Few people (how about no one else?) have the skill to pull that off. For us mere mortals, race directing takes time, money, plenty of coordination, flexibility and constant communication and knowledge about who actually does what to make a race come together.
Since my first race directing experience, I have received a Phd. in what can go wrong—and luckily also in what can go right. At least now I now what it takes to put on a race—just how complicated it is. Before getting started, a prospective be race-director needs to know the following:
You might need help with the course: Race organizers also probably have no reason to know a race timer may not necessarily map out and measure your course for you—especially if you did not ask them for the service and are not paying for it. Often, race timers have no idea of the details of your course. There is definitely no alchemy at work here—if you are paying only for race timing that is most likely all you will get.
You still have to have someone come up with a course and possibly measure and certify it.
Also, consider many parks and townships ask for permits and insurance and you may need police for traffic control if the runners are crossing traffic. These things also may cost money and the race timers will not seek these approvals automatically.
Luckily for this particular race we were able to compensate. Although we were not able to pin up all the race results, we had decided in advance to give the first 20 men and women finishers awards in the chute-- just like in the old (pre 1970’s running boom) days. If we had age-group awards in this race we would still be attempting to sort it out. Having a plan B and C often helps.
It is worth it: You have probably guessed by now that it takes plenty of time and coordination to plan to put on a race, and although it is great for us runners, it may not be the best way to raise funds. When the race comes together; when it’s finally completed and you see the looks on the race participants faces, you get a feeling of satisfaction that it just might have been worth it after all.
Note: This article originally appeared in Runners Gazette Magazine http://www.runnersgazette.com/ along with an interview of some top race directors--Race Management 101. This accompanying article contains more detailed information on race management, and is also now found in this ramscrosscountry blog http://ramscrosscountry.blogspot.com/