Wish List from a running Race Director

I have been a runner for a long time, over 30 years. And while I have executed a number of races in the last 6 years or so, I have been a participant in even more races – everything from a small 100 person 5ks to the Boston Marathon and Ironman events. I love each one for different reasons – I love the small races as there is no pressure, it is just fun to put yourself on the line every once in a while and to see the sights, while knowing that it is for a good cause. I love big races too. While they are expensive, there is something about being on that large scale, with closed roads and tons of hoopla. I will say that neither the Boston Marathon nor Ironman races offer much in the way of amenities really, but you are there for the prestige of the race, and not the stuff they give you.

But I remember races before they became EVENTS, as we call them now. You just line up and run, no real chip timing, no aid stations, a cotton t-shirt and a trophy from the local awards shop. It was like a gathering with friends and you were there to test your meddle, not necessarily to get a medal. There are still a few of these races around – like our Hangover Classic: no chip timing, no aid stations, no medals – just cool trophies and a great course. Just a race to race.

Things have evolved and (some) races have become big business – with bands and big medals and elaborate finish lines. They are an event. It has brought more people into the running world and that is all good – the more people we can get off the couch and running – the better!

As we evolve, here are some wish list items for participants from an old school runner:

Please be respectful of your fellow runners. If you know you are running a 9-10 mi/min pace, please line up towards the back of a starting corral. If you are stopping at an aid station, please stop OFF the race course.  Please don’t run two or three across so runners coming up behind have to swerve around the group.  It is great that races have become incredibly social, but for some participants – every step counts.

Know the course. Drive it, ride it, look at a course map, ask if you have a question. While we try to mark a course as best we can, sometimes it can be slightly confusing at some intersections. It has been known to happen that a key volunteer doesn’t show up, the chain of communication breaks down, or whatever reason things don’t go as planned from the race director end despite the best planning. In the end, race protocols are that it does fall on the runner to know the course. I can’t speak for other RDs – but I love to talk about our courses, I love to show them off…. in advance of race day……. 🙂

Please don’t litter. Drop cups, clothing, gel packets (the worst offenders) at aid stations, at mile marker signs, or somewhere that we can see them readily. We work hard to leave the course in better shape than we started, but it takes everyone’s help to achieve this.

Read the Athlete Guide – generally, most of the questions about the race are answered in it. The more informed you are, the better prepared for the race.

Again – the goal is to give all participants a great race while respecting our environment and being humble guests in the communities where we are allowed to run.  With everyone’s help, we can continue to evolve for the better.

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Who We Are……

Rhode Races was formed in October of 2015 by Susan Rancourt and Karen Zyons. Meirav joined us as race staff from the onset, with Lisa Helfrich starting as a volunteer and becoming part of our crew in 2018. Molly Robinson joins us this year as the newest member to our Rhode Crew.

SUSAN RANCOURT

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Susan started running at her high school while growing up in NH. She continued her running career as a member of the Division 1 Cross Country and Track & Field teams at the University of Rhode Island, and that is where her love of running and the Ocean State really formed. She has completed hundreds of races from 5ks, half and full marathons, triathlons, mud runs, trail races and beer miles. She has run Boston 6 times, with an average qualifying time of 3:30.

Susan also is the Head Coach for the Mt Hope HS Girls XC team in Bristol RI and serves on a number of boards and volunteer positions in the athletic community.

 

KAREN ZYONS

CPO – CHIEF PARTY OFFICER

Raised in the Philadelphia area, Karen attended Johnson & Wales in Providence studying Culinary AIMG_0627.JPGrts & Restaurant Management. After meeting her husband, they decided to move out West to pursue their love of hiking & skiing.

Karen’s passion for cooking & entertaining has shaped her career, through owning a restaurant & catering company, to working to plan PGA Tour events, to executing road races.

Karen loves to make everyone feel like they are dining at her table when they attend a Rhode Races event.

 

MEIRAV WERBEL

Meirav started running at her high school in NJ, where she set a few school records. She went on to graduate from the 9543f870-026b-45af-9a75-273669b2a66b.jpgUniversity of Maryland. She has her law degree and a culinary degree but is passionate about running and tris. She has completed hundreds of races, including few full marathons and 2 full Ironmans.

She is likely the face you see as a Rhode Master, race weekend registrant, award winner or generally needing any sort of Rhode Races assistance on race weekend.

 

LISA HELFRICH

Lisa originally hails from Greenwich CT but also is a URI graduate, with a degree in Exercise Science. She spent many years managing the physical fitness at FM Global but has now tried a new career path in Real Estate. She continues to work with clients in running and f15203383_1288383914533124_2136101283508571024_n.jpgitness, and her new career allows her to foster her love of horses.

Lisa joined us at our first Wine Run as a volunteer/participant and is now part of our race staff.

The Final Mile Kids Fitness Program

When we founded in 2015, we purposely created the company as a RI Benefit Corporation as we wanted to hold ourselves to a higher standard.  We wanted to do to our part of the “social good” – not just with the inherent benefits of creating healthy events in local communities, but also to foster our running community and support running programs throughout the state.  To that end, we have strong partners with the DreamFar High School Marathon program, Girls on the Run RI, Ronald McDonald House Team, various local HS running programs and more.

To that end, we are introducing a new initiative – the Final Mile Program.  It is our goal to create an 8 week fitness program for children in our local schools and youth programs in which the participants will run a total of 25 miles over the course of those 8 weeks.  The FINAL MILE will be held in conjunction with our new Beach Mile at the April Newport Rhode Races.  The Final Mile of the program will allow the youth to experience the joy and satisfaction of completing a BIG GOAL of running a marathon by finishing under the official finish arch of a major local marathon, and hopefully instill a life long love of running.

All participants that complete the 25 miles can register for the Beach Mile for free and we will provide them a shirt and medal upon completion of the event.  The only cost for the Final Mile program would be the expense of the Program Coordinator at the site.  We will rely on the Program Coordinator to execute the 25 mile training program as they see fit, just providing us with the names of the children who will be completing their Final Mile with us.

More information is available at this link.  If you are interested in this program, or know someone who may be, please email info@rhoderaces.us.

SO MUCH HAPPENING in DECEMBER!

We are so excited for 2019 and we have so many things happening this month!

First – our Rhode Master Series is OFFICIALLY open!

So what is the Rhode Master Series?  Here is a not-quite-complete list:

  • Discount when you sign up for 3 or more races at the same time.
  • Awesome Series Medal that will be awarded after completion of your first race
  • Top of the Industry BocoGear running headwear exclusive to the Series, awarded after completion of your 3rd race.
  • Exclusive to the Series L/S Rhode Master shirt, awarded after completion of 4 races
  • Rhode Master Apparel and sticker for completing ALL 5 RACES!
  • VIP bib pick up at all races
  • VIP Parking in Newport (no shuttles!)IMG_1251
  • Reserved race day bib pick up in Newport and Providence, if you so choose
  • Private Facebook group
  • Chance to be named Rhode Master Champion in the Series Age Group Awards.

To join the crazy group, just select our 3, 4 or 5 Race Bundle on any of our registration pages! 

Secondly – we are so excited to announce the location of this year’s Wine Run – WESTPORT VINEYARDS.  This beautiful waterside vineyard is a perfect location for running amongst the vines – see parts of the vineyard that are normally closed to visitors. This non-competitive 3 mi trail run is followed by wine tastings, music and dinner in the Vineyard.  The event takes place this year on Saturday, May 18th starting at 4p.

But before we get there, our next event is the Hangover Classic 5 miler.  This old-school race is in its 34th running and it is the best way to kick off the New Year.  On January 1, run around Bristol Harbor, historic Coggeshall Farm and through stunning Colt State Park.  The race is sure to invigorate your fullsizeoutput_7422sense of purpose and self-accomplishment on the first day of 2019!  After the race, check out our local brewery partner, Canned Heat.  Not only are they providing our awesome trophies, but they will be giving away a free “gift” to all our participants at the post race party – ;).

Finally – we are constantly striving to get better and learn from you, our participants – what we have done right and where we can improve.  Please take our quick Year End Survey to help us as we plan our 2019 events.

A reminder – ALL of our race entries increase on 12/31.  Sign up soon and save some $$$$!

As always, thank you for joining us and we hope to see you on the starting line soon.

Post Race Green Team – aka Plogging Crew

As today is #GivingTuesday, it seems appropriate to announce our new initiative.  We are rolling out a new volunteer position based on the Swedish trend of plogging – a combination of jogging and picking up litter.  We hope this will allow us to give back to the communities that we run in, as well as reward our environmentally conscious participants.

We know that races produce trash.  It is a sad side effect of our events and we have tried in the past to mitigate how much effect our races have on our environment.  We have made some changes in recent years to minimize the amount of trash we produce, but there is still some opportunities to be had.  The biggest issues are gel packets and cups from our aid stations.  While we ask our aid station volunteers to police the 1/2 mi. that surrounds their aid station, wind can blow the cups, etc.. farther than this, participants can drop trash away from an aid station, and more.  Our Rhode Crew tries to monitor this as they pick up cones and signs, but things get missed, through no fault of anyone involved.  Race day is a long day for everyone.

So how do we fix this?  In the past, the day after a race we have driven the course to pick up stray trash, we have run various parts to find more trash, but without running the entire course, we know that we are always bound to miss some.

And then we started reading about plogging, and knew that this mirrored what we did on the day after a race. So we thought we would ask for help.  We are a small team and running the entire length of a half or full marathon course and picking up trash would take a LONG time.

SO – we will be giving away free race entries to anyone willing to join us the day after a race to PLOG – run the course and pick up any trash that may have gotten left behind.  We will provide bags and gloves and assign you a 2-5 mile section of the course.  When you turn in a bag of trash, we will award you a free entry to any Rhode Race of your choice.

We think this is a win-win.  This allows us to be more environmentally conscious about the beautiful communities that we run in, and we get to reward our loyal participants with a free race in exchange.

We are opening this up to Newport and Providence to start, space is limited so you can sign up on our volunteer pages.

Newport

Providence

We hope that you will join us in this new initiative!

Heading into Year Four – THANK YOU!

November is always one for gratitude, reflection and planning. We started down this road in November of 2015 as nervous wrecks, but we couldn’t be happier with our decision.  We have met some amazing people along the way, we get to run in some stunning locations – in all kinds of weather 🙂 and we seriously feel like we are so lucky to be able to do this.  Karen and I often say that hosting a race is like inviting all of our friends over to our home for a party.  We want to give you a memorable time and treat you like guests, but we love seeing all of you too!

We have loads of plans already in the works for 2019 that we will be announcing soon. One we are most excited about is our Post Race Clean up Crew.  It seems appropriate that today is #NationalRecyclingDay to announce it but we will be instituting a new volunteer position that is based on the Swedish trend of plogging – a combination of jogging and picking up litter.  We will be giving away free race entries to anyone willing to join us the day after a race to run the course and pick up any trash that may have gotten left behind.  We will be announcing more about this in the coming weeks.

Also, we are formalizing our discount program.  While we do not offer coupons or discounts very often – we do have a number of day in and day out discount options:

  • Race Bundles – Sign up for 3 or more races and receive a discount on your entry fees and be a part of our Rhode Master program.  Earn exclusive rewards to the Rhode Masters such as the Series Medal, hat/visor, and other apparel.  We will launch this on the first week of December.
  • Refer a friend – when 3 of your friends sign up to join you at one of our races using your unique registration URL, you will receive $15 back on your entry fee.
  • Large Group/Team Discounts – Once your group reaches 10 or more in each race, everyone in your group will each receive $5 back on your registration. Groups of 15 or more receive $10 back and 20 or more receive $15 back!

We have more exciting news in the works and we will be busy in our “off season” planning and hoping to create better races for you!  Next month, we will be asking for your feedback as to what we did well this year, where we need some help and your overall feedback as to how we can improve.

In the meantime, we hope you can join us in kicking off the New Year in the best way we know how with the 34th Annual Hangover Classic 5 Miler in Bristol, RI on January 1!

THANK YOU TO ALL OUR RHODE RACERS!

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We love our Volunteers!

It seems like my July post is generally about our volunteers.  We are a bit over half way through our season and I am always so grateful at this point in the year to our strong volunteer corp and those groups that we can really rely on throughout the race season – and how difficult it can be when a ball is dropped.

With a small race day staff, and an even smaller FT staff, our volunteer groups are our Faces of the Rhode Races that you interact with the most on your race day – and they can make or break our race.  It can be tough to find good ones – groups that will show up (most importantly!!!), stay for the entire time, be consistently encouraging and supportive from the first runner to the last, and will clean up the course to our standards.  These all seem like small things, but finding these groups has been our biggest challenge.  We receive plenty of good intentions and offers to help, but sometimes the execution doesn’t happen the way it should.  short arms cooldrink

The volunteers on race day can often have a tougher day than the runners.  They have to stand in the weather elements – extreme heat or cold and rain without the ability to run to get warm.  They arrive well before our first runner and stay until the last.  And they have to be happy and supportive throughout the duration!  🙂

There are those groups that we can consistently count on – our “A team” of volunteers.  For example, our Bristol race was our entire A-Team!  The Rhode Island Rhode Runners are our biggest asset.  Not only do they provide the best LOCAL pace team around, but they man many of our aid stations.   At their core, they are built to support running in the state so many of our participants have become members and many members run our races.  This creates a bigger running community, and we are all better for it as that is our ultimate goal.  Nels Johnson does an incredible job managing all of our pace team leaders and the aid station captains of Mary Ann Donato, Cee Vallee, MaryAnn Donato and Pat Lachance are infinitely organized.

volunteers.JPGBut there are two more groups that are our most valuable – Portsmouth High School XC/Track & Field and Mt Hope HS Lacrosse.  These two groups often take multiple volunteer spots, ALWAYS show up with the right amount of volunteers, stay to the bitter end, and we can always count on them.  These groups are lead by Shawn Horgan of Portsmouth and Jay Spina of Mt Hope – these coaches are dedicated to their team, their athletes and to us.  We are grateful to have them in our lives and we thank them.

We all know the value of great volunteers and they can certainly make or break our race day.  We recognize we have had a few issues with volunteer groups this year, and it has caused some problems.  We will continue to develop a high caliber of groups that we can consistently rely on for our race day needs.  In order to continue to foster a great volunteer corp and provide you with a top notch race day, we ask that our participants are also respectful racers.  Here are some tips –

  • Finish within the allotted course time and/or request an early start.
  • Drop cups/gel packets/trash as close to an aid station as possible or at mile markers and signs so we can see it and clean it up at the end of the race.
  • Thank our volunteers or let them know politely what you are in need of

And if you know of any super fun but RELIABLE volunteer groups looking to earn some money – send them our way!!!!

lax aid station

Pawtucket, RI is looking to prohibit all road races on city streets

The City Council of Pawtucket will be voting next week to ban all road races, unless they take place in their City Park.  This ban includes all races, no matter how long or who is involved.  This vote seems to be happening without many of the Pawtucket residents knowing anything about it.

Pawtucket hosts a number of wonderful road races each year – or at least, they did.  The Blackstone Valley Half was a well attended event for nearly 10 years, the St. Patrick’s 5k is their biggest, and the beloved PawSox have their own race that begins and ends in their historic ballpark.  There are many other smaller races that also will be constrained to the limits of the City Park, or will just go away entirely.

Road races do cause some traffic delays and can be an inconvenience to those local residents.  Most Race Directors work closely with their local municipalities to minimize the disruption with careful route planning and advance notice to residents.  And yes, we have seen an increase in the number of road races that occur each year.  But that number is on the decline.  As mentioned above, Pawtucket no longer hosts any half marathons or longer, Providence only hosts one event longer than a 5k.  Other races are falling by the wayside as well due to increased costs, competition and municipality regulations.

If this ordinance passes, it may set a precedent for other “inconveniences.”  The benefits from road races far outweigh a few extra minutes to your commute.  The money raised for charity, the economic benefit are all in the thousands.  The promotion of a healthy lifestyle, where you accomplish some life long goals, the community and sense of pride from showcasing your locality.  These are all non-monetary benefits as well.

Everyone has a reason for toeing the line, has their story which caused them to sign up and train – often for months, in the cold and dark.  Running a marathon or hweb-sized-promo-146alf marathon is no easy task – and everyone has their reason why.  Perhaps you just beat cancer and you want to celebrate your newfound health, you are looking to test your courage and sense of self with a longer distance, maybe you are running for someone who no longer can, or enjoying a great bonding experience with a friend or family member.  As race directors, we get to hear some AMAZING stories as to your reasons why – we are inspired by so many of you.  We truly believe that the happiest place on earth is the finish line as so many goals and dreams are achieved there.

But yes, the chasing of these goals and dreams may affect others in their path.  There are still times when residents may have a delay due to something out of the ordinary happening in their normal travel – this can include construction, funerals, parades, festivals and road races.

869f3-web-sized-promo-119In our modern times, we have become so rushed and focused on getting it all done, that we forget that there are inconveniences in life that slow us down and take us off our course.  Particularly those for the better of our community as a whole – events, construction, parades and races.  It is par for being part of a larger community.  There was even a recent study that traffic delays caused by marathons save lives.  🙂

There are certain protocols that can be put in place to ensure residents are given ample notice of the race and to work around any delays that may occur.  There are compromises to be struck with some of the existing races, for example, if you would like to keep a cap on the number of events the city will hold – sort of like a limit on the number of liquor licenses, etc.  There are ways to work through the inconvenience rather than just a blanket ban on all races.

Yes – some changes likely can be made on both ends – but working towards a solution for residents and runners can be found.

Feel free to write the Council Members of Pawtucket and let them know how your feel about this ordinance.  Contact information is available on their website – http://www.pawtucketri.com/city-council
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Race Day Bib Pick Up

We often say that race directing is like throwing a lot of balls up in the air and hoping to catch them all them at the same time – but that rarely happens.  We catch a lot – but no race goes off without a hitch. No matter how many contingencies we try to plan for, there is always something unexpected that goes awry.  But we learn at every event, take lots of notes, ask for feedback – and work to fix any issues in the following year.

At last year’s Providence race, we had an unprecedented number of people picking up their bib on race morning – nearly half the participant field, and we just were not able to move through everyone fast enough.  We definitely dropped that ball.  We have made a number of changes on the back end in hopes of alleviating that same issue from occurring again this year.

The biggest front-facing change is that we are limiting in advance the number of participants that can pick up their bib.  While many larger races eliminate race day bib pick up altogether, we know that is not an option for many.  There will be a premium for those that need to pick up race day, that is to encourage the majority of the participants to pick up their bib in advance.   This policy has been enacted to provide a smooth race day and an on time start for all of our participants.

If you cannot get to the Omni on Friday or Saturday, you are welcome to send a friend or family member in your stead.  You just need to provide a signed note and a copy of your ID.  We will keep the note, but you can have the copy of your ID back.

So please plan on picking up your bib at the Omni on Friday from 1-7pm or Saturday from 11am to 5pm.  There will be NO race day bib pick up unless that option was reserved during your registration steps.

We appreciate your understanding and patience on this new policy.  We know we needed to change things for this year and we hope to have learned from our mistakes.  It is our hope to provide a smooth and relaxing race day experience for all our participants.

Spring is in the air (?)

Like many of you are probably feeling, this winter is starting to wear thin.  We have training runs on the calendar, races on the horizon – it is time for green grass and Spring jackets!  The daffodils were popping up and then were buried under a foot of snow!  But Cliff Walk shotnevertheless – this is New England. And even though winter is getting a bit long in the tooth, it is still beautiful and we love running here.  There is quiet beauty around every corner and bend so we continue to run and enjoy nature’s majesty.

As we have run and trained through the dark of winter for those Spring races, each run has been a test of our mental strength – strength we will need to pull from in the long last miles of the race.  Those tough miles will be worth it when you are ready to toe that line, to cross under that finishing arch.  Much like nature is doing its work beneath the bathhouse runsurface in winter for its amazing Spring time awakening, your winter miles are growing your roots for your first race of the year.  All that work beneath the surface will come to fruition in the Spring and you will burst through with sunshine and color!  (At least, that is the plan!)

And like your winter training, we have been busy in the off season, cultivating our relationships with our vendors and partners, tending to our operational plans and itching to burst forth into the Spring time.  We continue to tweak our event plans, doing research on what you all want from us and how we can best meet your goals as a runner. We have reviewed the year end surveys and made some decisions based on your responses, to see what works best for all involved.

So we are ready – ready to race through the daffodils in Newport.  Ready to set some PRs, ready to Spring forth!

Who is with us?

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