we can’t overstress the importance of testing (and improving!) your medical team’s response time to different parts of your course. Even the simplest 5k can be tough to get to when it’s surrounded by spectators and unusual courses like trails are even trickier. The race management advice in this blog will help you develop an emergency protocol to educate runners, spectators, staff and volunteers on who to contact (and how) if they see someone in distress.

If the worst happens and someone is hospitalized or dies, don’t panic! Make a statement to stop fear and rumors, but respect the athlete’s privacy and don’t offer more information than needed. “A runner was taken to the hospital at Mile 6 at approximately 10 a.m.; we are monitoring their progress and thank you for your support” will do just fine. If there is a death, gather all the information first and speak with the family before releasing any details.

Finally, we know it seems strange, but don’t be afraid to celebrate other’s achievements that day. Acknowledge your sadness, but remember that they weren’t the only participant. For more race management advice on handling deaths, check out our blog here.

Logistical Errors, Little & Large

From t-shirt typos to the shuttle that doesn’t run on schedule, few things are as irritating as those easily prevented errors. So what do you do if you’ve triple-checked something and it still goes wrong?

Just own it. Your participants don’t want to see you point fingers; they want to see you take responsibility and solve the problem, regardless of who caused it. Let them know that you are aware of the issue and are looking into it. Just don’t beat a dead horse – when the race is over or the problem is solved, stop bringing it up! Move on and let the good times roll!

The Unhappy Athlete

Even if everything runs smoothly, you will still have at least one person who is upset about something. While you can’t prevent their disgruntledness, you can prevent it from ruining their race day experience. First, have plenty of information tents and well-educated volunteers on race day so that they can easily address their concerns right then and there.

If the problem remains unsolved and they reach out via social media, don’t wait to respond! It can be tempting to put it off until race day is wrapped and your course is clear, but don’t. Even if it is not a priority to you, it is a priority to them. Let them know you’re listening and do your best to solve the problem or refer them to a support email if it’s a more complicated issue. Thank them for their feedback either way!

When it comes down to it, we don’t live in a perfect world. So you’ll never have a perfect race! All you can do is plan for when things don’t go according to plan. For more race management advice on what to do when things go wrong, check out our free download on the 10 Commandments of Crisis Communication.

If you need more help with race management advice…just give us a shout!