Okay firstly this is not about what you should win if you win the New York Marathon or Hawaii Ironman. The likelihood is you are not fast or fit enough to do either and if you are then please get in touch because I would like to get you to blog for us!
No this is about the local weekend races that many of us compete in to keep fit, to better our previous times, to have some fun and okay for some of us maybe to see if we can win a small prize.
The question I want to ask is ‘What do we expect from races in terms of the quality and the depth of prizes?‘. Why am I asking this? Well last weekend I was at a race where after talking to the winner I found out he wasn’t overly impressed with his first prize (it was a cheap looking sports bag – he had run a 36 min 10K) and also at another race a friend achieved a PB, 3rd position and 1st master and won nothing.
Obviously the answer to my question depends to some extent on the size of the race, sponsors and entry fee. If a race has barely a 100 participants then to expect prizes to extend to the top three in each 5 year age bracket is probably expecting too much. Or if you have just paid $20 to enter, then to expect impressive prizes is again asking too much. But the majority of races these days usually have between 300 and a 1000 participants and entries fees are usually the wrong side of $50.
My personal view having run races for over 10 years and having paid the ever increasing entry fees is that a race should award prizes to;
– the first 3 men and women (and unlike a certain 2010 Toronto downtown race, the men and women’s prizes should be of equal value)
– the first 3 masters men and women (as to the definition of a master, the common consensus is that this is over 40 – altogether another discussion on whether this should be over 50!)
– first 3 men and women in each 5 year age category (however for the smaller races, 10 year age categories would be acceptable)
– and their should be no doubling of prizes
– and the value of the each of the prizes awarded to the top 3 men and women should be equal to or more than the race entry fee, i.e. 3rd prize at least equal to entry fee, 2nd prize a bit more and 1st prize even more.
Okay some of you may be thinking that this is a lot of prizes and especially when a charity is involved the race organizers should not be having to pay for so many prizes. And yes I do understand that argument but equally with such a range of awards it allows for the opportunity of many runners to walk away from the race with an extra big smile and happy that their accomplishment has been rewarded. They will leave with great memories of the race, will tell their families, post on facebook, tell their work colleagues, boast to their running buddies, etc.
So in other words have positive things to say about the race – always something race directors like to hear. There is also the number of runners who were 4th, 5th or 6th in their age category who will be going away thinking ‘okay next year I will win a prize’.
As to the value of these prizes, my view is that outside of the top 3 prizes they don’t really have to have any significant value to them and can often be supplied free of charge by one of the race sponsors or a local business, e.g. discount cards, branded water bottles, etc.
As for the top 3 prizes having some value to them. Well okay most races aren’t going to be able to entice the Reid Coolsaets of the world to their races but there are a lot of good amateur runners out there who can run 16 & 17 min 5Ks and 35 & 36 min 10Ks and if you can get these type of runners to your race then the race will be all the better for it.
For a race to have a good spread of abilities is always a plus and awarding good podium prizes and lots of age category prizes will achieve this.
Okay some race directors may be reading this saying ‘Yes it is alright for those races that have big bank or car sponsors but I just have this small business down the street supporting my race’. Fair point but I truly feel it is false economy to penny pinch on the value and depth of prizes. Will the winner of the race I was at on Sunday come back next year – no. Will he tell his friends and his friends tell other friends – yes. Will my friend who got nothing for coming 3rd go back next year – I suspect not. And will he tells his friends……..well you see where I am going here.
Word of mouth is important for races especially in this market where invariably you have a handful of races you can attend each weekend.