Spencer has been dreaming of organizing a trail running race at the Harrison Hills Park for *years*. Last year he put in the (substantial) paperwork applying to the Allegheny County Parks head to do the race. He didn't hear back from them for the longest time, and actually received the go ahead for the race less than two months prior to Race Day.
He had to scramble to get everything together. Most of the pre-race work was done by him alone as there wasn't time to ask around for volunteers for an organizing committee. He designed and printed race brochures, planned the race route, set up registration on Active.com, designed and ordered the finisher tee shirts, and about oh, a million other things that Race Directors do to make a race happen. I helped with publicity and Grace's Wok (that's me) sponsored the post-race hot meal for racers, plus about oh, a couple other little things that spouses of Race Directors do to make a race happen :)
Race route and Aid Stations
That was one of the biggies. We love running in the Park. IMO the trails are among the most scenic out there. Our favorite route is one that follows the perimeter of the Park - Red / Scout Trail - because it hits a few different natural habitats ie pond, old growth forest, open meadow, (lung busting) ridge line with gorgeous views of the Allegheny River and beyond. So that was our 5K route. To add a 10K to that 5K would have required many more hours of trail clearing and marking, volunteers to direct traffic/racers and so forth. Thus for this first year, Spencer planned on two loops of the 5K to make up the 10K.
Aid stations were available every 2.5 km, and stocked with water, gatorade and bananas. I think that was adequate. We did receive a complaint that there should have also been gels and oranges and more snacks provided, as many road races do nowadays. Same complainant also was unhappy about the lack of emergency medical service personnel at the event venue. o.O
|Photo credit: Debi Nuttall|
Spencer did most of it with a leaf blower and weed whacker. He had great help from Ian Harell and Nick Barker. Probably about three days worth of trail work in all. Wood chips were dumped and spread over the muddy portions of the trail, which made for a clean, fast run. Directional signages were made and markers put out on the course the day before.
Sponsors are crucial to any successful fundraising event and given the limited time, the five sponsors we got really helped: Penn State New Kensington ($100), Grace’s Wok ($300 worth of hot meals for racers), Eric Shick Insurance (insurance worth $300), and $100 each from Sarver True Value , Don Goughler Executive Coaching, Dr Kathleen Hartford of Healthy Pyramid Longevity and Vitality Center. We hope to get more sponsors for next year for sure. Thank you sponsors!
Race registration, Fees and Publicity
Spencer decided to let Active.com handle the registration because he predicted (rightly) that he wouldn't have enough time to deal with checks and email registrations himself. That worked out well.
To encourage people to sign up before the race, he set a very low $15 race fee. To encourage kids and youth to participate, he set their fee at $10. Even with the $25 race day registration fee, I think it was more than worth the money because that got you a race tee, hot meal, (likely) prize, plus a pristine trail run with aid stations. The only thing that didn't get you was a timing service (more on that later).
He designed a nice-looking race brochure that he handed out to coaches of the nearby cross-crountry school teams, Scouts groups, YMCAs and so forth. I posted the event on Facebook and other social media. The Friends of Harrison Hills mailer went out to about 500 folks on their mailing list. And we attended a few other running events to distribute our race brochures.
Race Tee, Bib and Prizes
Spencer's creative side (usually not very apparent) came out in the design of the tee shirt. What a great tee. That took quite a bit of time, but not as much as when it came to trying to figure out how many shirts to order for the various sizes available. Oh man, that was challenging, particularly when he had very little idea how many racers were going to show up! In the end he decided on 60 tees, mostly sizes M and S, with a few youth sizes.
RoadID gives up to 200 free numbered race bibs and Spencer took advantage of that. Very nice!
Prizes. Who knew these ribonned disks of metal would cost so much?! Spencer - frugal genius that he is - ended up ordering generic (but quality) 1st-3rd place medals and printing out labels for all the different age groups/categories that were affixed on the back of the medals. I think they looked decent!
|Photo credit: Debi Nuttall|
We cannot thank our volunteers enough for all of their time and effort. On race day, tons and tons of work was done by some really awesome volunteers. This race would not have happened without you. Thank you: Mardelle Kopnicky, Susan Goughler (registration /aid stations), Patrick Kopnicky, George Kurn, Benjamin Edwards, Brock Edwards (traffic control/aid stations), Denise Blackburn, Chris Nagy, Debi Nuttall, Mikayla Nuttall and Hunter Nuttall, Courtney Clark, James Jarvis, (food prep and service, post race clean up).
Or lack of. With the $300-400 cost of a professional timing service, and not knowing how many participants we were going to get this first year, Spencer simply could not justify getting that timing service. He'd already taken on the risk of being in the hole by close to $1000 with the Race tees and Prizes. So he decided to use his laptop with a timing app to time racers, and as a backup, he would have the sequential tear off numbers from racers' race bibs. He did a few test runs of the app and it worked good.
Then of course on race day, the app vanished from his laptop and was nowhere to be found... The laptop was rendered useless. Spencer ended up recording times going back and forth windows on his iPhone with its teeny screen. It was the Disaster of the Day and he took it very hard. The backup plan worked but was very tedious to record all the numbers as they came in, match up with the times and then identify the participant.
This epic fail, plus difficulty reconciling bib numbers and times for racers who had last minute category switches (5K to 10K and back again, age groups), caused a delay of over 45 minutes for the Awards Ceremony.
Never again. (see 'Moving Forward' below)
Post Race Food
As official sponsor of nutrition for athletes post-race, Grace's Wok (me), was totally overwhelmed that day. My little helper (baby Meili) went on strike. I had on the menu my usual fried rice, wontons and spring rolls. Plus, as I wanted to provide variety and concession type foods for athletes and families, I also planned for rigatoni, veg chili, naan bread with veg and chicken curries, hot choc and coffee, soda, cookies, sweet breads, and fries. Yes, fries. Fries were my downfall. I had only one fryer and that was occupied with fries for way too long, thus causing a backlog for wontons and spring rolls, which was of course what everyone wanted. The day's special was fried rice, one wontons and one spring roll for $5 - almost all the racers ordered that. We had order slips that seemed a mile long, and the line of folks waiting to order was 15 deep at one time. I think wait time was up to 20 minutes at one point. These were very patient folks. For that I am forever grateful.
We have enough preliminary feedback that is positive, and we are planning to bring the race back next year - bigger and better.
Based on this year's numbers, we can hire a professional timing service without running a deficit. That's what we will do.
We want to continue encouraging early registration (it really helps planning for t-shirt orders, prizes and food), so plan to continue keeping the pre-registration fee low - possibly $15 for early bird, $20 for pre-reg, $30 for Race Day reg. What do you think?
We want to continue encouraging kids and youth to participate, so plan to keep the registration fee low for this group.
We want to keep this year's sponsors - including Eric Shick Insurance and Grace's Wok (ha!), and seek new sponsors too. Sponsors donate prizes, swag that goes into each racer's race packet, services, cash and etc. More sponsors mean better swag for racers and more of your race fees going towards the fundraising objective. Sponsors can also contribute to a better event experience by setting up booths for massage, chiropractic, runners apparel/accessories/shoes, and much more. Sponsoring $100 and up gets your name / or company name in print on the race tee, and it is contributing to a worthwhile cause. If you would like to be a sponsor in any way for next year's event, let us know!
The race route. We plan to add 5 km of new trails to the existing 5 km loop, so that we can offer a 10 km loop that will challenge and thrill any level of trail runner.
Volunteers - ah where would we be without volunteers - we will definitely need at least twice as many volunteers next year. Stay tuned for our call for volunteers!
Wife of Race Director Spencer Clark :)