My distance running started with the Steamboat Marathon over 15 years ago and I have since ran big and small marathons along with several ultra runs. As you all probably know, there is always something about a race that you would like to change. Now it is my chance to take a shot at race directing ‘the perfect marathon and half marathon’. The first year of a race usually involves the race director investing large amounts of his/her own money into the race with the hopes people actually come to run the race. While it is possible to do this for a 5K or minimalist ultra, putting together a draft budget showed it is impossible to do this for a major marathon unless you are independently wealthy. Without that wealth I have decided to take a different approach to building this marathon. Lately the running community has seen a lot of race directors collect runner's entry fees first and then try and figure out the details later. Not only has this resulted in thousands of runner's losing their entry fees to races that never happened, it gives race directors a bad name. I tend to do things differently, I get everything 90% planned and ensure I have enough runners/sponsors to meet my budget needs before taking any runner money. So this blog will be based around that planning and the challenges race directors face.
Choosing a date is difficult. There are already races almost every weekend competing for runners. In order to allow for enough planning I targeted a date somewhere around two years out. First I consulted with local lodging and tourism professionals. These folks pointed out that April is a low time for tourism in Destin with occupancy rates averaging around 65%. But if you break the month down further, you can see there is a dip between Spring Break and Easter/Passover. And unlike the winter months when occupancy rates are around 45% and many businesses cut back seasonal staff, businesses are fully staffed in April. The April date will help us keep it affordable by both allowing the runners to take advantage of lower transportation/lodging rates and hopefully allow us to add more sponsors by taking advantage of a temporary slow period. Runners, sponsors, and volunteers are the life-blood of any event, so it is important that a race director keep those three things in mind when making any decisions. Many runners are worried about the heat, but the graphics below show the highs in mid-April in Destin for our marathon(left) are very similar to those in Nashville at the end of April when the Music City Marathon (right) is run.