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GSRS Race Director Blog

Some Trends to Keep Up With

Submitted by teschek_bill on


A few items of interest came across our desk of late that our race directors might want to take a look at. First is a link to a Guide to Non-Binary Inclusion in Running put out by the RRCA that will answer the questions that many in the industry have. Even the smallest races need to start thinking about it. At the very least all races should make sure their registration system asks for more than just "Male" or "Female" as answers to the gender question.

How are you Gen-Z numbers doing? (For those of you, like me, are sometimes challenged when it comes to figuring out who Gen-Z applies to, think people born roughly between 1995 and 2015.) In RunSignup’s latest RaceTrends report, registration data showed that less than 13% of race participants in 2021 races fell within the 18-30 age group - a number that used to be almost 18% as recently as 2017, and keeps on falling. So why is it that races fail to attract younger audiences? A podcast linked here might give you some answers on how to up the participation rates of this cohort at your event.

And speaking of that RaceTrends report, here's a few takeaways for those who don't want to read the entire thing:

Event Swag

Submitted by teschek_bill on


The Running USA website has a useful article titled "What Event Swag Do Athletes Actually Want?" If you've been wondering whether the swag you offer, be teeshirts or medals or something entirely different, is the best way to go, give it a read. Some of the main points were:

  • The 2022 Running USA Global Survey found that 16% of respondents consider the medal or finisher award when choosing a race.
  • If you give out medals make sure they are enticing, exciting or different. Customize them to incorporate the theme of the race, or use local materials.
  • While in the past teeshirts made of technical running materials were all the rage, the trend now is towards softer blend materials that can be worn in more situations, although heavy 100% cotton unisex shirts still aren't in favor.
  • 57% of runners surveyed said they wished races offered something other than just a finisher t-shirt. Most popular were either hats or canvas bags or duffles.
  • Don't offer the same swag year after year. Mix it up.
  • Runners like things they can actually use.

What's Ahead for the 2021 Road Race Season?

Submitted by teschek_bill on


As the snow melts and the weather warms everyone in the running industry is wondering what kind of a return to normalcy we can expect to see over the course of the coming year. Last Fall we did see a limited return to racing - in New Hampshire at least - and GSRS was involved in supporting and timing a dozen or so cross country meets and road races, culminating in three races on Thanksgiving Day. Winter is always a slow season and things usually pick up quickly in the Spring. But this year the pandemic situation is still a problem, and early year prospects for live events are no more optimistic than they were throughout most of 2020. Early Spring 2021 races have mostly either gone virtual or cancelled, while others - anticipating big improvements by Fall - are postponing their events until later in the year. Late Spring and early Summer races are a mix. Some are moving forward with live events, while others are postponing, going virtual or cancelling once again. As this is being written in early March the prognosis for a full return to normality is impossible to know for sure. The vaccine rollout is improving daily, but the virus variants are worrisome. It seems like it may be a race between the two. There is definitely reason for some optimism that racing will return to normal this summer if everyone who wants a vaccine has been able to get one by then, but there is no way to be certain just yet.

If you are thinking of a postponement this year, please chat with us as you make decisions about when to hold your event. If everything opens back up in the Fall, we will likely have a very busy schedule. We can help you choose a date that not only works for us but avoids competition with some of the regular fall events in your area.

If you do hope to go forward with a live race this year, that's great! It can definitely be done safely, and we can help you plan and pull off a successful race. Here are some suggestions to get you started. Not every state in New England is currently on board with a return to racing, however. New Hampshire is way ahead of the rest of the region, having been operating under State safety guidelines for many months now. Other states may be opening up to racing soon. USATF-New England has a good webpage full of up-to-date information and links where you can learn more about what's going on in other states, as well as good advice for holding a safe race. You will still need authorization from your local permitting authorities, however, so start the conversation with them early. If they have concerns, talk with us about them and we can give you advice on how to address them, and how to hold your event under the existing guidelines in a way that should mitigate their worries.

If you do make the decision to hold your event in person, consider making it a "hybrid" event with both in person and virtual options. Many runners may still feel uncomfortable about attending in person but would be happy to participate virtually. And of course runners who live far away or have other plans on your race date can now be included. Going forward, even in a post-Covid world, offering a virtual option to runners may become very common. Also consider that even if you do plan to hold a live event, conditions come race day might not permit it to take place. In such a case you will either need to offer refunds, deferrals, or you can switch everyone to your virtual event. On your registration site you can include a disclaimer that states that should your in-person event need to be cancelled due to the pandemic, all registrants will be moved to the virtual category. If you go this route you may want to charge the same price for both your virtual and your in-person event so that you don't have to process partial refunds should you need to cancel and move everyone to virtual.

With so much uncertainty this year as to when or if our races will be held, we haven't put out all of our 2021 timing contracts this winter as we normally do. We're waiting until races confirm their dates as much as confirmation is possible these days at least! We'll contact you when yours is ready, but if you want to see your 2021 timing contract earlier please let us know and we'll get it out to you. Your race's web page IS up on our site, however, so you can go in and edit those if you want. We added a new feature recently where you can add your own descriptive information about your event that will appear on the page. The field where you add this information has full HTML editing capabilities so you can make it look however you'd like. And we'll be happy to help you with it. See this page on the Mt. Washington Road Race for an example of what this could look like. The new Description field appears on the right side of the page.

Slow Summer

Submitted by teschek_bill on


Guidance from the State of NH

Road races and other sporting events are starting to come back around the country, but not very many and generally only small events that can institute effective social distancing modifications. The State of New Hampshire recently okayed the resumption of road races and other similar endurance events, and they issued some guidelines that are helpful. I encourage every race director thinking of holding an actual event later this year to download and review the document. It is eight pages long and the first six talk about general guidelines for sporting events. Road race-specific items begin on page seven. Most of the recommended guidelines mirror what we've mentioned in some of our previous race director blogs. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have about how to go about implementing these, and how GSRS can adapt our our timing methods to support social distancing.

Helpful Information from the USATF-NE

For links to the latest guidelines from New Hamsphire and other states in New England, bookmark this page from the USATF-New England website. In addition to the latest news their "Return to Play" website has a wide variety of useful information for any race director hoping to put on a race in the coming months.

RaceJoy For Anywhere

We're working with a number of upcoming virtual races who are using RaceJoy's service to time and track runners on the official race courses, but now the RaceJoy app can also track runners who do their virtual runs anywhere, including on a treadmill. Read more about the full RaceJoy service on our website here.



COVID-19 and Road Races - Current Information

Submitted by teschek_bill on


As the days and weeks of dealing with the coronavirus add up, the race industry is needing to adapt to unprecedented conditions. Everyone is searching for answers to difficult questions that often have no answer - such as "When will things get back to normal enough so that I can hold a road race?" The answer is that no one knows. The one certainty is that for the foreseeable future there will be no 'business as usual' for running events. If your event is coming up later this year, you are probably wondering what to do about it. Here are some suggestions:

Modify your event. Every business affected by the pandemic is seeking ways to modify their business model to abide by social distancing guidelines, and athletics is no exception. This will likely be necessary well into next year, so if road races are going to be held, they'll need to find ways to change how they operate. We've discussed some ideas on our website. There is also a lot of good information showing up in other places on the web. The RunSignUp registration company has published some  Looking Forward Guidelines. USA Triathlon recently launched their Safe Return to Multisport Initiative and produced detailed guidelines that "represent a valuable resource for multisport race directors facing the new challenges of producing events in a world where the coronavirus still exists." While they are written with an eye towards large triathlons, many of their guidelines are very practical for small road races.

We're currently hoping to find one of our race directors who is willing to take on the challenge of putting on a modified event this summer. It would need to be a small event, probably in a somewhat rural area, but we believe it can be done, and it will be a good chance for all of us to find out how to do this going forward. It doesn't even have to be a race that is currently scheduled for the summer. Who would like to be the trendsetter and go first? Perhaps some of you can collaborate? We're all in this together, and need to experiment to find our way through. If someone would like to try putting on a small event this summer, please get in touch and we'll talk about the possibilities.

But in general, the outlook for racing for the next several months is not promising. Even if some small races are held, there are real hurdles. Your traditional sponsors might be experiencing financial difficulties and might be unable to support you this year. Runners might be scared to show up. For many, there are really only two options - cancellation, or going virtual. Several of our races have chosen to cancel and look forward to 2021, but many others are having success with the transition to virtual. There are some definite drawbacks to cancelling. Skipping a year of a race can have a detrimental effect on runners showing up the following year. Offering a virtual race instead of cancelling outright at least gives you a touchpoint with your participants that will make it more likely that they'll sign up next year. The other issue to consider is that non-profits are really hurting for money now, so it's likely that the beneficiary of your fund-raising efforts is in tough shape this year. A virtual race can at least bring in some much-needed funding.

Virtual Considerations. We discussed virtual races in our last blog. Since that time more and more of our events have gone virtual, and it's a trend that is sweeping the country. We recently scored the virtual Moms on the Run, with posted results and user-submitted pictures. A list of our other events with currently scheduled virtual runs can be found in the top right section of our website's front page. In addition to help with posting of results and photos, we can assist you in the entire process of putting on a virtual event, from registration, to logistics, and even by assisting with the process of mailing your swag and/or teeshirts to participants after the event. Like almost every other company out there, GSRS has been searching for ways to adapt our business model to survive these trying times. You can help us by letting us help you with your virtual event. Let us put you together with one of our registration system partners, for starters.

Many of our races are presently in a wait-and-see holding pattern. If your race is in the fall, or even late summer, it's difficult to know what to do since no one knows whether things will loosen up enough by then to allow your race to happen. But you also have preparation work that needs to be done and can't wait too long to make your decision. If you're thinking that a virtual race might be a good idea, but don't want to commit to that because you feel there is still a chance to hold an actual race, don't worry. You can do both! Even before this pandemic many races offered virtual components for runners who for some reason couldn't come to the actual race. Maybe they don't live nearby. Maybe they are beginning runners who don't feel comfortable participating in person. Whlie you are waiting to find out whether you can hold your race, start now by opening up registration for a virtual version. Explain that anyone who signs up is paying for the virtual race, but if the actual race happens their registration will be good for that as well. This way you can open registration now, and you have another way to promote your race in the weeks leading up to what you hope will be your actual event. If the virtual race is open for that entire time, you can offer an ongoing leaderboard to also generate interest. There are lots of creative things that can be done.

Insurance for Virtual Events. Just because your event is going virtual doesn't mean you can skip getting race insurance. America is a very litigious society and although it may be unlikely, it certainly isn't impossible that some one might sue you if they injure themselves while running your virtual event. The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is a good place to get road race insurance, and they also offer it for virtual races now. They have other advice about putting on virtual events on their website here and here. You'll also want to be sure to update your event waiver to cover virtual running, and the RRCA has some suggested text. The Nicholas Hill Group specializes in insurance for the endurance events industry and has a low cost general liability insurance policy aimed exclusively at virtual races.

Modify Your Event Waiver Now. Speaking of event waivers, those races that still hope to hold an actual event later this year should go onto their registration site today and modify their event waiver to include language relating to COVID-19. You want runners to understand that attending your race may very possibly expose them to the virus, and to have them acknowledge that they understand this and will adhere to social distancing guidelines put out by their communities and by your own race rules. Some good discussion of this issue here and here.

Permitting. At this time, it’s not certain what the coronavirus-era permit application process will look like.  We know that cities and towns are financially hurting, and that means they may look for ways to generate more revenue. It’s possible that permit costs could increase in the coming weeks and months. On the other hand, cities and towns may be desperate for healthy ways to bring people together again, and work hand-in-hand with races to accomplish this goal.

A permit is generally one of the keys to your race; at the same time, it’s necessary to have your plan in place before applying for a permit.

  • Right now, across the board, race directors have permits in a holding pattern. Local permit agencies will not officially receive them until social distancing guidelines are relaxed. All agencies are being cautious.
  • Check with your local officials to determine whether a permit is required to hold your race. 
  • If you have produced races in the past, keep in touch with your contacts in charge of permits as closely as possible. Work with them on changes and modifications to your race to proceed in a modified format at a planned date in the future. 
  • Keep in mind that when they re-open, permitting agencies will be flooded with requests and you will need to be patient. Create a modified race plan now for your future events (even if they aren’t until later this year or 2021) to be prepared.

If you aren’t able to get a permit, pivot to a virtual race as a way to get some cash flow to sustain your organization until 2021.

Useful Links

How to Organize a Virtual Race

RunSignUp Announces RaceJoy Anywhere for Virtual Events

Coronavirus - Race Options and Best Practices

RunSignUp's Go Virtual page

Transitioning to a Virtual Event (webinar)

Upcoming and Past RunSignUp Webinars

6 Things to Do When Not Putting on Races

The Virtues of Virtual Runs

Why Can't I Get a Refund? And Other Emails to RDs in the COVID-19 Era


COVID-19 and Your Race - Meeting the Challenge

Submitted by teschek_bill on


Over the past five weeks we've heard from many of our race directors who are dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on road racing. Our last timed race was held on March 14th and we are currently being notified of cancellations as far ahead as the beginning of September. The entire industry is in a state of hiberation until further notice. There is a lot of discussion about when racing will be able to resume, with the optimists hoping for a return in summer and the pessimists saying that until there is a vaccine, large crowded events are not going to be allowed (and if they are, few people will feel safe attending.) While our hearts are with the optimists, we can't ignore the very real possibility that racing won't return until well in to 2021. For this reason, every director of an upcoming race should be thinking about and planning what to do. Here are four options to consider at this point: cancellation, postponement, modification, and virtual racing.

Cancellation. If you decide to outright cancel your event, please let us know as soon as possible and give us the date of next year's event so we can update our online race calendar. There is a useful page of information on the Race Director's HQ website that gives advice on how to proceed with a cancellation. It was written before the advent of this pandemic, but is still useful. They have a more recent article titled "6 Things to Do When Not Putting on Races" that you might want to read. Also please check out the Granite State Race Services cancellation policy.

Postponement. Many of our spring races have rescheduled their events to the summer or fall. If you decide to do this please work with us as you choose a new date. While we will do our best to accommodate you, our fall schedule is already quite busy. Be sure to notify your runners as soon as possible about the new date. Work with your registration company on this, and the issue of what to do about refund requests.

Modification. Later this year there may come a time when a race could be held if the event can be modified in a way that maintains some degree of social distancing. One way to do this is to leave the starting line open long enough that your runners never are in a crowd of other runners. Runners can take off in individual 'waves' of a few people at a time, or even singly. You'll want to start your runners in fastest-to-slowest order, as much as possible. Because everyone will be leaving the start at different times, all scoring would have to be on net/chip time rather than gun time, so the race would be more of a time trial. You may want to make some changes to the way you register runners on site, such as not allowing race day registration at all, or spreading out the tables where registration is handled. It might not be wise to have crowded post-race festivities, so unless you have a very large area where people can gather safely, you may have to ask runners to leave after their run and mail your awards to winners. We'll stay abreast of the discussions of how to safely put on a road race as ideas emerge and are tested. Click here for more information about modifying your race.

Virtual Racing. If you want to hold a race in the near future, your best option would be a virtual event. What exactly is a virtual race? It's when participants run their own race, alone or in a small group (thus maintaining social distancing), at a time (and usually place) of their choosing. We feel that putting on a virtual race is definitely worth considering for several reasons. First of all, it allows you to still hold an event and raise money for your cause. You won't lose out completely. Other reasons include:

  • Less work before, during and after the event.
  • You can avoid worrying about how you are going to do all your pre-race planning during the current lockdowns.
  • Sharply reduced expenses, so even though you may have fewer participants than in a regular race, you will keep a larger percentage of the proceeds and don't need as much seed money.
  • You can still sell merchandise, hold raffles, and raise donations through your registration system.
  • Stays within social distancing protocols.
  • You can expand the reach of your event to include people who wouldn't be able to come to your regularly scheduled race due to distance or scheduling issues.
  • You keep your athletes and community engaged and interested in your event this year, and avoid a two-year gap between races.
  • Increased flexibility for the participants as to when they do their race.
  • Provides something positive to do in these challenging times.
  • Your responsibilities would mostly be limited to promotion, fund raising/securing sponsors, and working with your registration system.

There are two types of virtual races. The most common is to have runners choose their own course, or even run on a treadmill. Less frequently, participants all run on the same race course, but separately, and over a longer period of time. This could be over a full weekend, or even a week or longer. Let's take a look at the two options:

  • Runners choose their own course. The benefit of this option is in its simplicity. Ask your participants to all run the same distance as your normal course, but they can choose where - or how, in the case of a treadmill - they do it. No one has to travel to your race site. If your race is in New Hampshire, someone in Australia can sign up and participate. Usually all runners are asked to do their run on the same day - the day your event is regularly scheduled - or perhaps over the course of that weekend. But there is nothing preventing you from allowing runners to do their runs over the course of weeks or even months. Because runners won't all be running the same course, the exact distances will vary. That means it will have to be more of a fun run rather than a competition. Granite State Race Services will be happy to assist you, from advice, to setup, to results tabulation.
  • Runners use your course. This option is much more like holding your actual event, since everyone is doing the same route. If your usual course is unavailable or partially shut down due to local health-related restrictions, you can devise an alternate course. In order to maintain social distancing, you should give runners the option of doing their run at any point over a much longer time frame, such as a week or more. Rather than having runners record their own times using a variety of apps and devices, you may want to consider using an app called RaceJoy. This allows you to upload an interactive map of your course, send alerts in real time to runners, monitor their progress, and tabulate results. Follow this link to learn more about how you can use it at your race. This is only offered through certified RaceJoy timers such as Granite State Race Services. Use RaceJoy for your virtual event and give your runners more of a real race experience.

Here are some other useful links on virtual racing:

Winter Wanderings

Submitted by teschek_bill on


This is our third GSRS Race Directors blog, an effort that began a few years ago. The goal is to share information about our services, as well as ideas to help you improve your races. It is being sent to all of the road race directors we have worked with over the past few years.

What are Athlinks results?

GSRS sends your race results to multiple online sites, in addition to our own website. One of those is Athlinks, which bills itself as "the largest results database for competitive endurance athletes in the world." Runners can go onto this site and search for their own results, often stretching back into the 1990s. When they find their results they can "claim" them by creating a free account and in the process can create a historical listing of all of their results that they can share with friends and competitors. You can read more about Athlinks here. They also maintain a helpful and informational blog on all kinds of race-related subjects that every race director should check in on periodically. And see their page of White Papers, too.

Race Schwag

Teeshirts and medals seem to be the most common giveaways that runners receive at races, but some are questioning their worth. Dave McGillivray brings up some good points in this Runner's World article. Some races are trying out new ideas. Check out what the Gear Guy has to say in his Runner's World column. One kind of award we often see are handcrafted specialty items that have some kind of meaning related to the race or the community. At the 8 Tuff Miles race in the Virgin Islands in late February, race director Peter Alter took the remains of a tree that Hurricane Irma flew down in his front yard and had a local artisan craft them into small plaques that he gave out to all of his age group winners. And instead of race teeshirts, race director Ed O'Connor gives out knit winter hats with the race name on them for his Yulefest race in Cambridge every December. It's not uncommon to see them all over the Boston area.

New World Record

It's not every day that someone breaks the indoor mile world record by more than a second, but Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia did just that with his 3:47.01 mile at an invitational track meet in Boston last Sunday. I wonder what Sir Roger Bannister would have to say about that!

Decreasing Numbers

If you've noticed that the number of runners in your race(s) have been going down over the past few years, you're not alone. Industry experts say that most road races are experiencing a slump in entries of late. The New York Times had a recent article about it, citing an industry trends report from RunSignUp. One culprit seems to be a relatively flat number of participants being spread out over an increasing number of events. At a recent ChronoTrack timers conference some of us attended in New Orleans in January, they told us that after studying years worth of race results from the Athlinks database they have learned that there is a noticeable correlation between the state of the U.S. economy and participation at road races. You'd think that a healthy economy would mean more runners, since people are more likely to be able to afford race entry fees. But statistics show just the opposite. When the economy is doing well, road race participation is down. Apparently this has to do with the fact that in hard times people tend to turn to cheaper recreational activities, such as running, instead of expensive travel and gym memberships. So our current downward trend in participant numbers is likely only temporary, waiting for the next inevitable swing in our economic fortunes. In the meantime, if you are putting on a road race and just expect runners to show up without much effort on your part, we have three words for you:  Promote, Promote, Promote!

Historical Results

We have recently added historical race results to our enhanced race result pages for your race. We have searched online for all results going back as far as possible for all of the races we time and added links to them on our own results pages. So whenever anyone brings up your race's page on our website - either the informational page that comes up in google search results, or the results page for your current year's race - they will be able to easily check out the results from previous years, even if GSRS wasn't the timer. Very few results go back before the mid 1990s when started posting them, so if your race is older than that and you still have printed results tucked away in a file somewhere, send them to us and we'll get them online for you.

We'll close this blog with our sincere thanks to each of our customers for their continued confidence is our services. We look forward to working with you again over the coming race season.

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