Race Directors: How to Implement an Early Start

Race directors- is your half marathon time limit three hours or less?  Are you looking for an easy way to add more race participants?   Or, do you want to encourage athletes of all abilities and paces to participate, but want to make sure you don't have a handful of people still out on the course when your volunteers need to leave?  Consider adding an early start.

Many half marathon races now offer a half hour or an hour early start for walkers or slower runners to give them a head start on the course before the official start time.  There are many benefits to doing this:
  • Most of your back-of-the-pack participants will wind up finishing with the mid-packers, so your athletes will be off the roads earlier
  • With the time difference between the early start and the regular start, the early starters will be spread out enough so that all other runners can typically pass by safely
  • Your registration numbers can increase as athletes that may not have made the time limit before can participate now with the early start
  • Timing adjustments are easy- most timers take a list of the bib numbers for the people at the early start and then just add the additional time to their results later
  • Your water stops, course marshals and volunteers won't have to wait on the last finishers to come in far beyond the main pack  
  • Having an early start supports athletes with disabilities that may need the additional time, giving more people the opportunity to participate in events

Race directors should publish specific rules regarding the early start.  We recommend you state clearly on your website that the early start is designed only for athletes that will finish in over a certain time (such as over a 2:45 or over a 3:00 finish), or their pace must be more than a specific minute per mile (such as a 15 minute mile).   We suggest you specifically state that this early start is not meant for athletes that just want to get home faster, and that athletes who take the early start and  finish faster than a certain time will be disqualified.   Early start participants typically are not eligible for awards (this is completely understandable- those in the main start would have no idea they have a possible age group competitor that started earlier, and that would not be fair). 

Also, it is your call about support for the early starters.  Many race directors recommend their early starters take a course map in case there is any confusion.  Some races will not have their first water stop set up in time for the early starters, and they tell the early starters they should carry their own water for the first hour.

In the past few years, we have seen early starts grow from a handful of people to thirty or more participants.  They are thankful that they have the time to comfortably participate in an event, and that they are welcome and accepted as half marathoners. 

Safety Tips and Reminders For All Runners and Walkers

Our club is saddened and shocked by the recent news of three incidents where female runners were murdered while out on runs.

These are not the only cases where runners training by themselves were attacked or killed, but the sudden occurrence of these three deaths in one week have led many to question and re-examine their own safety while out on training runs.  Some have made the decision to only do long-distance runs in races because they feel safer that way.

We encourage all runners and walkers to evaluate their personal safety while out on training runs (regardless of gender).

Here are some tips from our club members about training safely:

Avoid training alone if you can.  Get a training buddy.  Or, schedule a group run and walk with friends or local members of racing clubs.  Have a sign up sheet where people sign themselves in when they start and out when they finish so everyone is accounted for.   If people of different paces are training together, stagger starts or total mileage distance.  Train in out-and-back or loop routes where people will regularly see each other.

Set up your training routes on well-lit, populated areas, preferably with businesses or residential areas nearby. 

If you find your schedule means you have to train alone- make sure you are always aware of your surroundings.  Ideally, don't use earphones.  If you absolutely need music, wear one earbud or have a music player that doesn't need earphones.

Wear bright, visible clothing year round and during both day and evening/night runs.

Change your route daily and weekly. Change the roads you take, the distance you run, and the days you run.  Do not create a "pattern."

Always carry some form of ID, either a photo ID or an ID band like Road ID.  Wearing something with an emergency contact and phone number on it is ideal.

Consider using smartphone programs like the Road ID app that will let someone follow you on your route and will alert someone if you stop moving for more than five minutes.
 
Carry a phone.

Make sure someone knows where you are, how long you plan to be out, and what time you should be back.

Consider running/walking with a dog.  Members who don't have a pet have run with a neighbor's dog or animal shelter dogs through a volunteer program.

If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut.

Don't over-share your personal information on social media or on GPS route tracking websites. 

Remember that both men and women should be considered about their safety while running, walking, or cycling alone.

Club Member Spotlight: SoleSisters Rhonda Luevano and Sue Jackson

Club members Rhonda Luevano and Sue Jackson have teamed up as SoleSistersRun4ALS. They are in a quest to run 60 half marathons in a year to bring awareness to ALS and fundraise for the ALS Therapy Development Institute (TDI).

Their goal is to raise $20,000 toward ALS research on behalf of retired Tennessee Titan Tim Shaw, who was #20 when he played football for Penn State.



They are running several of the races together and others apart due to the fact that Sue lives half the year in Upper Michigan and the other half in Southern Georgia, while Rhonda lives in South Carolina.

They kicked off their adventure with a double at Grasslands in Decatur, TX and A2A in Ardmore, OK in March. They have also met up at Peach Jam in Cummings, GA and for a double weekend with the Indy Mini and Kalamazoo Half Marathons.  Their annual race tradition is the Cellcom Green Bay Half Marathon in Wisconsin.

Before the start of the 2016 Cellcom Green Bay Half Marathon

In addition to the races Rhonda has run with Sue, she been running all over the country, completing events this year in SC, IL, TX, NC, MT, ID, WY, VA, ME, and VT.

Sue has also been on the go – she has run five races in CO and MT while camping with her husband. They will be meeting up again at the Air Force Half Marathon in September.

If you’d like to read more about their goal or follow their blog, please check out:
20for20: https://www.classy.org/events/20-for-20/e70363
SoleSisters: https://solesistersrun4als.wordpress.com/

Tia Pettygrue: 100 Half Marathon Finisher!

Club member Tia Pettygrue completed her 100th lifetime half marathon on June 12, 2016 at the Hotlanta Half Marathon in Atlanta, GA.  She timed her 100th half to also be on her birthday!



From Tia: “It was such a blast but what made it more special is that fellow members, Ali Levering and Zenda Brantley, made me feel extra special. Ali made me one of her bibs, and Zenda spent hours the day before and the morning of the race putting out banners and posters celebrating my event. Zenda and I ran together and it was so cool as she would point out each sign! I traveled more for races than I ever have this year, but I will say that in this journey I was able to see so much of Florida that I had never seen in the 25 years I've been here- so many beautiful areas. I ran my first 50 Half Marathons over 5 years and ran the last 50 over 18 months, so I definitely caught the bug! I enjoyed this journey!”

Ali Levering’s special bib for Tia and one of Zenda Brantley’s on-course signs for Tia

Tia's next big goal is to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon.  Check out her blog here.

The Little Things RDs Do to Make Great Race Experiences

We know many race directors that go above and beyond to make their races special.  Here are some of our favorite things that race directors do to add to their participants’ race experiences.  They may seem like small items, but they’re often the things racers remember and appreciate the most!

TriMom Productions in Rhode Island offers the Ocean’s Run Half Marathon.  This March race starts cooler weather, so athletes often wear throwaway layers.  The RDs put a “throwaway bin” at each water stop in the first five miles so athletes can discard extra clothing.  The bins are labeled by mile marker, and are brought to the finish so participants can re-claim their items.  In addition to offering plenty of water stops with great aide and great volunteers, this half marathon also has bike support crews riding back and forth on the course to check on participants and offer food, water or aide.

The Mad Half Marathon in Vermont does two things we love.  Their bike support people that stay with the leaders of each race (half, full and relay) have signs on their bikes that tell you what person they are with, so you'll know if you are cheering on the marathon leader or the half marathon leader.  Another unique perk this race offers: in the post-race area, the race director sets up kiddie pools with chairs so participants can soak their feet (or climb in and soak their whole body) after the race. 

The Fairfield Half Marathon in Connecticut sets up several misting stations for their hot-weather race in June.  In the post-race food area this year, they also had blocks of ice athletes could sit on to cool down.  This plus tons of post-race food and free pre-and post-race massages add to this event.

We appreciate race directors that offer special rewards and incentives for people who do their full race series.  Finishers of all three half marathons (in the same calendar year) offered by the Shoreline Sharks of Connecticut get a special streaker gift.  3C Race Productions, organizers of races in New England, gives a series jacket to participants who complete a half marathon in six states, and a hat to those who complete a half marathon in seven states.

How about races that celebrate their participants’ accomplishments?  We appreciate race directors that set aside special bib numbers such as 50 and 100 for participants that are celebrating special milestones at their event, like finishing their 50th state or their 100th half marathon.  Some races offer a different color bib for people doing their first half marathon at their event.  And one of our favorites perks is the PR Bell, used by events such as the Asheville Half Marathon in North Carolina.  There is a bell at the finish line that participants can ring if they set a new PR on their course!

Another unique offering we love to see from races- childcare!  Races like the Bay of Fundy Half Marathon in Maine partner with local childcare facilities such as daycares or YMCAs to offer childcare during the race.  This helps participants who may not be able to get a sitter for an away weekend.

We've all heard the expression "hitting the wall."  The Lost Dutchman Half Marathon has an actual fake wall set up on their course for you to run through at mile 11.  The fake "wall" is set up with a great scenic view of a nearby mountain and makes for a great photo op.

More and more races are using pace groups to help out their participants.  We love races that extend their pace groups so that almost all paces have a leader.  This means having pace groups that include 2:30, 2:45, 3:00, and if possible, 3:30 and/or an official sweeper- someone who’s job is to come in dead last in the results!

All of these perks are noticed and make a difference.  We thank race directors who look out for their participants in unique ways!

What's So Different About Our Club?

Sometimes people ask what makes our club so different.  Are we in competition with other clubs? Are we trying to take members away from other groups?

The answer is easy- no, we're not in competition with any other group. 

Some clubs are a great fit for runners or race walkers, and some are not.  Some slower runners and race walkers often feel absolutely intimated and unwelcome in racing clubs that seem to be focused only on speed.  Some people have been made to feel that they have no business being in a half marathon or a road race unless they finish in a certain time.  Others feel "less than" if their favorite distance is not the longest.  Or, others get an outcast feeling for doing too little (or too many) events in a year.

Our goals and values are simple:
Community, kindness, support, and club benefits that give you back much more than you paid for your dues.  

We're not here to compete with any other organizations. We're here to have fun and celebrate our favorite race distance- the half marathon. 

We're here to encourage each other, to share information about races, to provide some of the best race and endurance vendor discounts available, and above all- to have fun and celebrate our racing journeys. 

And, we do it in a drama-free environment. Members will have disagreements, but they so with respect.  We have no tolerance for putting people down for the number of events they do, for their age, their pace, or their finish times. 

We have activities that are different than other groups that make us unique, including offering reunions where our members get free goodie bags for attending; a free public guide to walker/slow runner friendly races; annual voting on what our favorite half marathons are; and more.

We also believe we're one of the most affordable clubs out there.   Between the hundreds of race and vendor discounts we get, and our free finisher's shirt when your 100 lifetime half marathons are completed, we believe our members get back much more than what they pay in dues.

So, check us out!  Chat with our members at a race.  Let us know if you have any questions. 

My Favorite Race: member Andrea Herrmann- Shamrock Anthem Half Marathon

We asked our members to submit their stories of their favorite half marathons for a club blog series called "My Favorite Race."

This week's story is from our webmaster Andrea Herrmann, who will hit lifetime half marathon #250 this year.

Andrea's favorite half marathon is the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon, part of the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon weekend in Virginia Beach, VA.


Andrea writes:
"This beautiful half marathon is offered every March on a flat and fast course in Virginia Beach.  The race directors, J&A Racing, are excellent race organizers, known for offering high-quality events.

There are many reasons I love and recommend this half marathon.  Their course time limit of four hours is very generous and supports race walkers. The race is beautiful and scenic, with generous course entertainment and plenty of aide stations, and the roads are almost all entirely closed.  The corraled start helps keep down road congestion. 


This race has been in existence since 1973 and is truly a community-welcomed and celebrated event.  The spectators and local residents are very supportive, and the city really welcomes you.   The race has a very large expo with great vendors, and easy parking.  Also, with the race being held in March, hotel rooms in Virginia Beach are reasonably priced, and it's easy to stay within a brief walking distance to both the start and finish.

The shirts and medals are excellent. There is a Dolphin Challenge medal you can get if you do the 8K race on the day before the half marathon.  Plus, the race offers a unique finisher's gift every year that you get after you cross the finish line!  You truly get your money's worth with the race entry fee. 


The 8K, half marathon, marathon, and kids' races have a wonderful finish line down the boardwalk next to the ocean.  After the races, finishers go into a heated tent on the beach and enjoy beer and Irish stew.

This race is excellent every year, and the race directors do an amazing job managing multiple races all weekend. This is a great race for first-timers, for those going for a PR, and for those trying to race in all 50 states.