Good practices to plan a running race

Good practices to plan a running race

Races have gained in pop­u­lar­i­ty in the UK and else­where, and par­tic­i­pants are numer­ous whether they are run­ning enthu­si­asts, com­peti­tors or ama­teurs, run­ning with their fam­i­ly, as part of a team or alone. Here are some exam­ples of races: 5K, 20K, cross-coun­try or road race, in sup­port of a good cause or to chal­lenge one­self. You have run sev­er­al kilo­me­tres as a par­tic­i­pant and enthu­si­ast and you are think­ing of organ­is­ing your own race in 2019?

Like any oth­er event, it requires plan­ning, fore­sight and team­work. Here are some tips to help you out!

The type of race

What type of race would you like to organ­ise? There are many dif­fer­ent kinds — a marathon is not aimed at the same audi­ence as a cross-coun­try race in the for­est or an obsta­cle course for instance. The sport is the same but the atmos­phere, the par­tic­i­pants, the loca­tion, etc. will be very dif­fer­ent. Once you have an idea in mind, you will know how to get in touch with future par­tic­i­pants, show­case the specifics of your race and under­stand what needs to be done in terms of plan­ning, whether it is human resources, licences and per­mits or race­course map.

The compulsory steps

The idea of your race can come from a loca­tion or anoth­er ele­ment, you then have to val­i­date some steps to for­mal­ly organ­ise a sports event in con­nec­tion with the cho­sen loca­tion and sev­er­al oth­er parameters.

The impor­tant thing is that your run­ning event is com­pli­ant with local reg­u­la­tions. All races in the UK must be reg­is­tered with UKA (UK Ath­let­ics). This body sets dis­tances by age cat­e­go­ry for exam­ple, as well as oth­er tech­ni­cal rules for each type of race. You will also need licences and pos­si­bly grants, these are tasks to pre­pare well before your event. Your race will take place on a pub­lic road? Apply for per­mis­sion from the local council.

Do not for­get insur­ance, check that you have lia­bil­i­ty insur­ance as an event organ­is­er to cov­er pos­si­ble dam­age to the loca­tion or prop­er­ty or injuries to people.

Safe­ty is crit­i­cal. Depend­ing on the num­ber of run­ners, it is up to you to pro­vide first aid cov­er. We would sug­gest that you get in touch with first aid organ­i­sa­tions (such as St John Ambu­lance or the Red Cross), they will know how to sup­port you. Then, it is very impor­tant to have a good team of vol­un­teers and mar­shals on the race course to show the way to the run­ners at cross­roads, dan­ger­ous places, or any stage where the run­ner may need to be guid­ed and informed.

These safe­ty and insur­ance ele­ments are essen­tial to obtain your licence. These are ele­ments to pre­pare ear­ly on and to present with your application.

Participant registration

Once you have your licence, all you need is run­ners! Set up a plat­form to reg­is­ter par­tic­i­pants. Let’s list the key ele­ments of an online reg­is­tra­tion platform.

The form

It is impor­tant to have a com­plete form to col­lect all the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion for your par­tic­i­pan­t’s shirt and num­ber and to improve knowl­edge about your cus­tomers: where do they come from, what oth­er races did they par­tic­i­pate in, how did they hear about your race, … If your event requires cer­tifi­cates it is the per­fect step to ask your par­tic­i­pant to upload a doc­u­ment: med­ical cer­tifi­cate, a licence.

Rate Management

Take advan­tage of a fea­ture that allows you to offer sev­er­al prices, organ­ise your depar­ture in waves, improve the flow of run­ners on the day by offer­ing to choose their depar­ture at reg­is­tra­tion (or indi­cate their tar­get time to be allo­cat­ed a start time). This will also allow you to make dif­fer­ent offers, to dif­fer­en­ti­ate age groups, or to imple­ment pro­gres­sive rates depend­ing on tar­get times or quo­tas (i.e. a rate will be avail­able when the quo­ta of anoth­er is full). You can, there­fore, man­age your start times and see the demand and demo­graph­ics of the par­tic­i­pants in order to adjust your organ­i­sa­tion as well.

By clas­si­fy­ing your rates and cre­at­ing cat­e­gories, your reg­is­tra­tion mod­ule will be clear and under­stand­able for your participants.

If you have goody bags and T‑shirts to offer or sell, start offer­ing them as ear­ly as reg­is­tra­tion. With a cross-sell­ing fea­ture, your run­ners can pre-order their T‑shirts, get a can­cel­la­tion option or pur­chase var­i­ous ser­vices for the day of the race, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. These lit­tle bonus­es will improve the user experience.

The lists of participants

The ben­e­fit of an online reg­is­tra­tion plat­form is to access your list of reg­is­tered par­tic­i­pants with one click. It must be eas­i­ly export­ed and accessed at a glance to start your race and pre­pare the timer! It is also com­mon to share it with par­tic­i­pants once registered.

Communicate about the event

Once your reg­is­tra­tion plat­form is ready, you need to attract run­ners. To increase aware­ness of your race, think about expo­sure on social media, run­ning clubs and the local gov­ern­ment of the place you organ­ise your event. Make use of all free sports events cal­en­dars to pro­mote your event. If you already know a run­ners’ club, sports club or soci­ety, an email­ing cam­paign can be a good way to pro­mote your event, to keep peo­ple informed about the day the reg­is­tra­tions will open, the num­ber of remain­ing places.

Set­ting up part­ner­ships can also help you. You can part­ner with a media out­let to cov­er the event, a local com­pa­ny, local gov­ern­ments or sports clubs, any­one who can share infor­ma­tion with runners.

Welcoming the runners on the day

As pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned, it is impor­tant to ensure safe­ty on-site with the pres­ence of first aid teams, water foun­tains, sig­nage, to inform on the race-course, remind the run­ners the good ges­tures to adopt before, dur­ing and after the race.

Wel­com­ing the run­ners is an organ­i­sa­tion in itself: you have to get your num­ber, find a place to warm up, hydrate, feed, join the right start­ing group, …

Facil­i­tate access con­trol using your reg­is­tra­tion plat­form. On it, you have access to all the rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion, and the tick­et sent to the par­tic­i­pant becomes the tool to pick up your num­ber. If you use a scan­ning device or a mobile app, you can scan the tick­ets and have access to all the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion to find in sec­onds the asso­ci­at­ed num­ber, but also fol­low the flow of peo­ple in real time and thus gauge the need for more on-site vol­un­teers, for example.

To pro­vide a good expe­ri­ence, do not hes­i­tate to offer a space to pre­pare for the race with refresh­ments, food, a chill-out area, … On the course or at the start, music can help moti­vate the troops. It is your role to pro­vide the run­ners and their sup­port­ers with the best rac­ing expe­ri­ence! For exam­ple, a place to store their per­son­al belong­ings and find them eas­i­ly at the end of the race, medals at the end to con­grat­u­late everyone.

At the end of the race, remem­ber to inform all the run­ners of their results, do a quick review of the event with the key fig­ures and thank them for com­ing and for their efforts!


Your race went well? It is time to take stock, to pre­pare for the next edi­tion. It is essen­tial to take the time to review your event: what was the feed­back from par­tic­i­pants, part­ners, your teams, what are the reviews like, … Using your online reg­is­tra­tion plat­form, you will be able to know the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants, their on-site pres­ence, pro­files and the prof­itabil­i­ty of your event.

Once you have retrieved all the par­tic­i­pant infor­ma­tion, get in touch to give them infor­ma­tion on the next race, share pho­tos and high­lights of past edi­tions. You also have sev­er­al oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to com­mu­ni­cate: Announc­ing the date, announc­ing the loca­tion, when reg­is­tra­tions open, the dif­fer­ent rates offered, the nov­el­ties of the edition, …

To organ­ise your run, it is there­fore impor­tant to list the var­i­ous tasks — those you should man­age first such as requests for licences and per­mis­sions and the ones you can do at the end such as fine-tun­ing the par­tic­i­pant expe­ri­ence. Do not hes­i­tate to inquire with those who have already organ­ised sim­i­lar events, to see how run­ning events are organ­ised around you, what you remem­ber as a par­tic­i­pant, both the good ideas to bor­row, the mis­takes to avoid and the areas to improve upon!


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