Thursday, May 21, 2015
What Runners Want in a Race
I have been surveying runners on different running forums, both in Utah, Nationally as well as various Facebook pages of all things runners:) and have decided to share with you what I found. Because its kind of interesting in a way, at least I think so! Some of you may have even over the past 6 months seen some of my random questions on these pages, if you did now it may make more sense on why I asked:)
Why did I do it? Well information is gold in a business, and racing is a business. You do it wrong, you can be out a lot, and I mean a lot of money! I needed to know if my thought process on it was aligned with what the majority of others, or if I was an anomaly:)
Especially since, to make my Half Marathon work, on my current estimates I need 250 runners to break even, and 400 participants to make it really worth doing. (Those estimates could change, I am not finished with all the numbers just yet.)
The fact is, runners aren't just going to sign up to run a race because you create one, you need to make sure you are creating ones they want, that can compete with the large market out there that they can choose from.
I am not going to share every detail that was discussed on each topic, but here are the more important or highlights on each.
FOR CHARITY OR NOT
Do runners care if the race they entered gives a portion of the proceeds from their race entry to charity?
My opinion, no I do not care nor do I pay attention if one I enter does or not. I'd rather have a great race experience and have plenty of what I need on the course.
What did others tell me? Well I had quite a few responses on this question, over a hundred actually. About 3% actually responded that they cared or only enter races that support charities. The rest thought along the same lines as me, they wanted good race support, plenty of port-o-potties at the start, they want to feel taken care of and have nice finishers goodies after.
VERDICT: I am normal in my thinking on this, so unless it becomes a huge tax benefit, then I don't think I will deal with charity runs right now!
MEDALS OR NO MEDALS
Do runners want medals for half marathons, 5k's and 10k's?
My opinion, while I love my medals for my 26.2's, and I can see why others want them for Half's. I personally wouldn't care to get one in a 5k or 10k, although I do like them if I place in the top 3. Truthfully, until last year I never even knew smaller distances gave finishers medals. I am new to this medal craze, this I understand:)
What did others tell me? This one I had quite the response on, and it varied so much depending on which different type of runner groups I asked. The majority of marathon and ultra runners who responded told me they wouldn't want one for a 5k and if they get them, they toss them or donate them. But then the majority of Half Marathon said definitely they like them and register races for them! The shorter distance runners predominantly told me they do like them, and only choose races that offer them. They do put them up on their award walls and display them proudly.
VERDICT: Although I may be normal compared the most distance runners, I was very much NOT normal with shorter distance runners. In the end, fun run runners do like them, and display them proudly. The ones who don't care for them, most told me they donate them to special needs Olympic charities who give them to the participants. (Which I thought was a very cool idea! I also learned that is what most races do with their left over medals after a race.) So, races should definitely hand out finishers medals as most run for a medal these days! Which means in my own planning, looks like medals for all races.
RACE SHIRT OR FINISHERS SHIRT
Do participants want a guaranteed shirt at packet pick up, or do they want a shirt given to them at the finish line after they cross?
My opinion, I am actually good with both. I see why races give them out at packet pick up, it's less hassle for them race day. But I also sometimes like that finishers shirt that is a little different and earned. In a way I don't really have a strong opinion either way, but to be honest part of me had been leaning towards a shirt given at the finish.
What did others tell me? This also varied depending on the distance running group I asked. Overall, about 60% polled like the shirts given at the expo so they have less to carry after the race. Some said they are okay with either, with no opinion either way. A smaller percentage would only prefer them at the finish for finishers only. I also had several tell me they didn't necessarily care for a shirt, but liked hat's or jackets or other unique items they could use.
VERDICT: Runners like nice soft technical shirts that actually fit, and like to have less to carry after they finish unless the race is giving them a finishers bag, with finish supplies then they are fine to load up:) Overall, it seems most prefer them at packet pick up. Still undecided on this once since it varied a little, so I'll probably go with what ends up being easiest.
PAY FOR PICTURES AFTER, OR GET IT WITH A RACE ENTRY
Do runners like photo companies to come to races and take the possibility of several photo's to then go home and choose from later spending what I have noticed is $7-$15 for one picture. Or would they like a slightly higher race entry fee to have 1 picture mailed to them, not taken by a race photo company, but the race themselves? Or do they care about a photo at all?
My opinion, I have run a few that your race entry includes 1 free photo of you in the race. I have also run many that you pay to purchase photographs after. Understanding that this is only possible for those who wear their bib correctly. I travel a lot for races so I do like one photo of me, and I always cringe when I have to pay $15 or more for just one picture to be sent to me, but I do it to have one photo if I don't have someone snapping one of my on the course. I do love it when one photo is included in my race entry fee.
What did others say? A huge majority almost 90% of responders told me they would love a slightly higher race entry fee, to have one photo mailed to them after the race. A smaller majority said they didn't care for a photo at all. If a race doesn't offer a free photo, about 40% of those who responded to my questions said they may order a few photo's depending on the race.
VERDICT: Like myself, most runners like a memorable photo of a race. But most hate the expensive fee's for them after. If the price is included in the race entry, they would really like this and not mind a slightly higher fee into the race for this.
LOCATION AND COURSE PREFERENCE
How do runners pick a race location? What draws a person to choose a new race, or location? What types of courses are favorites of runners? What types of courses are not favorites?
My opinion, if I am traveling I pick races with high reviews in area's where there is plenty to do. I like courses near National Parks, Mountains, Beaches. Sometimes I will enter a race not just because of location, but because the race just sounds fun, or I have heard amazing things from other runners. If it's a local race, I like mountain and canyon runs. I am not scared away by hills, although I do dread flat courses as I find them boring. I like point to point courses. I hate loops or courses that require me to run circles. I don't like to pass a finish line around half way knowing I can't get to it for a long while. I don't particularly like out and back courses where I can see everyone ahead of me, or behind me. Unless it is just for small portions of the race.
What others said: They like scenic locations, although some told me they really only go to race and don't spend too much time exploring much of the area, they fly in and fly out if it is a destination race. Downhill or flat seemed to be the majority favorite, although a small percentage did say they prefer a challenging course. Many choose races because other runners raved about it or because they feel they get their money's worth.
The majority said they prefer point to point courses. Courses that they said they didn't like were ones that the organizers messed up and notified the participants after that the distance was different than what they originally declared.
VERDICT: I think I am pretty much in the norm with what others think as far as this. So since I am planning a quite scenic half marathon on a downhill canyon course, I think I have hit the majority of the target audience of runners I am after.
AFTER RACE MASSAGES
Do runners like these? Does it make a difference if you enter a race that has them or doesn't?
My opinion, I had one race massage after my 3rd marathon and it was heaven while I was getting it. After when I had to get back up, it was terrible only because I was so relaxed. I only had to wait a short time in line which is why I decided to do it. Usually, when I finish I don't stick around for too long, so most the time I don't give them a second thought.
What others said: A small percentage said they do make sure to always get one. But most said it depends on the line. A large majority said they don't really think about it or could careless especially on distances shorter than a marathon or if the line is longer than a 5 minute wait.
VERDICT: I think I am in the norm. It would be a nice perk for those who like them, but it probably won't detour or entice any additional runners whether they have one or not. So will I have them? Probably not if I have to pay for the service. If I can aquire it through the powers of marketing for free service, then I will have them.
RACE CUT OFF TIMES
Specifically addressed to those who run half marathons. If you're a back of the pack runner, or run/walker what do you consider a fair cut off time?
My Opinion, I honestly never thought about this until I started planning my own race. Initially, my thought was 3 hours was a fair cut off time. That is a 13:44 pace, which seems like a fair run/walk pace. But then I read that most of those who train to run/walk, train to walk twice as much as they run. So they are closer to a 15 min mile pace so my second thought was 3:20?
What others said: This one was a pretty overwhelming agree in response. Almost all who answered told me 3 hours was a fair cut time. About 5% told me 3:30 was a fair cut time. Many said they do check the race website cut off time information before they enter to make sure they can comply. I did have one person say they don't care about cut off times, they will just finish as they want to finish even if course support is removed.
VERDICT:I think if permits are possible without too much additional cost , 3:30 would even allow for those who enter and choose to walk most the race.
I did search various race sites, it looks like larger races even allow for a 4 hours cut off time, but smaller races generally are 3-3:30.
For my race, its going to depend on how much extra it's going to cost to keep the course open. I might try for 3:30 because it seems like there are a lot more run/walkers these days and that might increase entrants to meet my quota. But pretty sure paying an extra $1000 just to keep the race open for 4 hours for walkers only, is not going to happen.
I should mention I did not poll runners on themed race forums or pages or those who mainly only run fun runs. I polled runners both in Utah specific pages, and a few larger national pages, most of which on the national pages were marathon and half marathon runners. I am sure I may have gotten a different response to some of the above if I did poll a themed race page. The reason I didn't was because what I am organizing is not a themed race.
I actually sent out polls on several other topics. I will have to share them at another time, to help keep this post only as lengthy as it is.
So if you're a runner and you've read through this, I'd love to hear your opinions or thoughts too. Does your opinion on these subjects fall with what others thought in the polls? Or are you like me and think a tad differently (It's okay different is good, right:)