Monday, August 3, 2009

Race Rating System

I've come up with a rating system for running races that will help others and myself decide what races to enter in the following seasons. As usual, I would like to acknowledge the fact that most races rely entirely on volunteers. It is without a doubt that any volunteer is a great volunteer. This rating system is not meant to offend anyone by any means. Chances are, if your race gets a bad score, you already know there were issues. If you happen to be a race organizer or race volunteer and you read a bad review about your race, don't get hurt - this is very constructional criticism that can help you make changes and pull off an awesome event next year!

First - the score card. Then the explanation...

1. Bathroom facilities
2. Race day organization
3. Course scenery
4. Course creativity
5. Value
6. Shirt or gift
7. Parking availability
8. Website quality
9. Online registration
10. Accessible for spectators
11. Convenience of race packet pickup
12. Pre-race expo
13. Entertainment on course
14. Post race food
15. Race day vendors/exhibitors
16. Volunteers / marshalls / police & emergency services support

Each of the above items receives a score from 0-3. Here is an explanation of those values:

  • 3 - Awesome! It was as good as possible and contributed to a great race experience.

  • 2 - Good / Indifferent. Could have been better but did not contribute to a negative experience.

  • 1 - Bad! Left a taste on your tongue but probably won't cause you to avoid the race in the future.

  • 0 - Non-existent or downright horrible! This is the race killer. This is something that annoyed you so much that it was on your mind the whole race and would seriously cause you to avoid the race in the future.

Explanation of the categories:

  1. Bathroom facilities. Judged not so much on quality but quantity. The pre-race urination is so incredibly important to a runner. If you're in a lineup 30-deep with 5 minutes to go before the start, you're going to be stressed beyond belief. Note that my judgement will not solely be based on the number of 'port-a-poddies' but also on the available 'natural environment'. For example, the Pearson Runway Run had insufficient washroom facilities in '09 and also didn't have any wooded areas or back alleys, either (score: 0!). The 5 Peaks Rattlesnake 12.7k had insufficient facilities however there was a vast forest within 100 metres of the start line (score: 3). Cleanliness will rarely sway my score in this category - it would have to be a pretty extreme situation.

  2. Race day organization. Once again - any volunteer is a good volunteer. However, when you have 100's or 1000's of runners roaming around, nerves pumping, things need to be very straight forward. I need to know exactly where I have to be and when. I need clear and regular announcements as well as signage - the more the better.

  3. Course scenery. I know you can't have a snow-peaked mountain view during the Toronto Marathon, however, there are beautiful neighbourhoods and not so beautiful neighbourhoods in every city. If the race organizers have worked with the roads that are available to them to try and run past as many local attractions then that's all we can ask.

  4. Course creativity. Similar to the previous category. Out and backs are boring - very boring. Adding mileage along trails instead of roads is creative. Tunnels are creative. Finishing inside big league stadiums is creative.

  5. Value. The race distance is the same so why is the price different? There better be a good reason for an $85 half-marathon opposed to a $45 one.

  6. Shirt or gift. Face it, when you're like me and are still on the course when the race winners are sitting at the pub, drinking a cold one, the goodies in the race packet can make or break your experience. Shirts are awesome. In 20 years, I've never gotten sick of getting a shirt at a race. Some, I wear out in public. Some, I would only wear under my hockey equipment. It's not just the fact that there is a gift, it's the thought that went into the design and quality of that item.

  7. Parking availability. Huge item. This can be a big contributor to pre-race stress. Parking should be close to the start/finish and should not be an additional expense. It's understandable in some large cities where the race takes place in the downtown core that this is simply not an option but most places should have facilities available.

  8. Website quality. I want to see registration information, race day schedule of events, course map and elevation, previous results, race day climate, expo and packet pickup information, etc. There is no limit to information that can be uploaded to the web - upload away.

  9. Online registration. A) you better have it. B) it better be easy.

  10. Accessible for spectators. We simply want friends and family to be able to follow the race with ease.

  11. Convenience of race packet pickup. I realize that the goal is to have everyone attend the race expo, look at all the exhibitors, then pick up the race packet. If there is no race day pickup, then please, please, please have the expo open long hours for those of us that are coming from out of town or unfortunately have to work.

  12. Pre-race Expo. If I have to go to the expo in order to get my race packet, it better be good. I want to see new and innovative products, new and interesting races or events, DEALS!

  13. Entertainment on course. There really is no excuse not to have at least one band playing along the route. Up and coming musicians would gladly volunteer their time in exchange for the exposure. By the way - we're getting sick of 'Born to Run' by Springsteen...

  14. Post race food. It's a necessity. Chances are your baggage is packed in an area with 100's and 1000's of others. If there is something nutritious packed in your baggage, chances are it's going to be a long time before you get your hands on it. The post race food and drink is what keeps you on your feet.

  15. Race day vendors / exhibitors. An extension of the race expo. Maybe after struggling to finish the race, you now realize that the products you shunned at the expo might actually be for you! This is also for the family and friends that have to wait in agony at the finish line for you to hobble in...

  16. Volunteers / marshalls / police and emergency services. I can pretty much guarantee that this one will always get a 3.

All my future race reports will include a rating. I will also be retro-rating some of the more recent races that I've been in.

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