Andrew Wonders is Event Manager for Mudathlon and many other events, and a long time SignMeUp online registration customer.
In 2009, a group of organizers that traditionally had focused on marathons and half marathons was looking to expand its scope and put together a different and unique event. After many potential versions, we settled on an off-road race where participants would be on foot. We would find some terrain that was more difficult than a traditional trail run, throw in a few man made obstacles and make some mud. And party afterward. Pretty simple, right? Right.
In creating and developing Mudathlon®, in which participants navigate a three-mile course with 40 obstacles, we learned some valuable lessons in what to do – and what to avoid – when launching a new and unique event. Here are five of them.
1. Spend time finding the right property. This was an initial mistake we made, we just found land and assumed we could make it into whatever we wanted. We discovered that without advance planning, creating the Mudathlon® courses was a lot of work, time consuming, and costly. A few weeks before the first event we looked more like a cross between construction workers and lumberjacks than race organizers. We weren’t just building the obstacles or making the mud, we were creating the actual path that runners would use over these three miles. Let’s just say we don’t take paved roads for granted anymore!
2. Diversify your marketing channels to include social media. When we started we thought the 20-something thrill-seeker types would just come, so we marketed to your typical runner demographic through traditional outlets such as expos, running store partnerships, and online ads. Marketing to runners was important but we needed to do more for groups of people who don’t run endurance races. The use of social media to reach this demographic is crucial. The power of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. can’t be denied or overlooked in any way. Social networking is no longer an afterthought; rather it is an integral part of our marketing strategy. Our participants love to run through the mud, and they love to talk about it, so they help us further promote the event.
3. Post-race amenities and activities are important. Mudathlon® includes an awesome post-race party where beer flows, the grills are smoking and live music is jamming. Before the party, we offer showers or a rinse area because as much as people like to get dirty, they like to get cleaned off too.
4. People love to have fun in groups. The concept of creating teams and incentives for team size is something that has really caught on.
5. Explain how your event is unique. We found that we weren’t marketing as much as we were educating potential participants about what Mudathlon® is. There are so many mud runs that we needed to emphasize the obstacle portion of the event more, because that is what people really like and makes it worth doing. Now as so many obstacle races exist we need to start differentiating ourselves from them – which is one of our main goals going forward.
As we prepare for 2012, we can look back to 2011, when two Mudathlons® doubled in size and a third event in Cincinnati sold out. We continually search for areas of expansion and actually know what we are looking for. We also know so much more about our Mudathletes. These participants love the opportunity to get out and act like a kid again, essentially, they like to have A Mucking Good Time. They love the obstacles, both natural and man-made. We are happy to be a part of the industry that is running through the mud and look forward to the challenges that are constantly presented.
Have you started a unique event? Let us know what worked, and what didn’t!