RunSignup’s RaceDay team got to experience first hand the backend operations of packet pickup and the life of a timer’s support crew by volunteering at this year’s 45th Kiawah Island Marathon on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. The RaceDay team is a team exclusively focused on developing technology for the race day experience with an emphasis on supporting the timer’s role. The team includes software developers, support, and marketing professionals. With close to 6,200 registrants, the Kiawah Island Marathon was an ideal opportunity to volunteer and see the RaceDay Team products in action. Nine of us set out to get first hand knowledge of what race organizers, timers, and participants experience.
Before the race begins, there are so many aspects involved in producing a race as any race organizer can tell you. With a 45 year history, they have the experience in delivering a quality race as further shown with the high number of repeat race participants that attend their event. We will focus on the pre-race side of things in this blog and and then follow with a race day perspective.
To get to race day, registration is the fundamental beginning point for events and there are many features available at RunSignup to help events cater to their specified needs. Kiawah Island Marathon’s race organizers offer multiple course options, yet keep it simple; full marathon, half marathon, glow run in the dark 5K, and a 1 miler fun run also a Glow Run in the Dark. They then also offer virtual options for those that aren’t able to make it to the on-site race which is especially important for an event with such a loyal following as it enables participants who can’t make it to the event to continue to feel connected with the race.
Here are some of the RunSignup registration capabilities Kiawah event organizers implemented:
- Discounted registration pricing that gradually increases as race day approaches
- Referral program
- Multi person registration
- Participant self-management features like deferrals and changing courses (this came in especially handy during the packet pickup process)
- RaceDay registration (the race had kiosks on site for people to easily register at the expo shown below)
The event’s registration custom questions included asking if the participant wants to be considered a “High Performer” followed by qualifying performance questions. This helps the event to manage things by staging the more serious athletes in a designated High Performer corral. To help attract more of the serious athletes, the courses are sanctioned by USATF and both the half and full are Boston qualifiers. About 12.5% of Kiawah Marathon finishers qualify for Boston.
Event organizers also used the custom question feature to help elevate the experience for participants on race day by asking things like why they are doing the race and if they are veterans, active duty service members, medical professionals, and first responders. This information is then used to support participants such as having a dedicated check-in area for first responders and as a source of information for announcers to provided personalized recognition. All these little touches lead to participants feeling connected and provide an elevated race experience.
Volunteers are a much needed and valued part of producing an event. Kiawah Island Marathon organizers took advantage of RunSignup’s Volunteer management features where volunteers can easily sign up for shifts from the event’s registration website. Below is an example of the different volunteer options available for Kiawah Island Marathon’s 2023 event.
Those that volunteered got this cool shirt and were treated to some great food. We actually experienced someone wanting to volunteer just so she could get the shirt!
Packet Pickup and Check-In
Experienced race participants and organizers know that the packet pickup process can quickly become a source of frustration if things aren’t managed correctly or if there aren’t enough volunteers available. Kiawah Marathon does a lot to reduce congestion and speed up the process, including offering early packet pickup, using RunSignup’s RaceDay CheckIn app, applying dynamic bib assignments, and using RunSignup’s Volunteer management mentioned above.
The RaceDay team volunteered at packet pickup to be greeters and to check people in using the RaceDay CheckIn app. We’ve been getting so much great feedback from race organizers on how much the RaceDay CheckIn app has transformed the packet pickup process, but it was a whole other form of reinforcement to hear the feedback from the race participants we were checking in. Frequently participants would say things like “That’s it? Wow. That is cool.” and “That is great. How fast was that?!” Our team really enjoyed the interaction and it meant a lot to see the product you have created in action. Special shout out to our RaceDay developer, Jack Muscato, who won the friendly competition of checking in the most participants with 453 check-ins!
Super fast Jack is on the left. Michael is checking in marathoners while James greets people and checks them in on his pone. Matt sends a friendly hello!
The race used dynamic bib assignments to create more efficiencies. By using the RaceDay CheckIn app it was a simple process of scanning the participant’s QR code to access their name and then scanning the Bib QR code to assign the bib number. We’d scan, scan, hand the bib to the participant. Done. It is that simple.
After checking in at least a thousand people for the Kiawah, our team has one big tip for race organizers:
Thanks to event organizers, the majority of people came prepared with their QR code and they zipped through like Shazam! When people did not have their QR code and we looked up people by their name, it slowed things down to about 30-60 seconds versus 3 seconds. Ok, that is still super fast. However, the big difference was when using the QR code there was no confusion or mistaking people with the wrong name, age or course. The other tip we have is to include “QR Code” in the email subject line so your participants can find the email fast.
The Kiawah Island Timing company, Go Race Productions, is owned and operated by Crisp McDonald who also happens to be a part of RunSignup’s RaceDay team. The morning before the race, Stephanie Middlebrooks from Go Race Productions provided training to our team on the timing equipment, including the timing mats, generators, decoders, clocks, and various contingency planning actions like if it rains – which it did! She revealed our plan for the next day and where we will all be stationed.
After the check-in was closed at 8pm we shared pizza and stories, and then headed out to get the timing equipment ready for race day and loaded up the various vehicles with our designated bins, gas, mats, decoders, clocks, and so on. Everything was well organized by Crisp and Stephanie. After a long day of volunteering, the team went to bed with thoughts of big red trucks in their head – oh, and a 4am wake up call on its way!
Stay tuned for Kiawah Island Marathon part two as the RaceDay team volunteering adventure continues!