How to Sell Your Running Race: Tips and Considerations
Every good race director knows that timing is everything. And yet, along with many other small business owners, many race and event owners haven’t adequately trained for their own exits. In fact, Running USA’s research shows that exit planning is top of mind for race owners, with many sharing that they would like more information about exit planning and ultimately selling. Of course, starting can be the hardest part. Especially, with so many questions to answer. When is the best time to sell an event business? How are they valued? Who might the buyers be? How long will the process take? And what might that finisher’s medal look like — the purchase price? Here are some ideas and tips to consider: 1. Get a confidential analysis of the value of your business Whether you’ve got a young event, and hope to run it for decades, or if you’ve had your race for awhile, and are starting to think about what’s next, a business valuation is an essential tool. It will give you that 30,000 foot view of the business, including what it’s worth. With a professional opinion of market value from an experienced broker in hand, you get to decide what’s next: take this info, and continue to improve your event, or go to market. 2. Plug into a network of interested buyers There are multiple types of buyers actively seeking to purchase event businesses. Individual investors, private equity firms, other race owners, non-profits, etc. But the key is finding them, and entering the marketplace in a way that protects confidentiality, and ensures you get in front of the right people. This is where working with a networked intermediary is incredibly useful. In addition to their connections, it also allows you to focus on your life and business without distraction. 3.  Prep for ‘race day’ by having your house in order Just as you wouldn’t run a half marathon off the couch (have done, don’t recommend), going to market is like race day. Financial records should be in order, tax returns filed (and not on extension), operating procedures documented, sponsorships and permits solidified, and equipment inventoried and serviced. Everything about the business will be scrutinized by a buyer. Preparation is 90% of success. 4. Give yourself plenty of time — and don’t end up in the med tent Business owners often underestimate the time required. It typically takes 3-9 months to sell a business. So it’s more of a marathon than a 5K. There are many steps to a business sale: following the evaluation, there is the marketing of the business, screening and meeting with buyers, negotiations, and finally, deal facilitation and closing. Each step is highly nuanced, but the goal is the same: get you to the finish line with the highest result possible. 5. Timing the sale for a new owner sprint to the finish Cash flow is KING in business sales. It is what makes all the hard work on a race worth the effort.  It is also what drives a buyer to purchase a business. Running can be a great hobby, owning & operating a race is done for financial renumeration. When the registration fees start rolling in it is like Christmas Day for a race owner, it is also what pays all the accumulated bills. The best time to purchase a race is 3-4 months before the race occurs, so the buyer can learn all the administrative activities necessary to successfully execute the event. It also results in two “Christmas seasons” in less than 18 months. Compare that with someone who buys a race shortly after it is completed, that individual will receive only one Christmas in 18 – 20 months, a far less attractive scenario for investment. 6. Prioritize what you’d most like to get out of the sale — and revisit Write down a list of the top three things you want to get out of the sale, and rank them in order of importance. For some people, that might be the financial outcome; for others, it might be legacy (such as selling it to a local runner). Later, in the sale process, you can go back to this list as a way to stay focused and centered. Ultimately, the goal is to have you look back on the transaction, five to ten years out, with a strong sense of satisfaction — knowing that you did everything you could to honor and maximize the value of what you’d built. That feeling never gets old!   About the author: Sally Bergesen is a Business Sales Intermediary with Run Broker and IBA. She helps owners of privately-held and family-owned businesses successfully sell their companies. Prior to joining IBA, Sally founded and ran Oiselle for 16 years. After selling the business, she wanted to help other entrepreneurs achieve successful exits. Sally can be reached at or (425) 454-3052.  
Expanding Green Options: Event Merch and Sustainability
A few years ago, when Tash Acres was training for a half-marathon, she looked at the cheap medals and t-shirts from past races, saw how they piled up, and thought there had to be a better way. Her family was trying to eliminate waste in their lives and focus on their role in the environment, but she couldn’t find an event that didn’t add to the pile of stuff. Many avid runners have had a similar thought, staring at their stack of race memorabilia sitting in a corner or box. Acres’ original project was to plant trees for every virtual race athletes ran, but “people still want something tangible,” she said. And that’s how the concept of a plant-able medal was born. At first, she just created the biodegradable medals for her own virtual challenges, but today Earth Runs delivers biodegradable medals with seeds embedded in them to other small races in the UK and Ireland, each one hand-made from partners at nonprofit organizations. “I like medals. I’ve had medals in my time, but then I don’t know what to do with them after,” she said. It’s a growing sentiment. With runners spending so much of their time outside, there’s an increasing concern about the impact that time is having on the outdoors. One study found that a marathon runner, on average, emits .7 tons of CO2 equivalent—with that number going past 4 tons if it involves a trans-oceanic flight to the race. While there are entire fields of study devoted to creating sustainable best practices for events, the merchandise, trash, and stuff you hand out is one of the most visible pieces to runners—and one of the most frequently asked about. A longtime industry vendor perspective Leslie Jordan, Inc., a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise out of Portland, Oregon, is among the apparel manufacturers that have made efforts to diversify their products and offer green packing and shipping options. “We offer all our moisture wicking polyester fabrics in a recycled option. Even our blend shirts (triblend, poly/rayon, poly/cotton) can be made with recycled poly material,’ shares Jena Bakkum, sales lead for LJI. “Our shipping boxes are made from recycled materials, with help from the ‘Sourcing for Sustainable Forestry Initiative.’ We discourage all poly bagging of apparel and use bulk folding. For fulfillment we use recycled shredded paper as filler instead of bubble wrap and recycled mailers whenever possible” LJI has found that the most popular items in demand from participants are recycled shirts. But they come at a cost. “Recycled options are more expensive so races may need to increase registration costs to balance the need and request for recycled shirts,” said Bakkum. On the flip side of that equation, races may consider letting athletes opt out of certain swag items, rather than paying more. “he trend we are seeing is making shirts and medals optional ‘for purchase,’ so there is little to no waste in manufacturing and landfill,” Bakkum noted. Sustainable principles and tips for your next race When it comes to considering the environmental impact of your race, the Council for Responsible Sport’s guide to hosting responsible events recommends going through your race and asking: Do we need this thing? Can we have less of this thing? Does it generate trash? Is there a more sustainable option? And how can we integrate sustainability into every aspect—for example, building compost plans into aid stations and eliminating trash in the expo, or making it part of vendor contract agreements? When it comes to sustainability practices, said Aly Criscuolo, sustainability and corporate social responsibility director for the New York Road Runners, there are both behind-the-scenes things like switching to electric generators instead of gas, which can have a large impact but be unknown, and also highly visible things, like eliminating medals or moving to recycled medals, which can give runners a way to buy-in to the overall effort. “We have to do both,” she said. 1. Reduce and reuse “No matter how sustainable you make a produce, it’s not as sustainable as not buying something new,” said Criscuolo. That’s why best practice s first to figure out how you can reduce overall materials. Anything that can be reused is ideal: Don’t put dates on signage or on t-shirts so they can be used in the future. Reusable water bottles, bib magnets instead of pins (if you can reuse them year after year) all helps. Big caveat: If you invest in reusable cups or signage and then just throw it out the next year, that doesn’t do much good. Many big races have also worked through their trash lifecycle to eliminate waste. For example, the Chicago Marathon tested separating plastic water bottles out for recycling, using compostable cups that could be gathered up after the race, and working with a company that could make composite board products from the foil heats sheets given to runners at the finish line. The Council for Responsible Sport also recommends working with local vendors and vendors who already build sustainable practices into their business—partially because if you work with a local vendor who can print additional t-shirts, for example, on demand then you’re less likely to have extras wasted, and partially because local vendors eliminate the need for shipping and transport. 2. Give athletes options You can also give athletes a simple box to check in the registration flow. They can opt out of a medal or t-shirt for a slight discount on their race entry—which could also save you money. Or you can partner with a nonprofit organization to allow them to donate the amount instead. NYRR partners with Mastercard to plant trees for those who opt out of the t-shirt or medal for their Mini 10K and have planted over 800 trees, said Criscuolo. While there are ways to get creative encouraging carpooling and opting for virtual goodie bags, another simple popular option is allowing athletes to buy carbon offsets. The Cherry Blossom 10K in DC used to ask runners to donate the amount of a subway ride if they chose to drive instead of take the train, but then switched to a simple option for any runner to donate $5 to purchase carbon offsets and saw a large increase when they gave athletes that simple choice. There are some things in race management that are avoidable, said Criscuolo, but traveling to the race isn’t. By definition, you want athletes to come to your race. This is where carbon offsets or donations can be useful. 3. Do your research If you’re going to use carbon offsets, then verify that the company is certified, for example by Gold Standard, said Criscuolo. If you’re going to have a company plant trees, then make sure the organization will maintain those plantings, not just stick a tree in the ground and leave, she said. There are many recycled and sustainable material merchandising options, such as sustainable fibers for t-shirts and wood or recycled metals for medals. NYRR uses recycled steel now, and many trail races have success with wood. But the best practice is using as much upcycling as possible—which means taking something that would be trash and putting it to a higher use. For example, some bike races will use old bike parts to make medals or integrate a cup into their medal. Or, you can use programs like Earth Runs or Trees Not Tees. Do the research for what makes sense for your event. All of this can be a little confusing, of course, which is why Criscuolo recommends reaching out to organizations and experts, like the Council for Responsible Sport or the Green Sport Alliance. They’re often happy to help or think through your plans. One of the most common mistakes she sees race directors or event organizers make is to do something quick that they hope is more sustainable, but it actually isn’t, like trying to compost stuff that isn’t compostable or not knowing if recycling is really the best option in their local trash system. “There are lots of resources and people who want to help,” she said. Use them. 4. Communicate with your runners Many race directors are worried that if they eliminate medals or t-shirts, athletes will think they’re being cheap and not sign up. The key, said Criscuolo, is communicating. If you’re going to opt for wood or recycled medals, or run cup-free aid stations, then make sure you’re clear with your runners about why you’re doing it. “Runners still want quality,” said Criscuolo, but if the quality is there and they know why you’re making the change, then studies show they will pick the more sustainable option.  
How to Efficiently Staff a Small Event
When William Fermo started putting on two small races in Texas with his brother and a friend, they did absolutely everything themselves—except DJ the post-finish line celebration. “It’s very busy,” said Fermo. Now, as the 3 Bros Running Company is starting to grow their 5K and 10K events, they’ve learned what jobs they absolutely need to do themselves and what they can delegate. “If you can hand things off [to volunteer leaders], it makes it a lot easier,” he said. When you’re putting on small race with just a few hundred runners, it can be tempting to do everything yourself. It saves money and saves complications. But it can also get out of hand quickly, as your car fills up with cones and you’re running around from aid station to check-in. While smaller races might not have the same logistics and employment challenges as big events, you still want to think of staffing your race as a pyramid, with the most important roles at the top filled by you (as race director) or by your key people. Hire contractors or part-time staff and delegate for the next level of work, and then flesh out the bulk of the event with volunteers. Where to use staff “The key things need to have experienced people,” said Meredith Shelton, the staffing manager at Race Day Events, which both puts on their own races in Wisconsin and is also hired by other race organizers to run various parts of race event operations. What she means is you need people who know what they’re doing and are empowered—whether that’s you, your co-race-director, or a very trusted helper—at the top-level of things. This typically can be divided into three general categories, with a staff person heading up each section: registration, the course, and the finish/post-finish. While you can use volunteers to help with packet pick-up, you (as RD) or someone you hire needs to set up registration. "Have someone in charge of it from start to finish,” said Shelton, and have someone who knows what they’re doing managing check-in. Next, it’s key to have someone experienced plotting out and marking the course, especially any turns or splits or if there are multiple distance. Making sure that runners know where they’re going without having to think about it is probably the most important part of putting on a running race. (And if you use a lead volunteer or part-time staff to put out cones or signs, said Shelton, make sure it’s someone who’s a runner, because they’ll know what to look for.) And, then, while you can use volunteers heavily at the finish line and post-race festival, you again want someone to manage that area. Where to use contractors Contractors or part-time help are best for jobs that are distinct and self-defined, or can be paid hourly, and that are important enough you don’t necessarily want to hand them off to volunteers. This includes things like: timing, equipment rental and set-up, transportation (for example, if you need buses), or potentially medical services and EMS. This is also where you may be able to save money. Timing, for example, said Shelton, can be more or less complicated depending on how big your event is. Additionally, the less you impact traffic or have to shut down roads, then the less you’re going to be required to have police or traffic control and the less equipment you’ll need to rent. You’ll likely want to rent (instead of buy) equipment, if you’re putting on a small race or it’s your first one. Ellen Larson of In Motion Events, for example, hires a company that manages the buses and transportation for their point-to-point race—but you can avoid that by keeping your race course simple. There will also likely be requirements from the city or government agency for you to provide medical or EMS services, depending on how big your event is. “You may be able to work with local EMS and local first-responders,” said Shelton. Reach out to them, even if you don’t need to, because they usually want to know what’s going on in the community, but also because they might then come out. While they’ll charge for dedicated EMS services—if, for example, you needed paramedics or an ambulance stationed for the whole event—but if it’s more of a casual, then they might just come out for a little bit to build relationships in the community. (Just know, if that’s the case, then they’ll have to leave if they get a call.) And, of course, if you’re going to have a DJ or entertainment, then that’s probably someone you’re going to hire. Unless you want to play music yourself. Where to use volunteers Volunteers are great for filling out roles where you simply need extra people, but there’s someone to oversee them (either a contractor, staff person, or even a key volunteer leader who’s been more involved). These are jobs like: course marshal (standing at intersections to point the right way), aid stations, helping with packet pickup, and handing out medals or food at the finish line and post-race area. “If it’s a role where you’re cheering people on and it’s touchy-feeling, that’s where we use volunteers,” Shelton said. Grunt work? That’s a staff job. “You got to pay people to lift heavy things and be there early.” Larson will use volunteers for almost all the race weekend roles across registration, aid stations, and the finish line—as long as there’s someone to oversee them. They’ll also rely on local running or volunteers groups or on high school clubs (National Honor Society, for example) or teams to volunteer for a whole section. That way it’s easier to manage the group, than to manage 30 different individuals. The biggest problem with volunteers, everyone said, is that you don’t know who’s not going to show up—and some people will definitely not show up at the last minute. Plan extra volunteers into your schedule. “You’d rather have too many and have to figure out where to put them,” said Fermo. Where do you find people to staff your race? “Start by calling us,” joked Shelton. She’s kidding, but there are event services companies all over. You can search in your region for timing companies and race day services. You can also talk to other race organizers. And go to your local running store, and ask them. “Every time I do a race, it’s market research,” said Fermo. Relationships with civic organizations (Lions Club, Rotary) can be helpful, said Shelton. First off, they’ll likely let you come and present about your event at their meeting and then they may want to help out. This is where you can ask them to volunteer or, she said, if they, for example, run a brat stand at the local high school games, then ask them to run one at your race. You can also get donations from local grocery stores, even large chains will likely have a donations manager While there are employment rules about contractors and volunteers, the easiest way to deal with that is if  you’re running a nonprofit organization. For all new races, though, you want to start with your local government agency. Ask what you need to do and when do you need to do it by? Even if you think you’re just using a park and the bathroom facilities there, you probably need a permit. And the city or county can also, likely, point you in the direction of what emergency services and traffic control you’ll need. “Don’t make assumptions about where you can have a bunch of people running around,” said Shelton.  
The Definitive Guide to a Great Kids Run
Lucie Murray never intended to become an expert in how to produce a great kids run. But as she headed up a training team for moms over a decade ago, the Southern California fitness professional became just that. In 2009, she founded Run Kids Run, a consulting and event management company focused completely on events’ youngest participants.
Inclusion Best Practices for Events: Documents
On June 16, 2022, Running USA hosted a webinar on Inclusion Best Practices for Events with the Equality Institute. Thanks to Bernadette Smith, Patti Flynn and Brooks Sports for making this presentation possible.  (If you missed the session, you can view it here.) The Equality Institute surveyed Running USA members in early 2022 to direct the development of resources and guidelines for improving inclusiveness at events of all kinds. Takeaways from the session include a comprehensive Event Inclusion Guide with best practices to put into action and a Transgender and Nonbinary Inclusion Policy Template that events can easily adopt. Both documents are available for download here: Event Inclusion Guide Transgender and Nonbinary Inclusion Policy Template Equality Institute training resources  
< 1 min read