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Race Planning Tests Mettle of Facilities and Personnel

Once the weather warms, most could throw a rock and hit the nearest 5K or 10K race in virtually any part of the globe, and military events are no exception. They make for ideal promotional opportunities, fundraisers and team-building exercises.

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Once the weather warms, most could throw a rock and hit the nearest 5K or 10K race in virtually any part of the globe, and military events are no exception. They make for ideal promotional opportunities, fundraisers and team-building exercises. But they also represent a process that is typically months, if not years, in the making.

Overall, the biggest mistake made by first-time race planners, experts say, is not having a budget or a clear understanding of what to expect. But through careful planning and preparation, these events serve as a boon to morale, base participation and promote fitness.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas A. Meadows, an enlisted accession recruiter with the 337th Recruiting Squadron, heads up the Air Force Aid Society 10K and 5K in Greensboro, N.C. For him, planning is the name of the game.

"The initial part [that] is really important [is] to get a date, especially if you're starting a first race," Meadows says. "If you don't do your research, you could be bumping up with a well-established race."

In fact, he noted that some parks in Greensboro require a year's notice to hold a race. Another crucial aspect is money. For example, his race must obtain $1 million in liability insurance.

"You need to have a long-term plan, because your first year or two you may not make anything," he says.

Tononica Jennings, lead recreation assistant at the Monti Physical Fitness Center, Fort Drum, N.Y., knows all about planning. Fort Drum holds an annual qualifier to determine its active duty team that will run the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

Like Meadows, Jennings says the most important initial items to her are determining a date and location. Obtaining any city permits is next, and then meticulous scripting of each and every task-from day one through the end of the race-is the order of the day.

Safety and precision are primary concerns.

"Water is a huge issue for us," Jennings says. "We're very specific with their timing; we don't want to ... mess anyone's time up for their hard work."

Ann Hupp, owner of MettleEvents, a race planning, management and execution company, offers a very direct approach to races. Her experience includes facilitating a number of MWR races at Norfolk, Little Creek, Dam Neck, Fort Eustis, Fort Story and many other Virginia locations. (At MettleEvents races, registrants who miss a race due to deployment can receive a refund or deferment to participate in another race.)

"In order to do a good course-a good first-time race-I have at least 300 hours minimum invested by the end of it," Hupp says.

Once the decision is made to proceed, it's all about execution.

The first questions Hupp has are about location: Are the proper permits obtained, and how much is in the budget? These often shock first-time race planners, she says.

"It costs money to get a permit," Hupp says.

After that, a course proposal can be a showstopper if there's planned construction on the route or if the race interrupts church or synagogue services.

Then there's police and traffic engineer requirements, as well as notifying city planning organizations about holding a race.

"That's when you start tallying up the bill," Hupp says. "How many cones are going to be placed out there? How many men are you going to have to pay to put the cones out there? How many trucks do you have to pay mileage and gasoline for in order to transport the men and the cones?"

At a recent 10K in Norfolk, the bill for cones, police, traffic engineering and road closures was about $16,000, she says.

"It's a blank canvas, and you're creating the art," Hupp says. Even with a race on a base, the same work, meetings and organization are required for good execution.

Les Stewart, special programs director at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, can relate. He organizes the annual 10K and 5K Armed Forces Community Run (May 11).

"The thing that we look at here at Peterson is [that] leadership needs to know everything," he says. And base cooperation is crucial among many organizations-from police and medical personnel to civil engineers and multi-media and public affairs specialists.

Hupp emphasizes cooperation as well, but adds that working a race at a base offers a few differences.

"In the civilian world, everybody knows everybody, but not like on a military facility," she says. "It's almost like on a military base they're kind of 'voluntold,' whereas in the civilian world, it doesn't go that way." If a commanding officer wants a race, it will happen, she adds.

Top 10 Race Planning Considerations
1. Location
2. Course Identification
3. Measurement
4. Budget
5. Proceeds (Who's getting them?)
6. Event Itself (What's going to happen?)
7. Premium (What sets this particular race apart from others?)
8. Medical
9. Communications
10. Logistics Plan (for unexpected race-day events, such as bad weather.)
- Ann Hupp, owner, MettleEvents

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