How Race Directing Taught Me to Appreciate My Math Teacher

When I learned algebra, I remember thinking how pointless it was. After all, when will I ever need to calculate what time the train leaves the station? However, as we sit here planning our next race, it inspires me to stand in front of the local high school with a large sign that reads, “Hug a math teacher today! Because kids, you might really need this stuff one day!” Directing a race has many moving parts and requires solving for several unknowns.

Permits

Race PermitsMy team and I must get approval from Forsyth County, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), and permit-1197975-640x480 business owners along the route. For any race on public property that has three or more participants, Forsyth County, Georgia requires a Special Event Permit that requires 15 days for approval. If the run is on a state road, then we must apply for a permit with GDOT.

Route planning

Race Route PlanningPutting routes together is hard! We often hear questions such as, “Why is this route so hilly?” or “Who came up with this time limit?” Well, as much as we would like to be in total control of routes, we have to comply with what the permit dictates. Sometimes, factors out of everyone’s control dictates the route. Last July, we received so much rain that part of the route was under three feet of water. After putting in some extra hours looking at alternatives and making some very desperate phone calls, we were able to put together an alternate route, and avoided canceling the race.

Staffing

Race staff consists of our team members, volunteers, and police officers. Volunteers come from the charity, and through their efforts, keep costs low while providing visibility to their cause. Having said that, let me just take a quick detour here to mention that while participants are overwhelmingly polite, nothing disappoints me more than witnessing or hearing about not-so-nice behavior towards our helpers. If you are frustrated, then please seek help in a constructive way.

Safety

Race SafetySafety is our primary concern, so before every race, we plan for it and pray for it! Off-duty police officers serve a critical role in ensuring safety along the route. Peachtree Parkway can be a dangerous road for a race, but the police help tremendously by posting themselves and their squad cars at intersections. We don’t have paramedics dedicated exclusively to our events, but prior to each race, we give the local ambulance services a “heads-up.”

Timing

Crashing people are not! Find yourself playing chicken for a parking spot at Target lately? Where did these people come from! Due to Forsyth County being the fastest growing county in Georgia, traffic is increasing on our roads. Now we have to be extra-vigilant to time races in a way that ensures maximum safety and minimal effect on traffic patterns. In addition to the risk of cars colliding with racers, we have to space out the starting and ending times to prevent runners from colliding with walkers! Business owners often ask me to end a race as early as possible, but starting a race in the pre-dawn darkness is just not safe for participants, staff, or motorists.

Costs and Proceeds

One touchy issue we deal with is what happens to the proceeds? Do 100 percent of the proceeds go to the charity? Well, the answer is no and here’s why: It costs about $30,000 to direct a race. This includes staffing, permit fees, police protection, advertising, web site maintenance, promotion, posters, t-shirts, and running around checking routes, obtaining signatures from local business owners (and sometimes a little schmoozing), obtaining permits, and putting it all together! Furthermore, while volunteers help out on race day, police officers and our employees do not work for free. Police officers receive about $150 each. For a big race, we might need 35 officers, and you don’t need fancy algebra to figure out how much that cost!

It’s Totally Worth It

Directing a race is a complicated word problem, charity events are labors of love. Nevertheless, after we solve for all the unknowns, the result is sharing a morning with fellow runners and walkers, supporting a good cause while promoting fitness, togetherness, and the businesses in our community; and that makes it all worth it.