How to Organize a Race – Perspectives from an Event Planner Participant

I’m a girl who enjoys every aspect of events in which I participate. If I’m running a half-marathon, you can bet I’ll also be shopping at the pre-race expo. If I’m running the Spring Lake Five (a fabulous way to kick off summer!), I look forward to filling my “swag” bag with food & beverage goodies. I love a great Memorial Day parade (which includes three kids, two parents, and one aunt marching with three different organizations) and I’m a big fan of participating in my town’s annual College Fair, representing my alma mater to the interested high school students.

But a funny thing happened on the way to marking two years working for Events with Ginger & Co.: now at an event, all I can see is all the work that goes into it! Let me give you an example. Recently, my husband and I and some friends participated in the Warrior Dash in Windham, NY. The Warrior Dash is a 3.5 mile race up and down a mountain with lots of obstacles – and lots of mud! – thrown in. It’s a wonderful event and we made a weekend out of it, renting a ski house slope-side, having all the kids act as our cheering section, and celebrating post-race with a great dinner on the deck overlooking the race start and finish lines.

20,000 people participate in the Dash, with several hundred starting every 15 minutes all day long. As I sat on the deck enjoying the sunshine and listening to the bands that were playing at the finish line, I couldn’t help but think: now this is a lesson in how to organize a race. I wondered exactly how many people it took to produce such a complicated event. The sheer volume of participants was daunting enough – they all had to register, get their numbers and free t-shirts, and find the starting corral – but when you think that each of those participants gets a free adult beverage after the race – how much advance planning and day-of logistics goes into getting that done?

As the day progressed into evening, we all cheered for the starting racers every 15 minutes, and then the event clean-up began. I tried to gauge the size of the numerous tents erected at the finish line, calculating how many people would be needed to take each one down. I saw two people riding around in a golf cart, removing every flag from the race course – there were literally hundreds! Who breaks down every one of the approximately 20 obstacles, and how do they get all the pieces down the mountain?

Now I know, theoretically, how to plan a race or a walk. The NJ Light The Night Walks we help to organize are enormous events (albeit 1/10th the size of the Warrior Dash!), with approximately 2,000 people in attendance at each one. Knowing the tasks that need to be done ahead of time helps tremendously when you’ve been at the event site for 14 hours; you and your team can hit the ground running and handle several tasks simultaneously . Teamwork is the best way to ensure that everyone leaves happy, knowing all the jobs are done, and the event was a smashing success!

Will I ever enjoy an event with the rose-colored-glasses of a non-event producer again? Maybe not, but I will certainly appreciate all the work that goes into each event in which I am “only” a participant. While I am thrilled to help bring wonderful, worthy events to life, on the day of the Warrior Dash I was equally thrilled not to be on the “flag-removal” team!

How to Organize a Race Events with Ginger & Co.

About Amy Ferrone

Amy Ferrone brought her communication and organizational skills to the event planning firm Events with Ginger & Co. in 2011. Now Associate Event and Office Manager, she has been the lead event planner on events for Autism Speaks, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Foundation Fighting Blindness, among others. She is also on-site at virtually every event at which the events company works.Prior to her time as a full-time mom to Mac, Owen and Sean, Amy worked on Wall Street, last at AIG Global Investment Group as an Operations Manager and Consultant. Amy is active in her sons' schools as Treasurer of the PTA and helping plan and run events throughout the year. Amy graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a degree in Chemistry. She lives in Scotch Plains, NJ with her husband and boys.

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