Road races are fun, but it takes more than a properly measured course, a few water stations, and a handful of volunteers to provide a fun, seamless, and high-quality experience that runners and walkers will continue to look forward to year after year. Luckily, the Columbus Running Company has race director Andy Harris on staff.
Since 2012, Andy has been leading the CRC’s race timing and event management division. If you’ve run our Mile Dash, Choo Choo 9 Miler & 5K, Big Bad Wolfe Run, or recent editions of the Columbus 10K, you might have spotted Andy at the start/finish line or somewhere on the course. His love of running is apparent now, but he hasn’t always considered himself a runner.
“Growing up, my athletic interests primarily revolved around baseball—the furthest I ran growing up was 90 feet from home plate to first base. Distance running wasn't really my thing,” he explains. “I started running in my late 20s and joined CRC Saturday morning group runs to help me train for longer distance events as I gained a little experience.”
When he started exploring new career opportunities in 2012, Andy talked to CRC about ways he could contribute.
“I didn't know that event management and race timing was an actual job, but it fit my skill set well and was part of the running community that I enjoyed. I started working for CRC that summer and haven't looked back once.”
Whether he’s creating a new race or operating the timing for an outside organization, one of the first things to consider is how the race will fit into the landscape of the local running community.
“The question we always ask when determining the need for a new event is, ‘Will this event fill a gap in the existing race market and provide a unique and/or desired experience for our participants?’” Andy explains. “For events that come to us for help, many of those being run by charitable or non-profit organizations, most of them have determined the need: they have a group of active people who would enjoy a running/walking event that helps raise money for a cause they care about.”
“A 5K can be a great way to raise money, but is a lot of work and isn't right for every situation,” he continues. “Need is one thing, determining viability is a completely separate idea and one that's often governed by more variables in addition to need.”
While viability is important, it’s often not enough. With so many race options in central Ohio, it’s worth considering how to cater to the vast audience of race participants. Impeccable organization and dedicated volunteers make a big difference, but the story behind a race can make an impact as well. Just as no runner or walker is the same or is driven by the same motivations, no race is the same—or shouldn’t necessarily be.
"There are many successful races out there and I would suggest that one quality that most, though certainly not all, of them share is that they have something that potential participants can sink their teeth into,” Andy says. He acknowledges that having a philanthropy component can also make a difference, too.
“Races can certainly be fun and interesting without a charitable component, but quite often it's that piece that connects to the philanthropic parts of ourselves that can make it so easy for us to say ‘yes’ to an event. And as we at the CRC have seen with our Choo Choo 9 Miler & 5K and our Big Bad Wolfe Run races, having a fun story attached to the event in addition to the charitable component can add an element of fun and lightheartedness to our sport.”
So what happens once it's time to actually plan the race? A lot more than you'd probably think. We'll learn more from Andy on how the whole production comes together in an upcoming post!