A day in the life of a Race Director.
You all know what it's like to participate in a race, but have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? Today, we're taking you on a journey to discover what a typical race day looks like for our amazing Race Director, Mark! Get ready for some behind-the-scenes action at the Woodchurch 10 and 5 mile event in Kent!
First things first, before you even arrive at the race, our Race Director is already hard at work. They meticulously plan every detail, from course conditions to marshals, to ensure your race experience is top-notch. They're like the maestro of the event, orchestrating everything to perfection!
"A Nice Work Race Director must do several things before you can join the start line- a job that starts well before the starter claxon. There’s the pre-race briefing, talking about course conditions, marshals, and other pertinent information, then race day begins.
Starting at 5.00am - The alarm goes off and the struggle to open the eyes begins. At least in July, it is daylight outside. Winter races is another matter. All I have to do is get up and get out. My race bag was packed the night before and race documents read through. Nice Work provide all team members with race specific information in advance, and I have it all on my clipboard.
5.30am – I hit the road and begin the search for coffee. Nice Work races are all over the country and today’s one in Kent is only an hour from where I live near Brighton. If there are races further away, we get overnight accommodation but today is not one of those days.
6.30am – Arrive on site and catch up with the other members of the race team and unload the Nice Work van. If this is a new race for me, I like to find out from everyone who has worked it before, about any nuances or unique things that happen. A lot of knowledge is shared whilst carrying boxes and barriers. The teams are like a well-oiled machine and at this stage, it is all about seeing where I can help.
The Registration team are straight on it, erecting the gazebo, sorting tables, pens and pins so that any early arrivals know where to come. It is not uncommon to have someone arrive to collect a race number, over two hours before a race will start. Today, I’m helping Rob, our timer with his equipment and setting up the timing mats – the start and finish are in different locations so I will need to be on my toes once the runners have set off! We also have a finish line gantry to inflate!
As soon as is possible, Course Director Steve heads out with the van to check signs, water stations and where necessary, put out additional signage.
7.00am – I meet Ben, who is our partner for this race. We discuss the course layout, junior races and any last-minute issues with marshals. I’m delighted to hear that all is in order with the marshals and there’s the usual briefing with them all at 8.30am.
8.00am – Runners are starting to arrive as well as some local stalls. For today’s race there will be hot dogs, bacon rolls and other delicious delights on sale from the local scouts and the smell is already incredible.
8.15am – Registration is in full flow now and we’re thrilled that we have so many junior runners for the kids race. I jump in and help where necessary, as do other members of the team. There are plenty of pens and pins for the runners to complete their details on the race bibs and I walk up and down the queue with pens and forms for anyone looking to enter on the day, so they can get sorted as soon as possible. Reassuring runners at this time is key –we’re all nervous to some degree before we run.
8.30am – Marshal briefing with Ben and I am joined by Steve, straight off the course with any update on conditions. It has been raining on and off so Steve will always update the marshals and myself with any areas to look out for. I in turn, add anything of note to my pre-race brief.
8.45am – Medical briefing with today’s medical support whom this time at St John’s Ambulance (SJA). We exchange details, set up WhatsApp groups so we are in constant communication should it be needed. Today, we have a sweep runner who’ll stand marshalls down as she passes, and it is good to let SJA know so they are aware of who is left out on the course.
9.15am – The demand for the junior race is incredible and though the race is now due to start, there are runners still queuing. I make the call to delay the start by 5 minutes and let waiting everyone know, be-it in the queue or near the start.
9.20am – Kids race starts, and I get the other runners to cheer them round. The kids love to run and today we have a superb range of runners from 5-year-olds going round with mum and dad, to club runners looking to test themselves. Everyone gets a medal and some tasty treats to celebrate.
9.30am – With the delay to the kids race, this knocks on to the senior race. The delay is only 5 minutes, but I let the Course Director and the runners know. Everyone makes their way to the start, which is on a small, closed road and at that moment, one of the residents has to leave so I safely negotiate the car through excited runners and get down to the pre-race brief.
9.35am – 3-2-1-Press the claxon! Away they go. Once the last runner crosses the start line, we lift up the timing mats and get them back to the finish line. We have a window of approximately 30 minutes to do this as we need to be ready for the first 5-mile finisher.
9.45am – Operation finish line is in full cry. Water tables are set, medals opened and of course, the prize Jaffa Cakes and Bourbon biscuits are ready! So of course, it starts to rain! No problem to us as we cover and keep everything as dry as possible. Then, it’s eyes on the course. Today’s race is a two lapper for the 10 miles and one lap for the 5 miles. This is the calm before the storm…
10.05am – Our 5-mile winner is home and the leaders in the 10 mile race are on their second lap. Medals are presented, water accepted, and biscuits gleefully munched and this will remain the case for the next hour or so.
10.40am – Our 10-mile runners are now finishing, and it is a hive of activity at the finish. I try and chat with as many of them as possible (once they have their breath back) to get feedback on their race, anything that we should know etc. Awards for winners and age categories are in a local pub and I let everyone know when and where. There is such a great community that, despite the damp conditions, lots of people stay around to cheer friends and teammates home and have a debrief about their races over a Bourbon (or a hot dog if they so wish).
10.50am – I check in with the St John’s team on the course and our sweep runner to check all is well. We work on a “no news is good news” basis as this keeps any communications lines clear, but a check or two is still required. “All good” is the feedback.
11.00am – Awards and prizes. I get a list from Rob, our timer of all the age category winners for the 10-mile race, as well as podium positions for both races. At some events, I will announce these, but today Ben is doing this. People LOVE getting trophies!
11.15am – Our final runners are still out on the course, and as the finish line is quieter, I get on the microphone to make sure everyone gets a welcome home. I do try to do this a lot, but at very busy periods, I do what needs to be done. There’s music playing to add a bit of atmosphere, and for sure by this time, I’ll have publicly ridiculed Rob for his play list, which he takes in his stride.
11.30am – The sweep runner is home, the marshals stood down and the race is over. I have a medical debrief with the St John’s team reviewing any incidents (if applicable) and then officially standing them down. The medical team will not leave until this happens and I will check with the marshals and sweep runner that everyone is home.
11.40am – Pack up begins, and everything is tidied away, rubbish collected and the gantry deflated. Whilst we are doing this, Course Director Steve is hard at work collecting in the directional signs and mile markers in the van, so we aim to be as ready as possible for his return. When Steve is back, we swap notes on the event and pass on any info we feel the other should know. The local scouts then become legends by offering us the last of their hot dogs – boy they are yummy!
12.00pm – Job done. Team thanked, partner Ben thanked, and we chat about the race and make sure he is happy. Ideas for the following year are raised too. There’s a team debrief too where we discuss any areas for improvement or changes to make for next time. Every
member of the team has the opportunity to feedback to the Office Team as we are constantly trying to improve. We then discuss which race we’ll meet at next and it’s time to head home – and go in search of that illusive coffee!"
So next time you toe the start line, you may like to take a moment to appreciate all the hard work and dedication that goes into making these events possible. Our Race Directors, like Mark, ensure that your race day experience is nothing short of amazing. They're the ones who bring the magic to life! Let's give a big shoutout to all the Race Directors out there, who make our running dreams come true! Thank you Mark.