Behind the Scenes with Kyle Cutler, Race Director

Kyle Cutler
Race Director, Lake Michigan Credit Union Bridge Run

There was a time when I could show up at a race and be blissfully ignorant in a porta-potty. I would show up, do my thing, run the race, grab my banana, and go home without really giving a thought to how much the whole experience was costing a race. Then I became a race director and now I can’t show up to a race without looking at everything with dollar signs in mind or thinking “how’d they do that?” (for instance, how does the Boston Marathon manage a course that is 26.2miles?!?)

When I became a race director, my eyes were opened wide. I realized the expense of the municipality permits, police officers, insurance, and barricades. How much agonizing goes into ordering the shirts; medals months before the race, trying to predict exactly how many
small shirts will be requested and how many 5kers will be crossing the finish line. Working to promote the race with websites, ads, and graphics. Then there are the bibs, safety pins, and timing chips. There are letters sent to alert the neighbors and businesses. On race day, it is the tables, tents, sound, start/finish line, and other professional services that help make the magic happen. Oh yes, and the porta potties… EVERYTHING costs something and it adds up quickly.

Businesses give you free stuff, right? Yes! Events have generous partnerships of all types with businesses. It is their contribution, through cash or product, that helps keep registration costs low to pay for everything mentioned above. To help thank these businesses, there are signs and banners that get produced. The donation of products usually requires U-Haul trucks to pick up the pallets of water, cases of bananas (have you ever smelled the back of a U-Haul truck during the summer with bananas in it), barricades for road closures, and other treasures that get used throughout a race weekend.

But, don’t you have volunteers?
Yes, the volunteers in West Michigan are awesome and we couldn’t put on a race without the investment of their time! For many of the races I work with, we rely on the same volunteers year after year. But, to keep these energetic volunteers waking up early year after year to support a race day experience, races need to ensure they have a great experience. We do this with shirts, food (no one wants a hangry volunteer at an aid station), donations back to their organization, and other ways that cost a race something. Race directors from around the country were recently polled and securing volunteers was one of the top concerns.

Alright, Kyle what is your point?
I want the amazing running community to be blissfully ignorant on race day. Speaking for myself, one of the reasons I am a race director is because I truly enjoy seeing all the smiling faces just before the gun goes off and seeing the sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line. But, I also want the running community to know that the team working behind the scenes is balancing a lot of expensive variables to bring you an awesome race day experience. Raising costs was the number one concern race directors expressed in the beforementioned poll. That said, the race director community is working hard together throughout the year to share resources and cross-promote events. It is truly a great community to work with.

So enjoy those porta potties and the other race day moments, but take a few moments on race day to thank the volunteers and give a high-five to the team putting on the race, we just ask that you use soap first. See you at the finish line.