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February 7, 2016

The “when” is the most important decision

Lately I have been advising several groups on putting on a race for their organization, with the hopes of raising some extra money for their cause.

The types of groups that are trying to put on a race vary from large to small, from organized to “not so organized.” When you start giving advice to the smaller group in the organization that will be responsible for putting on the race, the one thing that seems to stand out is how surprised they are at how much detail goes into planning a race.

Sometimes members of the group are runners and can understand the logistics of the planning. Those who are not runners are often a bit confused, as there is a language of race direction and race planning that is new to them. Once they see all the pieces of the puzzle being put together, the big picture becomes a bit clearer.

You start with the big details first; and as race day approaches, the smaller details are brought in and worked out. One of the first details is the “when” will you have the race? To get the word out and advertise; it is best to have a minimum of three months to see if you can notify as many runners in as many venues of advertising as you can.

One of the first steps is looking at a race calendar and seeing what other races are being held in your area that weekend. If there is an established race that draws a big crowd of runners, then that means that - since you are a first time race - most of your runners will be local, and not many will come from outside your area.

The other thing - besides going against an established race - is what day the race will fall on. Major holidays are not necessarily good, even though there are a few that are being put on around Thanksgiving. There are lots of races around Halloween and the Fourth of July holidays. It may seem like a national holiday; and that is this Sunday, when the Super Bowl is on.

The tailgate parties are not necessarily only at the stadium, but also in homes, bars, and hotels. These gatherings start early in the morning - some even a few days before - so planning on having a race on Super Bowl Sunday is not in the organization’s best interest.

Even people who are not football fans seem to get drawn into the festivities. Runners who are serious about the sport will get in their individual runs early in the morning. The idea of driving somewhere out of town to enter a race is not on their list of races to run that weekend.

The jerseys and colors of the two teams are in a full display on the participants; and some of the “make-up” that you see on TV had to have taken a long time to put on - the paint, decorations, hats of the teams names, etc.

For a non-football fan, it is hard for them to understand how one football game can dictate what the rest of the area does on this Sunday. Having a race that will draw a big crowd of runners is not a good idea on this Sunday.

For runners, one of their main concerns is, “Did I run far enough to burn off the extra calories that I will probably eat today?”

I have been to several Super Bowl parties put on by runners. Most of them are potluck dinners where everyone brings some food. I am always amazed at how much food some of these runners can eat. It is almost like their legs are hollow; and the second and third helpings are as big as the first time through.

It is a good option to build your theme for a run around a holiday on occasion, just not Super Bowl Sunday. Pick a less serious holiday like Halloween, or a homecoming at the local school to try to have a run.

Now that the first item is out of the way, the group can now get on with the other details that go into planning a run.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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