Diaries of a race director
As a business owner, sometimes I debate what I should share with the community that’s involved in my race, and what I shouldn’t. What are the boundaries? Should I plan everything in secret or share the ever growing and changing world that is owning a business, and definitely race directing, with others and let them see the process here and there. Maybe I’m right; I’m probably wrong, but I think one of the great things about having control over these reigns is that I get to make every choice that goes along with it and I’ve always enjoyed letting people in on the process. But of course, every bold choice you make in life back fires at some point in time. And letting people in on the inside workings opens up dialogue and change and even confusion sometimes. And every once in a while I envy those other race directors that cut off communications with their runners and don’t respond to feedback. But then I always remember, that’s not what I’m all about.
So a change has come upon my life that’s thrown me for a little loop. Up to this point I’ve suppressed real honesty and venerability in what the change has meant to me. I’ve let on a few hints here and there, but maybe I’ve been too stuck in some sort of twilight zone to even figure it all out. But let’s face it. It’s not like me to not disclose the truth about this exhausting job, so I’ve decided to lay it all out on the line in a quality blog post.
I think the one thing that scares people the most from going balls to the wall with their dreams; is failure. Trying is easy when there’s a back up plan. When you haven’t put all of your eggs in a basket, when you never really give it 110%. This was where I was with the race for 2 years. It was still just a hobby. My husband still worked full time, so if the race didn’t profit then we weren’t out paying our bills or feeding our family
The 2nd race we put on was scary. It was big, and it was real. And the idea opened up to growth, but that growth meant laying it all out on the line and having my husband quit his day job and go full time with the race. After a LOT of conversations, we decided in December 2015 to go balls to the wall and go full time as business owners… with 3 children.
Just like any good start up business, it’s had it’s challenges, and there’s been times I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. But through the process of going from 1 race to 6, I’m not sure I’ve ever been fearful that it would fail. Give me an ulcer, yes. But fail… never.
In August of 2016 (two weeks prior to this post) I received a random email from the parks department, along with the other city officials I work with on my race, that the course and participation we were using for the race, the plans we had used for the past two races, were no longer approved. The same course I had been discussing with them for months, the same course I had 900+ people on 6 months prior, was now being limited. I either needed to limit my event to 500 runners, which wasn’t possible, or shorten my distance, which wasn’t possible, or change the route, which wasn’t in my budget. That’s it. There’s nothing you can do about it. Suck it up butter cup. Either bring it bail, prove it or move it. In 6 weeks. Now they didn’t say those exact phrases, but that was the ultimate outcome. I do believe the phrase “Unfortunately, that sometimes comes with an expense that race organizers where not prepared for.”… 6 weeks out. Basically, the city has made it impossible for the middle class race director to survive.
At this moment, I had 520 runners signed up for the race. If I really wanted to, I would have been able to cap the race there, knowing 10% don’t show up I would have been well within the restrictions of the course cap. But that would have meant zero more income on what was supposed to be my main source of revenue for the year. Races don’t collect fees from registration for a year, and then process all at once. There are yearly fees, monthly fees, many various costs that continue on, as well as the fact that I have to support my family of 5 off of my “salary”, which comes from the registrations. Because we are a for profit business, it’s amazing how often I get asked where the money from the race goes. And as I sit here working at 9pm at night, I feel confident in saying, frankly, it goes to pay for the race, and pay my bills. Have you ever once considered when rolling up on Wendy’s to buy a 10$ meal where the money from your purchase goes?
Anyways. So here I am, either being told that zero additional revenue is going to come in for my event, or that my budget is going to increase, not by a little, for a race that I am putting on… in 6 weeks.
I’m not sure I was drop dead shocked at first. It hit me slowly. Probably because I was busy trying to put on another race we had last weekend. But as the weeks have progressed, and I’ve started to collect the additional bills and changes this new course is adding onto me, my heart has continued to sink. Have you ever been put in a situation that makes your heart feel like it’s actually sinking inside of your chest? And you feel powerless against it. You can’t run, and you don’t really know how to muster through, but you know there’s no other choice.
I was set for Octobers race. My numbers were hitting their marks. My volunteers were coming in, I was even working on getting better by adding things like timing and a more solid race plan, route and such.
I think my first response to the email was “Umm… this is significantly different then the numbers that were presented to me this spring.” But what do you do?
My ADDITIONAL bills for this course are now
$12,100…So far…. in ADDITIONAL expenses. Not to mention the million little things I have yet to think about, or the fact that I now need my entire operation to be in 2 places at one time.
So I’ve done some number crunching. Lots of crunching. The numbers I projected for the race are on par with the amount of money I need to pay all of the bills I haven’t yet. This is a great thing for the runners. Even after all the changes, I still feel confident that the race will go off without a hitch, and that it will be a great event.
But if I zero out with the race, what’s left for me? For my rent, to pay my bills, to buy my gas, and the beer I’m going to need when this is all over. There’s none.
Because of the large leap we took to go full time with the biz, there’s no back up. There’s no nest egg, there’s nothing. And unfortunately in entrepreneur world, if you can’t do the gig AND pay your bills, there’s no gig.
So for now, I feel stuck. But I DO feel really excited about this race. What would be the bright side of this all? If we could somehow find 1,000 additional runners to run the event. I might go a little crazy trying to satisfy production for the entire operation, but it would mean growth. And growth would mean a whole new idea of business for our little operation. I never planned for this. I still can’t decide if it’s all a good thing or a bad thing.
I guess only October 2nd will tell.