This was my second year leading a casual group run at BlogFest/IDEA World. A few people have asked me how I got to do that, and the short answer is that, originally, I was asked too. The first year was fun so I did it again this year. So that’s that. Kind of boring. However, I’ve learned a few things about organizing a group run that you may find helpful.
If you want to organize a group run, here are some ideas to help make it a success! I think getting runners or wannabe-runners together for a free, casual run is a great way to give back.
Tips for Organizing a Group Run
1) Keep the route simple.
Group runs, by definition, have multiple people. Probably at different paces. Probably with different levels of confidence about NOT getting lost. Help people stay found with a simple running route. Not too many turns, easy landmarks, etc. Here are two types of group run routes that are easy to pull off: the Out-N-Back and the Loop.
The Out-N-Back is running for TIME, not miles. As most people have either a phone or watch to keep track of time, it’s fairly easy to do this. Everyone will start their watch/timer and head down the same road or trail. When they hit the half-time mark, they just turn around and come back. So, for example, let’s say your group run is going to be 40 minutes long, total. You tell everyone to go out for 20 minutes and then turn around and come back. If they keep their pace steady, everyone should be finishing at the same time. This type of run is ideal for:
*Groups with a wide variety of paces, because everyone can go at their own pace and still finish together.
*Unfamiliar trails/roads because most people can just retrace their steps.
*Guaranteeing, within reason, that people will be done by a certain time, if time is a concern.
The Loop is running for DISTANCE and requires a small level of familiarity with the area. Running a giant loop, or circle, is great if you have big city blocks or a large park with a well-known trail that circles around back to the start. In a city, runners only have to remember 3 turns or 4 turns to not get lost. Loop routes are great if your group has a need to cover a certain amount of mileage (perhaps you’re all training for something), and for not repeating scenery. Here are some things to keep in mind for Loop routes:
*Sharing the route in advance (email, Facebook, texts) helps people feel more confident.
*Stagger the START for groups with vastly different paces (slower runners get a head start on faster runners)
*Enlist the help of someone who knows the route well so that one of you can lead the faster runners and one of you can stay with the slower runners.
*Don’t promise the run will be done at a certain time if you’re not sure of everyone’s pace.
2) Share details online somewhere easy to find.
Make it easy for people to find the details about the upcoming run.
If it’s just friends, send an email or text with the time/location/route/details.
If it’s open to everyone, make a Facebook event or use something like Eventbrite.
If you need to know how many people are coming, definitely require RSVPs.
If you’re savvy, sharing a map of the route is a helpful visual.
3) Remind people to be prepared.
Never assume the people who show up will know what they needed to bring/wear for the run. So,
If parking is tricky, give them a heads up.
If it’s a long run, remind people to bring hydration or fuel if they want it.
If it’s a hot run – sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat/visor, and again…hydration!
If it’s going to be cold/wet – dress comfortably for the weather.
If there’s no place to stash personal items, let them know in advance.
And then, it’s still good to bring some extra things and water just in case. Remember what it’s like to be the newbie showing up because someone invited you and then being miserable because you didn’t bring something you didn’t realize you needed.
4) Give direction.
If you’ve organized the run, people will show up expecting some form of leadership from you. While this might go without saying and come naturally to some people, introverts like myself need a reminder to put on our Speaking Hat. So to prevent any confusion or frustration (especially from the Type As), here is the bare minimum:
1) Get everyone’s attention. A simple, loud “Alright, guys! Who’s ready to get started?” ought to do.
2) Briefly describe the route. “We’re running 15 minutes out and turning around and come back here.”
3) Point out any helpers. “For any walk/joggers, you can stick with Brenda over here.”
4) Ask for questions. “Does this make sense? Any questions?”
5) Tell them to run. “Okay. Ready, set, go!”
I know it seems like a “No duh”, but good, simple leadership keeps everyone calm so they can focus on having a good time. Even at the end of the run, you may want or need to bring everyone back together. Get their attention again and thank them for coming. That usually lets them know it’s officially over and they can leave if they have to without feeling rude.
5) Get a waiver.
Do you know everyone who is coming to your group run? Are you 110% confident they won’t blame you if they get hurt? Get a good waiver anyway. The RRCA has some good examples of waivers and wording recommendations. If you put this waiver online, I recommend you have people insert their initials in order to indicate they’ve “signed the waiver”. Or you can have a clipboard to pass around.
Large Groups for Long Runs
If this is more than just your friends getting together for a 16 miler, the logistics become a lot more tedious. A completely different post could be written about that, but here are some things you should consider:
- Designating pace group leaders who know the route helps split the group up into manageable chunks.
- How will people restock hydration or fuel? Will you provide aid stations or plan the route so it passes by water fountains/restrooms, etc?
- Make a sign-in sheet with names and numbers and emergency contacts. It can prevent a bad situation from becoming a complete and utter disaster night-mare.
Sponsored Group Runs
For BlogFest 2015, the casual group run was sponsored by Truitt Family Foods. In other words, they compensated me and provided snacks and prizes in exchange for being promoted in conjunction with and during the run itself. This is a really creative way to add value to the run (free food or fun prizes for the people who show up) and help a brand achieve their goals of brand awareness and community development. However, it can be tricky and, again, a completely separate post can be written about that. So, here are just a few key tips to get you started.
- Have a waiver that specifies neither you nor the sponsoring company can be held responsible for bad things happening.
- Create a contract or agreement with the brand that covers any deliverables and compensation.
- Use something like Eventbrite to keep track of participation numbers.
- Pick a location open for public use and make sure you don’t need any permits.
- Write out a timeline with what you will say and when, to make sure the brand gets what they’re paying for, the runners aren’t confused, and everything happens in a timely manner.