Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The RD: Insurance, Shirts, Shwag, Volunteers

Throughout this series we have taken a closer look at what it takes to be a race director. We have explored how one comes to the decision to take on directing a race, we talked about course design, we talked about permits. Then we talked about the costs of building an infrastructure and a whole host of other expenses incurred by the RD. In this post, we're going to wrap this up by looking at some other final considerations such as insurance, shirts and other shwag. We'll also look at runner feedback. The final paragraph will be a short opinion piece on some things that I've experienced here in Colorado.

By now you should have come to the conclusion that being a race director is NOT an easy job and in general, is rather thankless. There is a lot that goes into putting on an event and ultimately, YOU as the RD are on the hook for everything. Think about that for a minute. If someone dies on your course or is seriously injured.. you're on the hook. A lot of RD's think that just because they've had their runners sign waivers, they are exempt from litigation and liability. NOT TRUE. Waivers hold up in court differently in different states. If you live in a state with Ski Resorts, you're protected pretty well with waivers. But in a state like Texas.. you could be screwed. So don't be naive or get caught with your pants down. YOU.. as the Race Director, are liable to and for every single runner and volunteer out there. Your volunteers don't sign waivers, and neither do other trail users. Do your due diligence to ensure that you're protecting yourself, your family, and your investment in the race.

Many think that obtaining insurance is the hardest thing to do and so it becomes one of the most intimidating things to obtain. It's really not that bad thanks to organizations like the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). You can obtain an RRCA membership for about $100 a year. Once you are a member organization, for profit or non, you can obtain insurance for your event through them. They base the price of insurance on the total number of individuals coming to your race. This will include runners, volunteers, staff and spectators. You guestimate that number and they'll give you a price for 1 or 2 Million dollar policies. Check with the land managers to make sure you have the required coverage for the event. Most require a $1mil policy. Insurance for the Tommyknocker Ultras cost be about $158 to ensure myself/business, the event, and all additionally insured which would be our race host and associated land managers. The whole process of getting insurance and insuring additional parties was incredibly easy. Just add this to your list of expenses.

There are two ways that races make shirts. One is Screen Printing and the other is Sublimation. Screen Printing is incredibly expensive especially seeing as the price goes up with each color you use. The paint is expensive and it's a multi-step process that is rather time consuming. Because it is so time consuming, race directors have to do what is called a "Future's Order." What is that? Basically as the RD you have to guess, a few months out, how many runners you'll have at your race. This is your shirt needs. Runners, volunteers, thank you's, etc. You either give this number to the shirt supplier (Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, etc.) and they ship the shirts, OR, you give it to the company doing your screen printing and they get the shirts. Then, the company screen prints the shirts. There are a million ways this can happen.. you get the shirts directly then bring them to a screen printer, the supplier does it all for you, you get the shirts and the screen printing done from the same company.. etc.

So Screen Printing shirts is time consuming, expensive, and at the end of the day, you don't want to run the risk of not getting enough shirts, so you typically order MORE than you need, which you end up stuck with. Those who have gone to the Big Horn 100, Vermont 100, Western States, etc.. have seen the racks of old race shirts that are still for sale. That's what that is!

So the other option is called Sublimation and it's what I used for Tommyknocker. As long as your shirt is at least 60% synthetic/polyester, you can do this method of shirt making. Basically the shirt company prints off a copy of your design on special paper, then heat transfers it onto the shirt. The great thing about this method is that you can do one-offs and made to orders. There is no futures order. Also, with screen printing, the ink eventually cracks, fades and falls off the shirt. With sublimation, you don't have to worry about that. Colors are not always perfect with sublimation (For instance: white is a hard color to heat transfer) but otherwise, this process is MUCH cheaper and allows RD's to be able to keep registration open longer and still provide runners with a quality shirt.

Lastly, every runner has a huge pile of shirts at home. Many no longer want or need shirts and they'd be willing to pay a cheaper entry fee if it meant not getting one. This is something to consider. A lot of races are offering shirts as a straight-up add on to registration rather than including it. Food for thought.

Other Shwag
There are a number of companies who are willing to provide you with freebie bag stuffers for your runners. This is a great way for them to get their product into the hands of those whom they want using it. So always explore that option. Then there are other things that you can buy as an RD like tiny trinkets. At this years Miwok 100K, I got a magnet, a stainless steel cup, and a small pad of note paper. Really cool and useful stuff that constantly reminds me of the race I did.

However, some races like Western States spend a lot of money on shwag for runners. A large portion of that $400 Entry Fee for Western States comes back to you in the form of shwag. So decide if you want to be a high priced race that offers a lot of quality goodies, or that low cost race that provides an amazing race experience at an affordable cost.

No race is successful without volunteers. The more aid stations you have, the more volunteers you need. The longer the race, the more you need. I've heard stories of new ultras here in Colorado that have a skeleton volunteer crew of the RD and a family member... they ran around like a chicken with their head cut-off, could not cater to all runners as they should, and their race experience suffered because of it.

I went to the Aravaipa Running website and found out that the Coury's use iVolunteer.com to host a volunteer sign-up page. I paid $40 for a 6 month membership to the site and set-up volunteer pages for each event. Then, folks who are interested in volunteering, can see what it is your needs are and sign up for what they want to do. You even schedule shifts so they know exactly the time commitment they are required to adhere to. It really is incredibly brilliant and easy.

But remember this.. you cannot count on volunteers. They're not being paid, so it becomes difficult to expect that they'll actually show up. Try and recruit more than you need to ensure you'll have coverage. Also, consider that runner complaints about inferior aid stations volunteers is on the rise. They want actual experienced ultra runners out there helping them out. Something to consider when you start to solicit help. The success, or failure, of your event rests heavily on the help you obtain or don't.
This series will continue on for at least a few more posts. Have questions? Things you want to see discussed or outlined? I'd be happy to entertain!
This is Part 6 of a multi-part series focusing on the ins and outs of race directing. You can read the previous three parts by clicking their links below:
Part 1: The Decision
Part 2: Your Course
Part 3: Permits
Part 4: Infrastructure
Part 5: Expenses