On race day, you need to have your race venue set up at least 1-hour before anyone is due to arrive.
If you have a lot of gear to set up, then you need to arrive even earlier — maybe even 3-hours earlier — but certainly before your registration is due to open.
And that may still not be enough time.
Why is 3-hours not enough time?
When you do arrive that morning before your registration opens, you need to know if all your gear made it to the venue, where everything is, where everything goes, and how long it will take you put it all in place.
If something was forgotten, or breaks during setup, you don’t have a wiggle room figure out a solution or replacement.
You also need time to make sure your course is still good. This may include replacing missing course markings, putting up race day boundary tape, and spotting any course changes (like down trees).
Thankfully, your race day course check shouldn’t take you that long, unless you didn’t do your pre-venue scouting before race day.
You did do your scouting, right?
What? Didn’t you?
Scouting out your venue beforehand is an essential part of your course design process! Not doing it is asking for trouble!
Ok. No worries. If you didn’t do this critical step – AND it’s not Race Day yet — then there is still time.
But that time is NOW! You need to force yourself to take that one last trip out to the venue today.
YES! RIGHT NOW!
Why should you I do this now?
Two very important reasons:
#1 — Everything is right where you left it
The first reason is to make sure nothing has changed. Trees fall, streams flood, and parks start construction without anyone knowing about it.
The same could happen to your venue.
Always check out your location before the race, and then again the morning of the race, to make sure everything is clear.
Better to know you have a problem early, then to find out the morning of your race.
Nothing will ruin your race day like finding out that a 50-year-old tree, with a 4-foot trunk, has been laying smack dab in the middle of your race course for a week (which has happened to me… twice).
Other issues could impact your event too. Some parks share an easement with power companies.
If they need access to your course, you cannot stop them, nor can you hold them back for too long.
Always prepare yourself for the possibility of bandits on your course too.
These folks are likely locals who do not care if you’re racing, often tear down your arrows and tape, and have even been knowing to drop limbs and rocks on the trail just to mess with race promoters.
Why do people do this?
Who knows. But they do, so prepare yourself.
Course marshals can usually deal with these people on race day, but before race day, they can cause havoc on a course you have already marked.
#2 — Everything needs to flow
The second thing you need to consider is where your gear will be placed, how it will get there (i.e. to you have to hike it in, or can you drive your car right up to it), and how it’s placement will support your customer flow.
This is how your customers will move through your venue from parking, to registration, to staging, to racing, to finishing, to spectating, to awards, and back to parking and home.
Your customer flow should always make guest safety a requirement.
If you can effectively separate people who are just there to watch, from active racers on your course, you will decrease your overall risk by a significant factor.
A good customer flow also puts all the registration elements in alignment to what you need your customers to do to get ready for the race, in the order you need your customers to do them in.
Don’t put waivers far away so that nobody sees them as they approach registration.
Put your forms and waivers in their way, so they have to walk around that station on purpose.
If you need racers to pay before they get a bib number, don’t put bib numbers on the left side of the table, and the cash box on the right.
Left to right registration just makes sense.
Flow you customers from station to station in an orderly fashion and you will keep registration from getting overwhelmed with confused racers asking a ton of questions.
To do this well, go stand where you expect everyone to park.
Then walk yourself from parking to where you plan on putting registration.
Does your registration layout make sense?
Does it flow from left to right in a logical way?
If not, change it now. Flow your customers through your registration and use posts, survey tape, and signs to create a Disneyland-effect.
Channels are excellent ways to flow registering racers through your venue while keeping spectators and onlookers out of the way.
Think about where everyone will finish too.
When racers finish, they tend to cluster around the finish line to cheer on their friends, talk to the spectators they brought, and exchange war stories with other racers.
This cluster will get dense quick, especially as the middle pack starts to finish.
Consider where that area might be and how you will need to move finisher away from timing and into an area better suited for gathering.
Don’t make your guests think. Keep it simple and flow.
Once you have a good idea on how you will move people through your venue, sketch out your plan so that you can share it with others.
Sharing your plan is an important step.
When everyone on your team knows the plan, race day will go that much smoother for you!
It’s never too late… until it is
The morning of race day will be too late for you to deal with real problems.
And nothing hurts your reputation faster than hosting a race that does not start on time.
Pre-checking your venue is a simple part of your process that you should never neglect.
Make it a rule that you will never let your course sit too long without checking it out before race day.
Your customers will thank you, your team will thank you, and your stress level will thank you too!
And now you know.