Putting On a Race
This is a document that has been used at MIT for the past few years to put on races. It isn't the only way, but it's a good start.
East Coast Collegiate racing seems to suffer from the problem that not enough schools have traditions of putting on a race every year. The result is that very few racers on collegiate teams have ever been involved with race promotion. So, lots of people want to put on collegiate races but don't know how, and they either don't do it, or worse, they announce that they will promote a race and then cancel at the last minute.
So here is my list of the steps you need to take in order to promote a collegiate race weekend. What follows is a timeline/ checklist for all the things you need to deal with, a sample budget, and finally, a list of hints for where and how to get things you will need.
One thought before I start - I would encourage everyone who is considering promoting an event to think about promoting a whole weekend of races, instead just a one day race. The reason I suggest that is that once you have gone to all the trouble of securing police permission, officials, haybales, ambulance support, and all that for one race, it's really no extra trouble to do additional races. Also, your profits go up if you do more races because some of your expenses are fixed costs (like race numbers, for instance) which don't change if you promote two or three races. Also - things like time trials and hill climbs cost almost nothing to promote. They are pure profit. Of course, no one is going to show up for a time trial unless you also offer then a road race and a criterium, but that's bike racing.
I will be happy to serve as an email consultant for any teams who need advice putting on races for the first time. The address is
Three months or more before the event:Make sure you know what is involved and that your club is up to the task! Choose courses and preferred dates. Start the process of obtaining permission to hold a race. This includes:
- ECCC representative
- To get a spot on the ECCC schedule.
- USCF permit
- This needs to go to your ECCC representative and to your district representative.
- Local police
- Permit application to any police dept whose roads you will use. If you do a campus criterium, you may need permission from both campus police and city police.
- Campus Events and Services
- If you do a campus criterium (This is important! Do it early or you may get hosed!)
- Local Business Community
- If you do a criterium or a road race in an industrial park
At least one month before the event:
- Make sure all your permits have been approved and that you know how many police officers your races will be assigned. Be sure your budget can handle it!
- Get USCF officials through your local district representative.
- Make a race flyer and send it to all the schools/clubs.
In the last month:
- Don't even think about cancelling. You should have done that a long time ago.
- Stay in touch with all police departments.
- Stay in touch with all campus bureaucracy.
- Maintain a folder with permits that you will bring to the race.
- Obtain permission to use bathrooms or locker rooms.
- Obtain permission to use parking facilities.
- Make sure you have access to power if you need it.
- Make sure you have permission to tow cars parked in your way.
- Get medical support (see the hints).
- Announcer and sound system (optional, but really classy).
- Finish camera (see hints).
- Ask a local bike shop to provide a mechanic for neutral support for a criterium.
- Get medals made.
- Notify residents or businesses who will be inconvenienced by the races.
- Make a campus flyer and post it to advertise the race.
- Inform the campus newspaper (write the article yourself if necessary).
- Explore other ways of on campus advertising.
In the last few days before the race:
- Post notices on cars that are in your way or make sure the cops will do it.
- Inform residents again (they always forget).
- Have a meeting for race marshalls to tell them what their job is.
- Make every team member bring friends to the marshalls' meeting!
Things You Will Need at the RaceSee the hints below for most of them.
- finish camera (& TV or monitor, VCR, and extension cords)
- course marshalls
registration tables and chairs
- preregistration and paperwork
- cash box
tape for the finish line
- 200 meter sign (for a road race)
bike check stickers (optional)
- truck or scaffolding for officials, announcer and camera
tent or tarp for officials and for registration
lead vehicle (for criterium)
lead and follow vehicles (for road race)
cones, barricades, snow fencing, yellow police tape, rope, staple guns
lap counter, bell
- large clock for official start time (for a time trial)
- large bulletin board or blackboard for posting results and start times
food for marshalls, race promoters, and officials (don't forget this!)
medals for 2 races, 5 categories, top 3 places $100 - $120
officials for a weekend $300 - $400
cops for a day $500 - $1500
permits for a weekend $50 - $100
port-a-potties per day $150 - $250
finish camera per weekend $50 - $1000
staging for officials for a weekend $75 - $150
marking the course (police tape, signs, paint, etc) $75 - $150
haybales for a criterium $80 - $350
numbers and pins $70 - $100
printing and mailing $20 - $50
announcer and sound system $300 - $500
food $80 - $100
medical support for a day $50 - $700
You should have qualified EMTs at the course for any criterium and at least have radio communication with an ambulance for a road race. The Red Cross will do this for you for $50 a day - or you can pay an ambulance service $700 a day for the same thing. You choose. Contact the Red Cross at least a month in advance because they have to schedule volunteers to do it. We had the amazing luck to get ambulance services donated! Don't ask me how that happened. We just got lucky.
This can be another high budget item. Professional finish services can cost $500 a day or more. You can do it yourself, but you MUST do a number of things right. You need a video camera with a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 sec. Remember all those races where you had to pick out the colored blur that was you crossing the line? Get a fast camera. You may be able to rent one from a campus audio visual department for undeer $50. Second - you need a high quality VCR with frame-by-frame advance. The average household VCR will NOT cut it. If you are going to do your own finish work - practice, practice, practice. Try it the day before the race. Try it the morning of the race. Try it a few times on laps other than the final sprint. Make sure you can read numbers and you can see the whole road. The camera will have to be elevated to read numbers and to get over peoples' heads, but if you get it too high, you won't be able to see the whole road.
ResultsIf you are using a finish camera (especially if for the first time) have the top 20 finishers sign out. If they just put their name, school, number, and estimated finish, it makes the job of reading numbers off the videotape a hundred times easier. Also - assign one person who will not be racing the job of adding up points the entire day! This person will not have much chance to do anything else, but you will have results done on time! Don't make your officials do this. It's not their job and it will take three times as long.
Neutral SupportIf you call Mavic now you may get them to support your race. (Their schedule may be tighter now - I haven't tried them in a few years) They have been known to cover an average joe schmoe collegiate race if they are asked in time. If not, you should be able to get a local shop to lend you a mechanic in return for putting up a banner.
You will need a lot and they will get bored and need to be relieved. So make sure all your club members bring friends to the race. At a road race don't forget to send a car around to pick marshalls up and drop them off.
Try to get someone levelheaded to be in charge. This is a deceptively hectic job and you can lose lots of money by forgetting whether people have paid or forgetting to charge them late fees, etc. If necessary, restrict the times when different categories can register - i.e. only in the hour before your race or something. This cuts down on the lines and the frantic action.
I have a great list of who not to bother asking. Don't bother asking the cops. Don't bother asking campus facilities. Don't get them from Radio Shack. Try a local radio club or rent them or don't bother at all. You need good ones. Bad ones are too frustrating to deal with.
Try your school's club sports office. I have not known this to fail ever.
Get your numbers from the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations in Kansas City at 816-464-5400. They cost $11.50 per package of 100. They are large and waterproof and you will not find a better price anywhere so don't waste your time. There is a 4 week lead time for regular shipping, but you can express mail them if you forget. Pins in bulk had us hung up for a while. I have heard of people getting them from laundromats, but we had no luck with this. Don't bother trying hardware stores. We got ours from a local number printer - Sports Printers in Cambridge (who would have charged us twice as much for the numbers as we paid mail order)
We bought orange poster board, stencil letters, and black paint (next time we'll get spray paint, though) and made "caution - bike race" and other signs. This definitely helps keep people off your course.
We borrowed ours from MIT Physical Plant. It was easy.
This is optional, but I would like to see it become standard. You would not believe how many boneheads can't glue tires on until you run a bike check some time. It may save some skin if we check.
Offer the chance to provide a banner to a local sponsor. Most companies have banners like this. Don't even dream of buying one or getting one printed.
Flatbed Truck or Scaffolding for OfficialsA local rentals company can rent you scaffolding or staging (look up rentals in the yellow pages) but it's expensive. Try to borrow from campus sources like the Campus Activities Office or a campus theater group.
Someone must have a friend who rides a motorcycle, right? It's much classier than a car for a criterium. At Santa Barbara and at Altoona, PA, I have seen the local Harley club help out. What the heck - give them a call.
Having lots of haybales makes a really classy race. We used 75 for a four corner criterium. This is a lot. We got them by looking up "Hay" in the yellow pages. Most hay companies have never heard of the concept of renting hay bales, but they will adapt quickly when they realize they can make some bucks. Taplin Farms charged us $80 for rental, delivery, and pickup with us helping to load and unload the haybales at the race. They don't know how badly they undercharged us, so don't tell them. Expect to pay more like $300 for delivery of that many bales. Also - some companies will make you pay for the haybales if they get wet. You'd rather at least know in advance, right? So ask.
You can probably get cones and barricades from your local campus or city police department at no charge. Police tape you have to buy. Get it from Gall's 800-477-7766 at $15/1000 ft part #BT (Do Not Enter) but be sure and ok it with the cops. Rope from the hardware store, obviously. Someone on the team must have a staple gun. It's really important that your course is well marked. Crashes are always bad, but it's much worse if you're the promoter and they are your fault.
Try club sports. Try local people who put on a regular training series. We got ours from our chief referee.
Again - you can rent one, but it's expensive. (in collegiate race budget terms) It might cost $100 a weekend or so. You need about 10' x 15' for registration and the same for your officials. Obviously, if you can move registration indoors in case of rain that solves that problem. Campus activities may have a tent you can borrow - or the boy scouts or somebody.
It's definitely optional, but it sure makes your race look pro. It's expensive, but worth it. Having an announcer can also easily pay for itself. Sponsors are much more willing to shell out bucks if there will be an announcer there to tell everyone about it.
Everybody will be happier if you feed them. Feed the marshalls or no one will volunteer. Feed the cops. Feed the officials. Feed yourself, while you're at it. If you are the promoter you won't have time to leave the race, so assign someone to bring food around to everyone.