I've been thinking a lot lately about race directors that we have worked with over the years. It numbers in the many hundreds and possibly thousand with all of the different type of events that we timing, manage, and support. It gives us a unique perspective on the personalities of race directors. Some are amazing to work with while others we're glad to be done with. It would be impossible to actually rank the race directors because it is such a subjective criteria but I know that I have my personal top 5 and bottom 5 race directors. Those in the top are a joy to work with and we always look forward to supporting them in any way possible. Those at the bottom are incredibly difficult. In some cases, we have even refused to work with them anymore because they are so difficult. What I have found interesting about those in the bottom of the list is that most often they switch companies and go somewhere else. It would be nice if they had the perception to look inward and realize that no one likes to work with them. They just sometimes find someone else more willing to tolerate them. I find that life is too short to deal with hostile and negative people so I don't.
So what makes a great race director? There are the obvious answers which you would immediately reply such as the ability to put on a great event. Here is my criteria when evaluating a race director:
1. Organization ability - Are they organized such that things go smoothly
2. Ability to delegate - Can they build and work with a team?
3. Willingness to do the work - I never ask someone to do something I'm not willing or able to do myself. Are they willing to get dirty or do they delegate everything?
4. Efficient - A race director has to be able to juggle a lot of balls. How efficiently do they manage it? Do they seem to be always behind or does it all run smoothly?
5. Management ability - No one likes a micro-manager. Is the RD one or do they have the ability to trust their team?
6. Works with Volunteers - How well do they work with volunteers? Do they treat them with respect or like an object?
7. Works with vendors - How do they treat their vendors? Do they treat them like part of the team or is it hostile?
8. Trustworthy - Can you trust what they say? Do they have your back?
9. Reasonable expectations - It's incredibly difficult to have perfection at a race. A good race director realizes this and is not histrionic about the issues.
10. Rolls with punches - How well do they handle issues? Can they laugh it off or do they go ballistic?
Those criteria are all mostly subjective but help to evaluate a race director. The race directors in my top 5 all score highly in every criteria. Those in the bottom may score highly in areas like Organization but low in trust and personnel issues. I don't care how good a race director does with putting on an event; if they treat their team, vendors, or volunteers poorly, I personally want nothing to do with them.
It's unfortunate that race participants don't usually see the inner workings of a race. I think that if people really knew how a race director ranks, it might affect their willingness to participate. Do you really want to support a race with a tyrant as the RD? Some of the best and biggest races I know of in the area have very low ranking race directors. Fortunately there are a lot of great races conducted by high ranking RDs.
If you are race director, where do you think you rank on the scale? You might be surprised.
If you are a participant, hold the RD accountable if you can.
See you at the race!