Race promoters spend a ton of time worrying about what racers will care about. However, when you put enough races under your belt, you discover something very unexpected.

Racers don’t care about everything.

What do you mean racers don’t care about everything?

It’s true! The list of things is quite surprising.

What you think racers will care about is often wrong.

During my last race direction experiment, I had a chance to learn first hand what is most important to racers, and what they really could care less about.

The realization was powerful.

Mostly because I had been led to believe that racers did care about things I spend a lot of time and effort on.

Only to discover that most racers didn’t really care about those things.

I wasted my time on the wrong things.

Wrong things?

Yes! And if I had known that they were the wrong things, I would have used my time to work on things racers actually cared about.

But what wrong things are you talking about?

There were plenty, but I’ve trimmed the list down to the top five things I found out that racers just do not care about.

You can decide for yourself if think these are true for your racers. They were certainly true for mine.

Additionally, I’m going to take a guess and say that after you read this list, you’ll have discovered at least two of these five things to be true for you too.

Shall we see?

Let’s find out:

#5. Racers do not care about getting any swag

T-shirts are cool to hand out, and even cooler to see on people.

However, if you don’t have them, nobody seems to care.

Why is that?

Because most of them suck.

Although giveaways like t-shirts might seem like a nice way to remember the race, and show off sponsor logos, most end up in a dresser drawer.

Unless a t-shirt is thought out and designed well (which can equal expensive), they never get worn again after the race.

Seriously. How many t-shirts does a racer need?

Wardrobe is a very personal thing for most people, and a t-shirt needs to be something they would actually wear.

But unless you have the time — and money — to dedicate to a well designed t-shirt, not having one does not seem to be a reason racers don’t come to your race.

If I had to choose between t-shirts and pizza? I would choose pizza every time!

#4. Racers do not care about prizes and awards

I have never seen a racer so happy in life as when I handed them a 1/2-pound of special roast coffee.


Yeah, coffee. It was goooood coffee too!

Shameless plug: It was good Ricks Roasters coffee from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Not something you can easily get outside Northern Virginia unless you know people (or know about their website — told you, shameless!)

When it comes to prizes and awards, different is good, but coffee is great.

Why coffee?

Because it’s different.

For far too long, racers have been given the standard assortment of prizes and awards.


Maybe for a marathon. Off-road racers don’t really care about medals unless it’s the championships.

Is it the championships? No? Then that’s a Big NO to medals.


Yeah, winning “one tire” that I will never buy the match to and put on my mountain bike. Awesome.


Shoes? No? Great. It can go with my other three bike pumps. Thanks.

Beer glasses?

Those are cool. But after a few races, you start to build a collection that takes up a few shelves in your kitchen.

Sort of like the way your grandparents collect spoons and shot glasses.

Do they ever use them to stir tea, or shoot shots?

No, I wasn’t allowed to touch them either.

Racers don’t care about awards and prizes they can’t use or don’t need.

They enjoy those prizes that they can use. That’s why prizes like coffee are a big hit.

If you drink coffee, something different is always welcome. And even if you don’t drink coffee, a 1/2-pound of whatever makes a great gift to friends or family that do.

Same is true for all sorts of things that fit the can I use it, or do I need it category.

Specialized beers, unique racing socks, restaurant gift cards, local BBQ sauces, and things you can’t get outside the area are the new in thing.

Even a free tune-up for your mountain bike, a free tune up for your body with a local message, or even a free adjustment from your local chiropractor, are all welcome changes to the old prize and awards song and dance.

Racers want prizes that matter now.

So skip the one free tire and get creative with local specialties.

It could just land you a new sponsor like Ricks Roasters!

#3. Racers do not care if you start the race a little late

Racers only care about one clock — the one you time them with.

If a race does not get off the ground at the right time, nobody really cares.

Let me clarify that with right time being something between the published start time, and 15-minutes late.

An hour late is cause for torches and pitchforks.

Ten minutes is not big deal.

Racers are very understanding, especially when their start time is in-between other waves that started before them.

Sometimes, start times get tweaked during the race. The surprising thing is that nobody is all that upset about a delay that only lasts a few minutes.

If the results are good, the start time is not an issue.

#2. Racers do not care what you think about their minor injuries

Racer don’t want to be mothered.

If you make a big deal about a minor injury, they will not like you too much.

Why? Don’t they want me to show concern for their safety?

No. Racers take the minor injuries — scrapes, cuts, trail rashes, scratches, and bruises — as a badge of honor.

It is the leading talking point at the finish line, and a way to show other racers just how tough their are.

Only when it’s really bad should you care.

Luckily (or unluckily), the really bad ones do not have be sought out — they seek you out.

But even if they keep it to themselves, you have to stay away unless you see viable chunks missing or bone poking out.

Let’s face it, races will hide all sorts of injures from you.

That’s why you should always be on the look out for those hidden injuries like obvious dislocated shoulders, limping, laying down at the finish line for too long, or the endless vomiting off into a bush.

Then you need to step in, stop them from going forward, and get them some help.

Superficial owees and boo-boos, however, are not injuries you should worry about until the racers present them to you.

Truthfully, they DO want to you to notice their close calls and tumbles, but they don’t want you to act until after all their friends have seen it.

Only then might they trouble you for a band-aid (when nobody is looking).

#1. Racers do not care about your race being perfect

Racers don’t care if your race is not perfect.

They come for the social aspect and the chance to hang out with other racers, not to see your race run like a German train schedule (side note: German trains are really, really on time!)

You will learn so much more by holding your race then you will ever learn by trying to plan the perfect race.

No awards ceremony?

Most racers don’t care if you walk up and hand them a prize.

Mixed categories because only one racer showed up to register for one, and a dozen showed up to register for the other?

The more the merrier. They’re not competing with each other anyway.

They want to race with their friends, challenge themselves, and go home happy.

They could care less that your race started five minutes late, the officials didn’t like the size of your bib numbers (true story), or that you had to change the course due to construction.

Stop beating yourself up trying to be perfect.

Everyone having a good time, and nobody getting hurt, is about as perfect as you can get.

If you make that the goal of all your races, then every race will be perfect.

Racers really only care about you

If you’re professional, nice, thank them, and smile like you mean it (because you do), then a race with flaws is a perfect opportunity to learn without judgement.

After it is all said and done, it is the fact that you took the time to build something that people enjoyed, that most racers really care about.

Nobody else could have done that but you. And some racers will notice this more than anything.

Some might even thank you for it.

So don’t worry so much about what you think racers care about.

Chances are your wrong.

And now you know!

Posted by Kyle Bondo

Kyle started Reckoneer with the simple mission of helping those who want to become race directors and learn the mechanics of outdoor recreation engineering. Kyle demystifies outdoor racing with over 20 years of endurance and outdoor industry business knowledge. Combined with his top-rated podcast Merchants of Dirt, dozens of articles, lessons, and infographics, Kyle has made Reckoneer the premier educator in outdoor event management. Build better races today!