It's not racing, but it's still work. I love race day. I carefully lay out everything I could possibly need while my nerves start to hum. I eat the rare pasta-based meal for dinner the night before (you know, for health reasons). I even like waking up early on those hallowed Saturdays. I love the crowds and the activity and the celebrating at the finish line (documented with 50-100 Facebook and Instagram posts and the corresponding tweets). The person I'm in awe of each Saturday morning, the few times I've glimpsed him/her, is the race director. What an awesome job that must be, I've often thought, I wonder how you land that gig? So I did some research, and here’s what I’ve found, regardless of the sport:
- Volunteer at local races on race day. Race day is the pinnacle of the pressure on race directors, and it’s a completely different experience from participating as an athlete. Taking an important and unglamorous volunteer slot at an aid station or registration table will give you a realistic taste of race day pressure and allow you to observe what the race director does at a closer range.
- If race day hasn’t scared you away, the next step is volunteering to serve on a race committee. Race committee members work throughout the year alongside of the race director and do the planning for the event over many months before race day. While it’s tempting to work on big-name events, starting with small, local events will give you more exposure to all of the areas of race planning.
- Develop a fantastic attitude about less-than-fantastic tasks. Be the person who’s willing to clean up the aid station area, even if it’s not technically your job. Once you become a race director, it’s all your job!
- Make contacts in the race community, and keep in touch. Social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are perfect for sharing your burgeoning race directing career highlights with your contacts and learning about upcoming events. Be careful with those Beer Mile pics, though.
- Start adding your volunteer experience to your resume and your LinkedIn page. Make sure to include results of your work (“Designed e-mail campaign with a 22% registration rate”).
- Subscribe to athletic job posting sites. Race planning is a niche job market, so the giant job sites aren’t your best bet unless you can subscribe to a “race director” keyword search. Check out runningusa.org’s job posting site, and the websites of nationally-known races.
- Consider a certification course from reputable organizations like Road Runners Club of America or USA Triathalon. This helps strengthen places where your knowledge and/or experience is weak and can put you on the short list for hiring managers.