Two words--"Chip. Timing!"
I have been asked many times "Why do people pay to run in races that they know they can't win?" I think I can answer that a little better now. You pay for the whole experience! You pay for the race t-shirt, the pre-race and post-race snacks. You pay to have other people running with you on a (hopefully) safe course where you can try your best to perform at your peak. You pay to have someone else record your time and have your name "in the books" (regardless of how you compare to other runners).
So, that being said, I thought we were pretty fair to charge $10 for this 5K. In fact, that is just about unheard of, but I realized two things: 1) Most of our participants were young people who had never been in an organized 5K and probably had no desire to do so had it not been part of our youth rally, and 2) Being a "low key" race, and having absolutely no experience, I knew that we wouldn't be able to offer what more experienced race organizers have to offer. However, looking back over the night, I think everyone got a pretty good bargain. Here are some of what we provided:
1. One of the most important requirements of any race, the "race T-shirt." This gives a reminder of the runner's (or walker's) experience with us.
Because I knew some wanted a shirt that were not going to participate in the 5K, I went with a simple, generic design instead of including anything about the 5K. Obviously, this wouldn't normally be the case. In fact, I have never seen a "race shirt" that didn't have a list of sponsors on the back...ours had nothing. But I personally like the logo and think it is a pretty sharp shirt! (Big problem when you find out that some of the shirts didn't make it into the packets, however! We are getting more shirts printed and will get it to them soon.)
2. The race was at night, which added a touch of uniqueness to the event. It was an a well-maintained rail-trail path that was well lit in city limits. However, there was a stretch that went into the heart of the Southwind trail (surrounded by trees and a nice, crushed limestone path). This part was very dark, but it was decorated with glow-in-the-dark items that gave it a very festive feel. We also provided spotters along the way, a police officer to guard one major road crossing (very few vehicles during the evening, however), and an aid station before the turn around (wasn't really used much).
3. After the race, all participants were treated to warm soup (choice of chicken noodle or beef), fruit, and granola bars. Thankfully, all this was donated and prepared by our church members.
4. At the finish line we cheered the runners on, clapping and ringing a cow bell while they ran through the finish line tape (ribbon). At this point, we tried our best to record times of each participant...but this is the part where we struggled (the workers did an awesome job, and I'm glad I didn't have to do it. I felt sorry for them). There were some that didn't display their numbers properly, some that weren't registered, some that kind of snuck by when nobody was looking. The workers did the best the could to record times (to the second, give or take a couple), but going back through the list, it is hard to know who came first when several were given the same time.
So, why do people usually spend $20 or more to run a 5K? Well, one reason is chip timing. Chip timing has become a standard at just about all races. There are these microchips, either attached to race bibs or fastened to shoe strings, that track the time of each participant. Results are printed off during the race, and usually posted to a link online that records each participants time.
If you pay a professional chip timing company, like KC Race Day for example, to time the event for you, you eliminate a lot of worry on race day (for both runner and director). In the future, I would want to go this route for sure! From what I understand, it only adds about $3 to each participant (unfortunately, many have a $600 minimum. So if your race is smaller, you may have to rely on donations which is pretty easy to acquire).
(later, I will write about my experiences prior to the race and how to get the community's help)