I never wanted to be a race director. But, as head cross country coach at Manatee High School, it came with the job. The Canes Cross Country Classic 5K is held every year on Labor Day and it serves as our cross country team’s main fundraiser. When I first started coaching back in 2003 it also included a one mile fun run/walk which I changed to a 1K a few years ago in the hope that it would attract more families and younger runners in our goal to fight childhood obesity. The 5K course gives the participants a unique experience in that it runs over our home cross country course and usually features tons of high school competitors in the field.
This past Labor Day was our 22nd Annual Canes Classic and my 11th year as race director. Every year I state that my favorite day of the year is the day AFTER Labor Day. The job of race director is a very challenging one and definitely way more stressful than I ever imagined. Knowing that the experience of every runner, walker, and volunteer out there rests on me is a huge responsibility. The one thing I can brag about is that we have the coolest t-shirt designs year after year!
Working as a race director has definitely taught me to appreciate all the work that goes into the races that I compete in even more. I no longer show up at races expecting things but rather appreciating all that has been done. It is great idea for all runners and walkers to volunteer at races to develop more of an understanding of what makes a successful event happen.
Directing a race is much like training for a marathon. You need to have a good plan and start working on it months in advance. You must be consistent in that work over weeks and months in order to have the greatest success on race day. If you lack that consistency, like I did for this year’s Canes Classic, you end up stressed out, sleep deprived, and struggling to complete all the tasks at the last minute. And like with not so consistent marathon training, you may be able to cram in enough work in the last few weeks to get you through race day but you definitely will not do your best. I thought I had it all covered: permits, insurance, sponsors, registration, shirts, goody bags, volunteers, all the school paperwork and permissions, security, timing, awards, food and drink, course set up, and clean up. But I forgot about marketing. Without a plan, without the consistent work in the previous seven months, this very important item was left undone until it was too late.
While the race went off perfectly, our participation numbers were very low. With this being our team’s fundraiser, this definitely hurts us. I own this mistake and vow to improve. I thoroughly enjoy following a tough marathon training plan and seeing the success on race day. Now I just need to lay out a Canes Classic race directing plan and follow through with the same resolve. Maybe the greater success next year will make me less reluctant.
Special thank you to Roxanne Britt for taking photos for our team this year!