Six Reasons Runners Will Chose Your Race – Guest Blog

Guest Blog by Tina Muir of Runners Connect

It will come as no surprise if I tell you that we are in a running boom.runnersconnect

Ten years ago, if you created a race in your town and there was a runner available that weekend, they would be there.

A few years ago, if there was a race available and someone was a beginner interested in selecting their very first race, there was a good chance they would end up at your event.

However, if you fast forward a few more years, the running boom has led to multiple races being hosted in the same city every weekend. Now it is very rare to see a weekend without a race drawing a crowd of experienced and new runners alike.

So how do you make your race stand out, when there are so many options to choose from?

Well, today I am going to give you some pointers.

As an elite runner who began running at age 14, I have raced thousands of times and therefore know what features I look for when selecting a race. That being said, I might be a little pickier than most because these days, I am not able to race that often – especially as my weekends are limited by my marathon training schedule and the goal race I have on my calendar. I can only race a few times in any one build-up, but if you can satisfy my high demands you can definitely satisfy the majority or runners and draw large crowds to your event.

Utilize your Swag

Five years ago this word didn’t exist, but it has become a very common word in a runner’s dictionary and it does have a big effect on whether someone chooses your race.

For those new runners, or runners who travel far and wide to go to races, having a great medal or gift for the runners will make the race more attractive. Not only will it encourage people from your town to attend the race to run and show off their swag with pride, it may even attract those runners who travel all over the country to come to your event.

This does not necessarily mean being extravagant and spending an excessive amount on a gold plated medal or T-shirts made of silk, but just thinking outside the box. I once won an apple pie from a local bakery at a race on the 4th of July, and that was one of my favorite prizes of all time.

Show Your City Pride

Speaking of out-of-the-box prizes and gifts, you want to add some touches from what your city is known for.

I live in Lexington, Kentucky, the horse capital of the world, and I love when local races give out something or find a way to incorporate what we have to offer in Lexington. I recently ran the Kentucky 5K, which had us running around the beautiful scenery of the Kentucky Horse Park. The race went through a giant horse barn (where there were Clydesdale horses in their stalls!), and I thought that was a really nice way to showcase what makes this area stand out. Use what sets your city apart to your advantage, and make local residents feel pride in their city.

Be Organized

This one is mostly common sense, but the more prepared you are, the easier it is on the runners to focus on what they are there to do: run the race.

If your participants are spending some of the energy they could be using in the race on tracking you down to find out where the race starts or where the nearest bathrooms are, they are less likely to come back again.

Try to use signs, banners, volunteers, and forward thinking to your advantage.

A few weeks to a month before the race, put yourself in the runner’s shoes and imagine yourself arriving at your event in all kinds of scenarios. What would make it easier on you in each of those situation?

Run through every moment of their day, and take the steps you need to make race day as seamless as possible. Think about this process in as much detail as possible so that one of the words the runners use to describe your race “organized”. This will go a long way, especially at a time when people will write reviews about your race online, which will be read by next year’s potential attendees.

Embrace Social Media

Along those lines, in anticipation of the race and especially after the race, your runners will want to show their anticipation and pride on social media. Come up with a memorable hashtag for them to use and create buzz with, and create profiles on each of the major social sites for the race. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and depending on how brave you are, Snapchat.

Hire a friend who loves social media to monitor your accounts and help you create buzz around the event. This means replying to and thanking anyone who uses your hashtag or mentions your race to make them feel as though their presence at your event is appreciated.

When it come to paying your friend who is helping you, this does not have to be through traditional payment processes; it could be giving them a few free race bibs in exchange for the help. Taking the social media aspect off your hands will give you more time to give to organizing and setting up the event and will give a fresh set of eyes the ability to promote your event (while getting them excited for the race themselves).

This may seem like a lot of work, but sharing about a race online is one of the best parts of being a runner, and if you do not have the social media side down it can  be difficult to spread the word and get buzz going for your race over other races.

Find a Photographer

In a case I didn’t make it clear, runners love to show their friends and family that they are participating in a race. One of the easiest ways you can make this a great experience for them is to have as many photographers around the course as possible to catch the runners through the various stages of the race. Not only will this let them reflect back on the race with pride as they remember the struggles they went through to get to the finish line, runners will use those photos as their profile pictures on social media, promoting your event and building loyalty to it as they look back on it as a positive experience.

It can be tempting to hire one of the bigger companies to cover your event, but consider finding some local photographers to help. You be helping someone who is from your town, and if you put your event logo on the photos and give them to your runners for free that will go a long way in their loyalty to you.

As a professional runner, I get a lot of photos taken of me, but everyone loves to see their photos of the race and I love when I can access them for free. Last year I did the Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati where they did this and I loved it…and used their photo across my social media as much as possible!

Think of the Logistics

Is your race in the summer or the winter? If your race is in August and starts at 10am, the participants are unlikely to run fast or have an enjoyable experience as they will be suffering from heat exhaustion; if you have a winter race and your race begins at 7am, it will be difficult to convince participants to get out of their warm beds to run outside in the dark.

Think about other parts of the logistics that make the race enjoyable for runners. Are there enough bathrooms in the start and finish areas? Do you have enough water stations and bathrooms along the course? Is there a big celebration at the finish line?

The more of the aspects you can cover, the better the experience will be for the runners, and the more friends they will tell about the race.

It might seem like a lot of effort and that runners can by too picky about what they need and the frills associated with a race. However, if you put in the extra time to make sure your participants can just focus on what they have to do before the race and have plenty to celebrate after, it will pay off big time.

The increasing popularity of running has provided many benefits for the running world as a whole, but it can be tough as a race director to show that your event is the best one around. If you follow my advice, it will go a long way with runners and they will thank you by attending your event year after year, bringing more and more people to the event every time they do.

run-to-topTina Muir is an elite runner for Saucony and the Community Manager for Runners Connect. Tina hosts the popular, number one rated running podcast, Run to the Top where she interviews race directors, Olympians, sports psychologists, everyday runners, and running influences from all over the world.

Runners Connect is a community of expert coaches that provide custom and dynamic training plans tailored specifically to your abilities, pace and goals. Runners Connect features an award-winning blog that promises to provide unparalleled expertise and knowledge about training and racing to help make you a smarter, fitter, and faster runner.


RunSignUp Quick Hits…Features Even Advanced Users May Missed

Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing a host of resources from our 3rd annual RunSignUp Symposium. First up: some blog links to features you may have missed. Even our most advanced users often have a hard time keeping up with all our updates (2,000+ in 2015); RunSignUp Sales Lead Bryan Jenkins picked a few to highlight:

email-imageSearch Box Bib/Email
Need to find a participant quickly? Instead of navigating to the participant report first,
there is a search bar at the top of each page of your Dashboard.

Automated Emails
We have a few (and soon will have more) automated emails for things like incomplete registrations & RaceJoy. Turn these on to cut down on manual notifications sent to runners.

Email Reporting
Track opens, bounces, clicks, spam reports, etc. on emails that you send out from the system.

Shared Reports
Share limited participant data with other users, securely.

Custom Reports
Pick and choose the information that you want to see on a participant report, and filter out all other data.

Financial Report
You probably know that financial reports exist, but do you understand what each field means, or that you can download a detailed participant report?

Giveaway Inventory
In addition to having the ability to track the inventory on your giveaways, we have a giveaway projection tool that will help you plan how many giveaways to order based on previous orders.

Loyalty Program
Reward runners from previous years, volunteers, or any other specific group by offering early registration…matched directly on personal info, so there’s no password to be shared around.

Reserved Entries
Allow runners to register for an event that is (technically) full, without manual processing of payment and data import.

google-analyticsGoogle Analytics
View demographic information on the visitors to your site…and monitor the effectiveness of your marketing with analytic web data on your dashboard.

Custom Content Display, Menu, and Pages
Our race websites have a lot of flexibility: you can pick what items are on the main menu, which ones are sub-menu items, and the order that it all shows up.

Giveaway Reports
View your Giveaway Report by males and females.

Repeat Participant Reports
See how many (and who) of your runners from previous years have registered again…and see who has not so you can target them directly.

Misc Settings
Looking for something that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else on the dashboard? It’s probably in Misc Settings; for example, for events that are not actually races (like a Symposium!) you can customize the wording used throughout your site.

Quick Multi-Race Access/Editing
If you have multiple races, sometimes you want to switch between races on a single page. Perhaps you are adding coupon codes across multiple races and want to do that on all 4 of your races.

Bryan Jenkins

The Synthesis of Races, Stores, and Training Programs

At our 2015 RunSignUp Race Director/Timer Symposium, Andy Marsh from Playmakers shared his view of the synthesis between Races, Training Programs, and Running Stores:

We’ve shared our philosophy of the Running Community before; that Micro Communitiesthe running community is made up of tens of thousands of micro-communities that overlap – races, running clubs, running stores, timers, as well as many technology providers. Andy’s presentation is a prime example of these communities overlap, and how you can leverage the micro-communities in your area to improve your local Running Events.


Gobble Gobble Four Miler Case Study

We have a series Customer Case Studies, in which we take your stories and share your challenges and successes as a learning tool for other RunSignUp users.  This Gobble Gobble Four Miler Case Study focuses on creating techniques for fundraising and engaging Sponsors. 

View the PDF Version of the Gobble Gobble Four Miler Case Study

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Picture1Overview: The Gobble Gobble Four Miler uses RunSignUp for creative fundraising efforts for their St. Matthew’s House charity, and creates strong incentives for local Sponsors.

About the Gobble Gobble Four Miler:

The Gobble Gobble Four Miler is a Thanksgiving Day Race in Naples Florida directed by Matthew Sonneborn and timed by Endurance Sports Timing.  The long-time race has benefited St. Matthew’s House for much of its tenure, and in 2015, Matt’s 13th year with the race, they used some unique Sponsor relationships and fundraising tactics to maximize their impact.

The Building Blocks:

Why Four Miles? The stretch of road that the Gobble Gobble race wanted to use naturally lent itself to a 4-miler.  Additionally, there are not a lot of 4 mile races, which allows the distance to be something of a differentiator. 

Separating Categories of Participants:
The race offers 4 Event options:Picture2

  • ‘Lil Gobbler’s Dash: A short race for those 6 & under
  • 1 Mile Run/Walk: A family-friendly fitness walk
  • 4 Mile Run/Walk: An untimed, non-intimidating 4-mile run/walk for runners who don’t care abut timing, slow joggers, walkers, strollers, etc.
  • 4 Mile Competitive Run: A timed 4-mile race

The separation of categories serves a few purposes:

  • The timed 4-miler is a few dollars more expensive; this covers the additional cost of timing, an encourages only those who care about being time to sign up for that division.
  • There is concern about how many people are on the road at the time, and dividing the divisions (with slightly different start times) spreads out the traffic, and creates natural “waves” that help ensure people are lining up more-or-less according to their intended speed.

    A Sustainable, Green Race

Gobble Gobble Four Miler uses a few green strategies for their race:

  • Parking: The limited available parking (just 200 onsite spots) makes green options not just responsible, but necessary.  To get around this, they offer VIP Carpooling, shuttles, and a free bike valet.
  • The event is Cup-Free: there are no cups on the course.  Instead, runners who want water on-course should bring a drinking device (hydrapouch, fuel belt, or water bottle), and will have water dispensed through a high speed valve (hydrapour system).

    Supporting a Charity through Donations & Fundraising

After many years of working with them, Matt has a great relationship with the chief Picture3Charity, St. Matthew’s House, and considers the fundraising they can do for them, and the second charity (95210 Kids on the GO!) the “why” of the having the race.  To encourage and increase fundraising, he tests out a range of unique fundraising options.

All registrants are prompted to make a donation during registration.  They use a series of Thanksgiving-themed Donation Levels to encourage more donations.

In previous year, Matt had an option to donate $100 and get into the race for free.  While this was not the case this year, he still saw a relatively high number of $100 donors (17 participants), and attributes this to an established tradition of giving.

“I don’t know many races where that aspect – the donation – has become a tradition.  The idea is basically that I’m going to sell you a $25 entry for $100…but people love it.  And the Charity wins, because all the money goes to the charity at my race” – Matt Sonneborn

Enabling Fundraisers on RunSignUp

Waiving the Entry Fee with a Fundraising MinimumPicture4
The ability for a runner to create a fundraiser was enabled and runners were able to waive their registration fee for a minimum of $250 in fundraising.

Picture5A Fundraising Challenge: The race provided an additional incentive for creating and promoting a fundraiser.  Matt implemented a Fundraising Challenge in which the top fundraiser (over $1,000) would win a meal, to be prepared in their home by two high profile local chefs.  In the end, instead of a home, the chefs will go to the St. Matthew’s homeless shelter to help the catering team there to make a meal and tour the charity they helped.

 Final Result of the Fundraising Effort:

$7,147.14 to St. Matthew’s House
$1,578.25 to 95210 Kids on the GO!
$8,725.39 collected from donations & fundraising by 1,555 Race Participants

Thinking Outside the Box: Getting Sponsors Involved

Partnering with a Running Store for Packet Pickup:

In 2015, the race packet pickup was hosted by a relatively new, local running store,Picture7 Fit2Run.  Offering on-site packet pickup to a Running Store sponsor was  great way to add value to a sponsorship, while encouraging runners to get their packets prior to race morning.

Fit2Run was thrilled by the outcome of the sponsorship, seeing their best day in sales (to date) during the packet pickup.

Packet Pickup: A selling point for all types of sponsors:

Picture8While Fit2Run was a fitting sponsor for Packet Pickup in 2014, Matt has worked with, and will in the future, less traditional sponsors for Packet Pickup as well.  In 2013, Packet Pickup was hosted by their partner bike shop.  The 1,000 people of foot traffic to their store – checking out bike products and learning about the race morning bike valet – was a tangible value to them.

Beyond a Packet Pickup: Providing Sponsor Value:

Matt is always looking for new ways to tie in sponsors, and make sponsorship a mutually Picture9beneficial partnership.  For example, he offered a car dealership a number of free entries for their sponsorship; in exchange, people who came into the dealership for a test drive got a free entry

“I love finding out how I can help Sponsors.  With Sponsors, if you can provide people viewing their product, you give them an incentive.  You just have to think outside the box!” – Matt Sonneborn


“Bryan’s counsel is priceless – he’s someone I trust for his understanding of the industry” – Matt, on his RunSignUp Sales Rep Bryan Jenkins

If you have a success story about your race, store or club, big or small,  email us…we’d love to explore a Case Study on your topic!

Ford Timing Case Study

We have a series Customer Case Studies, in which we take your stories and share your challenges and successes as a learning tool for other RunSignUp users.  This Ford Timing Case Study focuses on Integration with the Race Director, Widgets for existing Websites, and RunSignUp GO features. 

View the PDF Version of the Ford Timing Case Study

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Overview: Ford Timing, a technologically adventurous Timing company in California, chooses RunSignUp for its tight integrations and easy Race Day features.

About Ford Timing: Ford Timing was founded by Aaron Ford in 2009.  They provide Timing Services for Road Races, Cross Country & Track Meets, Triathlons, Duathlons, Stair Climb Challenges…and any other kind of race you might come up with.  Ford utilizes The Race Director Timing Software and Chronotrack Chip Timing for the events they work with.  Currently, Ford Times 70-80 Races each year.

“I think it’s safe to say, in this day and age, my Race Directors expect more than just Timing, and if we’re able to deliver the Live Results, the Notifications, etc, than that’s a real competitive advantage for our business.” – Aaron Ford, Ford Timing Owner

RunSignUp and Integration with The Race Director

Aaron came to RunSignUp with an established trust in the Timing Software he used (The Race Director), and it was crucial to him that his registration company have the ability to work with The Race Director instead of requiring that he change software.  Aspects of the integration with The Race Director that are especially important to Aaron include: 

  • Picture5The Race Director allows for Push & Pull Changes: Changes made to data in The Race Director can update the information in RunSignUp, and changes made to the data in RunSignUp can update the information in The Race Director.
  • Using The Race Director means that most of the work is done locally in the software, so the internet requirements are limited.  The race can be scored even with a weak internet connection.
  • There is control over sending results: Aaron can review result information before publishing it.  For this reason, Aaron chooses Manual Publishing of Results, instead of Automatic.Picture6

“With RunSignUp, because youhave control over when to send up results, you can ensure that they are correct.  I like being live, but I want to be RIGHT, so that I can send that right text message the first time.”
– Aaron Ford

RunSignUp and Integration With Your Site

Picture4Aaron uses widgets to make RunSignUp a seamless part of the Races he times.  Widgets can be placed directly into the website of the Race so that runners can register without ever leaving the Race Website. Similarly, Results Widgets allow RunSignUp Results to “live” on the Race Website.

Integrating registration and results into an existing Race Website brings more traffic to the Race Website, and removes roadblocks for Runners.

RunSignUp Go: Testing Race Day Technology

While there are features of RunSignUp Go that Aaron uses regularly, he also tries to test out new features on a per-race basis.  For the Moraga 4th of July Fun Run that he timed, he tested out leaving Online Registration open through the start of the race. People could sign up online before leaving their house in the morning, on their phone on the way to the race, or as they walked up to Bib Pickup, and their information was immediately available to the volunteers at Bib Pickup.

Considerations When Allowing “Pre”(Online) Registration Through Race Day Morning

  • Registration periods on RunSignUp were set so that the price increased to Race Day price at midnight
  • Runners registering online (instead of by paper) are more likely to input accurate data
  • Runners can pay by credit card online, instead of needing cash.

Aaron could then use dynamic bib assignment to get each of the late-registrants assigned bibs (discussed in more detail later), and push the late registration information into The Race Director to ensure that his participant data was updated prior to the start of the race.


RunSignUp Go: Using Dynamic Bib Assignment

For mid-to-large races (over 200 runners), Aaron utilizes Dynamic Bib Assignment for Bib Pickup.  The logistics of Race Day, Dynamic Bib Assignment:

  • To manage Race Day, Aaron keeps a stock of cheap, refurbished Chromebooks that can be used either as kiosks for registration, or by volunteers assigning bibs.
  • No bibs are pre-assigned and labeled.
  • As Runners enter, volunteers look them up by name on their Chromebook, take timage001he next bib off their pile, and assign their bib number.
  • For a race with 1,500 runners, Aason has found that 8 stations are adequate to keep Bib Pickup moving smoothly with Dynamic Bib Assignment.
  • Using Dynamic Bib Assignment, Ford has checked in over 600 runners in under 2 hours, using 8 laptops.

Note: it is important to ensure that there is a strong internet connection in order to use Dynamic Bib Assignment.

Benefits of using Dynamic Bib Assignment 

  • Eliminates wasted Bibs: If you have pre-assigned bib, and 10% of your runners don’t show up, you have wasted 10% ofyour Bibs.  That cost can accumulate over the course of multiple races.
  • Saves time: limits line back-up for common letters, and removes the need to search through Bibs to find the correct one.
  • Better evaluate the effectiveness of pre-race Packet Pickup and/or a specific Volunteer/Pick-Up location: RunSignUp reporting will show you when your bibs were picked up, and how many were picked up by a specific User.

RunSignUp Results

Beyond the simplicity of one-click push of results from The Race Director to RunSignUp, Aaron finds some advantages to RunSignUp Results:

  • The ability to do SMS texting and email notifications.
  • The text on SMS & Email notifications is customizable.  For example. Aaron removes Age Group Place from his results notifications because that is more likely to change with chip timing.
  • RunSignUp results are Mobile Responsive, so Runners can access their results quickly on their phones, or on a tablet or laptop kiosk that is set up at the Race.
  • Results are searchable by bib number or name.
  • Results can be hosted as a widget on the website for the race to that result can be found on the Race Site immediately when they are published from The Race Director.Picture1Picture2

Summary: Ford Timing prefers RunSignUp because it combines “flashy” Race Day features that runners want with technology integrations and manual controls to allow them to ensure consistency and accuracy.

If you have a success story about your race, store or club, big or small,  email us
…we’d love to explore a Case Study on your topic!