Participatory Event Management: Three Races, Three Experiences

Dan and Diane

Recently another SignMeUp employee, Dan Bloedorn, and I ran a couple of our clients’ races together (well, not together, Dan finished way ahead of me) – the CARA Lakefront 10 presented by NovaCare and the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.  I also ran Fleet Feet Sports Chicago’s Soldier Field 10 Miler.  Each of these events has its own special feel, each fun in its own way but very different.

Taking place in late April, the CARA Lakefront 10, with roughly 3,500 participants, strikes me as a real runner’s race (the event is organized by the Chicago Area Runner’s Association, so this makes sense).  There is one event choice – a 10 mile run – no shorter distances, walks, or kids races.  CARA throws a great post-race party complete with food and beer, but it seemed most people were there to race.  Even the prizes for the top 5 overall men and women were entries to other races!

On the other hand, the Soldier Field 10 Miler organized by Fleet Feet Sports Chicago, feels like a big party with a race beforehand.  The starting line is just outside of Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.  At the end of the race, participants run into the stadium where they can see themselves cross the finish line on huge ‘Jumbotron’ monitors.  Capacity for the 10 mile run is limited to 10,000, and it sells out far in advance.  In addition, there is a 2 mile walk, a kids race, and a post-race party with food, beer, and entertainment.  Taking place over Memorial Day weekend, the event honors the country’s veterans.

Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate is a terrific community event.  Started 11 years ago to memorialize Ricky Byrdsong, a Northwestern University basketball coach murdered in a hate crime, the event has grown to about 3,000 participants.  There’s something for everyone:  a 10K run, a 5K run, a 5K walk, and a 1 mile youth run.  Whole families participate together (I ran the 10K, my husband and son ran the 5K, and then my son and I ran the youth mile).  Most participants stay well after the races are over to socialize and enjoy the post-race festivities.

As these experiences show, races aren’t just about the competition.  As an event organizer, think about how you want to position your own event.  Unique positioning can help you get publicity, sponsors and participants, and help your event succeed.

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