Difficulties in finding a good location to host a race in town

Since I’ve limited my road racing commitments to a “consultant” role instead of the person who orders the jerseys, awards, publicity, and measures and sets up the course, I always find myself check out how the organizations I try to advise are doing. I usually hand the race organizers one of the booklets I made years ago with instructions on how to run a race. I was re-reading the contents of the book the other day. I was somewhat surprised at the changes that need to be fixed in the booklet. So many ways of advertising, timing and selecting a route have changed since the booklet was written and it is very evident that it was back to the early days of running a race.

Finding a place to host the race is so different. The races in downtown San Marcos have added requirements that prevent some nonprofits from raising enough sponsorship funds to hold a race. From now on, the races take place outside the city center. Locations that have become popular include the Country Estates sub-division with 5K and 10K courses measured there. Another race location is Stagecoach Road and the College. Tanger Outlet has been the site of several races ranging from 5K to half marathon. The problem is business development and housing growth along the area east of the mall. It’s only a matter of time before this area is no longer suitable for hosting a race. The Toyota Car dealership is another location that has hosted several races. It’s good for a 5k run now and with a bit of measuring longer distances could be added. So far, development and traffic issues are still a few years away for this location. Race directors need to be a bit more creative in finding a safe and suitable race site for their race.

Are there subdivisions similar to Country Estates that can host a race? Things like good traffic control, parking spaces, restrooms, and registration areas should be considered when running a race in a new location. The other consideration is how far from San Marcos you can run a race while still bringing in runners. The Hays County Football Grounds area across the Blanco Subdivision is used on occasion and appears to have most of the requirements needed for a safe run. The question always comes down to how far you can run a race and still attract runners.

Another question to consider is “What makes a race popular with runners?” Some cities have a few races and have a large number of runners. It seems that the races in Gruene always seem to attract a large number of runners. Austin hosted the 3M Half Marathon last weekend and drew nearly 6,000 runners. Austin and San Antonio have a large population of runners to draw from. Small towns need to attract runners from outside the immediate city limits to have greater participation. What does this little urban race have to offer runners that will entice them to sign up for your race?

In the race director’s booklet, I suggested putting a race on the same date as an event taking place in the city. A good example of that is the Sights and Sounds 5K race here in San Marcos, which is the biggest race we have. In the past, San Marcos had good numbers for Cinco De Mayo 10K and 5K races. We also had a good turnout at MLK Day for a few years. For some reason, both races dwindled in number and popularity and for all intents and purposes disappeared from the running scene.

Some races have a desired race jersey which has become popular with runners. I’ve had neon orange and neon green shirts that have gone well for a few years. Awards for fastest runners will impact runner attraction The Bluebonnet Lion 5k race near Thanksgiving had turkey, hams and pies for awards and spoke with several of the runners after the race, that’s why they entered the race. Finding an attractive reward helps recruit runners. Standard “victory” awards are less popular than a nice medal or a different award. Some different or unusual rewards may fetch a price that exceeds the organization’s budget and will limit this approach. Organizing a race to raise funds for the organization is becoming more and more difficult and requires serious planning before you venture out to try to organize a race. But be creative and go for it.

About Ethel Nester

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