Guest Column - July 2008
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On the Road

10 Components to a Successful Race

By Mark Balsan and Peter Titlebaum, Ed.D.

Organizing a race requires preparation. Hundreds of hours go into planning, organizing, executing and evaluating a race. It takes enormous communication to pull off a successful event.

If you're gearing up for a road race, implementing the following components will provide a solid framework for success.


The theme is what drives people to the race and provides the foundation on which the race is organized and planned. For example, for a fundraising event, heavy emphasis will lie on driving at people's emotions to get them to promote a cause and donate. The charity emotion will be played out in advertising, selling of sponsorships and motivating people to get involved by donating or participating in the race. The theme is woven through every aspect of the race and needs to be emphasized through every phase.


Having a straightforward course will add a needed dimension to your race. A major selling point of a course is having the distance certified. USA Track and Field can certify the distance while providing credibility to the race. Participants will know that experts approved the course and that the distance is correct. Having the certification will avoid issues with participants feeling that the race distance was incorrect. Inaccurate courses can cost a race many future participants.

Course design is also important, depending on the type of race. For a charity race, the course doesn't need to be grueling. In the same regard, you don't want an easy course that will leave participants unchallenged, so balance is important. The participants will provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your course.


Sponsorships provide the organizer with revenue and allow the sponsor to gain exposure for its products or services. Sponsorships usually provide giveaways and discounts as they try to grab participants' attention. If for charity purposes, it allows companies to align themselves in a positive way with customers. Local businesses can sponsor the event because their niche market will be concentrated at the race.


The ability to tap into the community for volunteers and support is crucial. Many sources can be used for volunteers, including schools, sports teams, health clubs, nonprofit organizations, clubs, etc. If the race is for charity, the cause will bring supporters to the event, whether to race or to volunteer. Contacting organizations for a service opportunity can draw a great number of volunteers.

Volunteers can assist in the coordination of the race. They are needed as marshals to keep participants on course, water/food distributors at aid stations and at the finish line for timing and awards. Course marshals are vital for success and are needed at all intersections and other areas where participants might go astray. The more marshals you have, the better! In addition, while volunteering, they are cheering on participants and providing support to the race.