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Head Start

Race Directors HQ

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Head Start is a podcast for race directors and anyone involved in the business of putting on races. It doesn't matter where you're based or how many years experience you have or whether you're putting on a running race, a triathlon, an obstacle race or whatever. If you’ve got an interest in planning, organizing and growing endurance events, this is the podcast for you. The focus of the podcast is twofold: 1) we bring you the latest and coolest innovations hitting the mass-participation endur ...
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If there’s one thing you can’t have enough of as a race director, it’s race insurance. Particularly - knock on wood - when the unexpected happens and you’re faced with a dreaded lawsuit that threatens to take away your livelihood and your piece of mind. So how can you best protect yourself and your business from the risks associated with putting on…
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When doors start dropping off planes mid-air or your favorite online retailer gets in touch to let you know your personal details may have been compromised, it’s tempting to think you may have done a better job handling that crisis were you in their shoes. But how well-prepared are you really to manage the many crises that can come up during the pl…
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It’s that time of the year again. RunSignup’s annual RaceTrends report is out for 2023, and it’s larger and more comprehensive than ever before! Among the most notable trends highlighted in the report we see registrations for 2023 races up from 2022 and tantalisingly close to 2019 levels, entry fees continuing to climb across most race distances an…
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With more than 2 billion monthly active users (MAUs), Instagram has secured a comfortable lead as the social media platform of choice for the vast majority of online-active almost-30s and 30-somethings out there. And with Instagram’s core audience slowly aging to match running’s demographic sweet spot, it’s really important your race gets its Insta…
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As a race director, few things in the race planning lifecycle can be as exciting and enjoyable as designing a brand new race course. From picking a start area to mapping out race distances and figuring out where to place amenities, such as aid stations, race course design constitutes an important first step in shaping your race’s identity - one tha…
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Building a race from the ground up, as anyone who’s done it will know, is a tough business. But what about planning, coordinating and growing a whole series of races, all with a common theme and brand identity? How do you finance and grow multiple races from scratch? How do you choose when and where to launch a new race? And how can you make use of…
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First run on a whim in 1982 by Oregon Road Runners Club president Bob Foote with only 8 teams participating in the inaugural race, Hood to Coast has grown from modest beginnings to become a huge success story. More than 40 years on, the race that has come to be known affectionately as “the mother of all relays” now attracts more than a thousand tea…
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Racing has come a long way since the days when women were being told that running the marathon would cause your uterus to fall out. And with women now making up 54% of all race registrations in the US, according to RunSignup’s 2022 RaceTrends report, you’d think there’d be very little holding women back from racing in this third decade of the 21st …
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Nestled in a valley in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder, CO, is often referred to as the fitness capital of the US. So it was a bit surprising to Phil Dumontet, a young East Coast entrepreneur moving to Boulder in 2017 to launch his smoothie bar business, to realize that Boulder, in all its glorious outdoorsy-ness and obsession with fi…
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On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs planted by brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tarnaev exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. In the devastation that ensued, three innocent people lost their lives, while 281 others were injured, in what was, and still remains, the biggest ever terrorist incident suffered by a mass-participation spor…
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If you’ve done the hard work of prospecting and soliciting sponsors, and got some of your prospects to engage with you, you may be forgiven in thinking your job is done. Actually, that’s where the real work begins - understanding your sponsor’s needs and closing the deal with a sponsorship proposal that hits all the right notes. So, how do you get …
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Selling merchandise is a great way to increase brand loyalty for participants outside race day, and, of course, a very good way to increase revenue from your event. So, how do you get started selling race merchandise, both online, on packet pickup and on race day? How do you pick and test merchandise items that sell? And, very importantly, how do y…
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From the minute the first participant shows up on race day till the time the last one leaves, responsibility for the wellbeing of everyone on and around your race course rests with you - the race director. So, how can you make sure your medical preparations are up to scratch? How do you figure out how many - and what type - of resources to dedicate…
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If you’ve been following our industry updates on race and participation growth, you may have picked up on the fact that trail running, and trail races, have been doing particularly well over the last few years. In fact, trail racing seems to be one of the few spots within racing still growing at a healthy enough rate as other areas in racing are st…
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Over the last decade or so, lots has changed in the social media landscape. Facebook has gone from exciting upstart to the mature granddaddy of social media, Instagram has grown by leaps and bounds to become the platform of choice for visually engaging content, and TikTok has emerged as the new contender in the battle for social media supremacy, fa…
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In a number of our past podcasts, we’ve touched on the issue of race waste - and specifically a particularly significant and persistent part of that issue which is water cup waste. In an ideal world - or shall I say in a trail running world - we’d all love to put on cupless races, where racers themselves are responsible for bringing along their own…
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Gravel racing has been one of the fastest growing sectors in mass-participation sports over the last decade or so, particularly in the US, where high-profile races like UNBOUND Gravel, Rebecca’s Private Idaho and Belgian Waffle Ride have grown massively in popularity, attracting a broad range of both veteran and newcomer cyclists to the sport. It’s…
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Besides race medals and finisher shirts, the one experience item participants have come to expect from a race, particularly in this digital age, is a good set of professional race photos. And perhaps because of the cultural changes that have come with the digital age, the purpose of race photography within the endurance events business has been swi…
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If there’s one thing that often sets apart races that go on to do really well from others that struggle to gain traction in their community, it’s the ability of the former - and the inability of the latter - to engage with the non-race world. And nowhere is this more evident than the way in which events interact with local media. The truth of the m…
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Whether you’re putting on races through a for-profit or a nonprofit organization, having a good grasp of your race budget can often make the difference between a profitable bottom line and days of post-race head-scratching about what went wrong to land you in the red. Admittedly, building and maintaining a race budget is not a lot of fun - not to m…
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When you want to know what’s happening and trending in the endurance events industry by the numbers, where do you turn to? Well, for me and many people I know, the definitive source of event data for the industry is, and has been for some time, RunSignup’s annual RaceTrends report. The report leverages RunSignup’s extensive registration data from t…
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It isn’t every day that an entirely new mass participation racing concept emerges that can take the world by storm. But, that’s exactly what’s happened over the past few years with the rise of HYROX, a new racing format, combining functional fitness and endurance in an indoor mass participation race. Launched in Germany in 2017 by veteran multispor…
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When races grow from scratch, particularly as passion projects, there often comes a time where growth grinds to a halt. Participation seems to gradually plateau around a few hundred participants and any progress beyond that seems impossible. So, how do you break through this resistance point to grow a race from the hundreds to the thousands? What c…
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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? That’s what we’ll be exploring today with the help of my g…
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Today, we are going to be taking a trip down memory lane, looking at some of my favourite podcast highlights from the past year. It’s been an amazing year for Head Start - our second year on the air - and, as we head into 2023, I wanted to say how grateful we all are at Race Directors HQ for your support of the podcast and everything else we do. So…
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If you’ve been following the podcast for a while, you’ll know that what we try to do at Head Start is bring you actionable, expert advice you can learn from to grow and improve your race - hopefully, with a bit of entertainment on the side. Today marks the first episode in a new way of helping you on your race director journey. Spotlight is a new t…
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It’s another bonus episode for you today, and as we were discussing reducing your race’s carbon footprint last week, this week’s episode falls quite neatly in the same area of sustainability and decarbonization. Today, I’m joined by race director, race timer and solar power enthusiast Lowell Ladd, of 2L Race Services, to talk about how you can swit…
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In a previous episode of the podcast with guest Brian Schmidt of P3R, we saw how it is possible for even a very large race like the Pittsburgh Marathon to achieve zero waste status - that is, the goal of diverting more than 90% of total race waste away from landfill. But what about carbon emissions? Is it equally feasible to aspire towards carbon n…
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Most races only come around once a year. So when you’re working to improve a race for your participants, you’ve got precious few opportunities to receive feedback from them. How do you use those opportunities right? And what feedback should you look to gather from them? Well, my guest today, Laurel Park, has the unique privilege of being both a rac…
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Looking into the business of putting on races from the outside, as a passionate runner and racer, you might be mistaken in thinking that putting on races is a fairly straightforward, relaxing, comfortably profitable thing to do. I can hear some of you chuckling there… Well, my guests today, brothers Jeremy and William Fermo, are exactly the type of…
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“A game changer”, “TV on steroids”, “the future of content” and “ridiculously addictive”. That’s just a few ways to describe TikTok, according to my guest today, but, chances are, if you have teenagers in the house, you already knew that. So what is so special about this app that has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years? Is TikTok r…
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If you have been putting on races for a while, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that organizing events is one of the most stressful jobs out there. How stressful? According to a 2019 survey by job searching site Careercast, it is in fact the 6th most stressful job you can do, less stressful only to careers like the military and firefighting. …
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Securing sponsorship is undoubtedly one of the toughest jobs on any race director’s plate. And finding and approaching sponsors, in particular, is probably the toughest bit of it. Where do you even begin looking for good sponsor prospects? How do you know which person to contact? What do sponsors really want? And how do you make that first approach…
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90% - keep that number in mind - that’s how much of your event waste you should be diverting away from landfill to be able to claim that your event is a zero waste event. Sounds tough? Easy? For most races that’s a pretty high bar to clear - particularly as, when you start adding everything up, it quickly becomes apparent that a race can generate w…
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In all walks of life, people love to stress the importance of data - knowing the hard facts and using evidence to make better, more informed decisions. So, how well do you know your participants? How well do we all in this industry understand who runners are, what they really want out of our events, and what motivates them to choose one event over …
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Last week, if you happened to join us for part one of our two-part Facebook Ads podcast special, we set the scene by looking at Facebook marketing strategy, understanding sales funnels, planning and structuring ad campaigns, and mastering audience targeting. This week, in part two of the discussion, it’s time to switch gears a bit and look at some …
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When it comes to spending money on marketing races, Facebook Ads remains the most popular choice for race directors and professional race marketers, regardless of race size or type. So how do you make the most of the opportunities Facebook Ads has to offer for marketing your race in 2022 and beyond? We’re going to be going over all that in a specia…
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Are you struggling to understand how you should approach and talk to sponsors? Is seeking sponsorship a task you dread or maybe have even given up on? We’ve got an awesome episode for you today that is going to boost your confidence and reset your entire thinking around sponsorship. It’s going to help you understand what sponsorship truly is about,…
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Personalized participant video, where a participant receives an edited video of themselves in the race after they cross the finish line (often as soon as a few minutes after), has been a long time coming in mass-participation events. So how far has personalized video technology really come over the last few years? What does it add to the race exper…
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Have you ever thought about trademarking your race’s name or logo? Trademarking your race and brand could help protect your business against trademark infringement, and the risk of getting someone else’s event confused with yours, whether that is done through malice or ignorance. Today we’re going to be looking at all aspects of trademarks and the …
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When it comes to marketing your race, email marketing is the granddaddy of all marketing channels. Forget TikTok, and Instagram and Facebook Ads, if you don’t have a sound email marketing strategy, you could be passing on a huge opportunity to grow your race - and also falling short of delivering the highest quality experience you can for your part…
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It is May 2022 and whatever hopes and expectations we’ve all had of 2022 at the end of last year have started to materialize - or have they? It’s difficult to say how strongly our industry’s recovery towards pre-pandemic levels has fared so far this year, particularly when we all individually get to see only parts of the bigger picture. Well, today…
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When it comes to marketing events, text marketing - or SMS marketing, as it’s often known - is just about as controversial as it gets. Some people have used it and absolutely love the high engagement rate and ROI SMS marketing campaigns provide, others don’t want anything to do with it and positively cringe at the idea of marketing their event over…
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Does your race employ a race announcer? Chances are probably not. You may think that your race is not big enough to have one or that the money spent on a race announcer could be better spent elsewhere - or not spent at all, if you run a for-profit race or raising money for a charity or cause close to your heart. Well, today we’re going to try and g…
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What do the Marine Corps Marathon, Air Force Marathon and Army Ten Miler all have in common? They are, of course, amazing races put on to celebrate branches of the US Military that attract tens of thousands of participants every year. Well, there’s a new race in town for 2022, set to celebrate the youngest of all military branches: the Space Force.…
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It is by now abundantly clear that some of the ways we have all been used to doing things, including organizing races, are just not sustainable for the planet in the long term. And it is increasingly obvious to race directors and participants alike that traveling long distances to and from events, going through scores of single-use plastic bottles,…
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It’s probably not an overstatement to say that volunteers are the backbone of every successful race. They are the people that make much of race day happen and, yet, recruiting and managing volunteers, training them properly and retaining them for the long run remains a constant headache for race directors of all levels of experience. Well, today we…
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On February 17, former president of the Portland Marathon, Lester Smith, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of wire fraud and tax evasion. In the indictment, Smith, who has led the Portland Marathon as both president and race director since 1982, is accused of embezzling more than $1 million dollars from the race’s coffers to fund his personal…
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What’s in a brand? Is it the sleek logo with the matching color palette and catchy tagline? Is it your organization’s mission statement and your event’s core values? Or is it every single thing that makes your event a memorable experience for your participants on race day? Well, according to my guest today, event branding expert Peter Abraham, your…
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Why do some of your marketing campaigns work and others don’t? Why do you yourself as a consumer respond a lot more favorably to some types of messages and not others? At the end of the day, what makes us all take our wallets out and pull the trigger on that next purchase? The answer to all those questions more often than not comes down to psycholo…
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