Four Common Mistakes Small Races Make

Over the years we’ve had a lot of small races on our platform. We’ve seen them succeed. We’ve seen them struggle. And though there’s no single answer to what makes the difference, we have noticed some trends on what separates the successes from the rest. Mostly what it comes down to is avoiding a few key mistakes. 

In this article we cover four common mistakes small races make. We also offer a few suggestions on how to overcome those hurdles and set your race up for long term success. 

Opening registration too late

Selling tickets to an event takes time. It’s common for us to see events open registration only a month prior to an event – in an unofficial survey of small races we found the number was around 42%. But that’s often not enough time for many to plan and prepare for the event. 

For example, if you have a marathon event chances are people need time to train and prepare for that race. Likely months. So, if they’re not made aware that tickets are for sale until a month before race day, it becomes a much harder sell. 

There’s also the consideration that endurance events often take up a good chunk of a day for participants. So, if they have families, or other responsibilities, they need time to make accommodations so they can participate in the event. 

There’s no single rule of how early to open registration for an event, but somewhere around three to four months before an event is generally a good target. It gives people enough time to train and plan, but isn’t so far out that they don’t want to commit. With RunSignup you can also do things like create different pricing windows, which encourages – and rewards – people for signing up early. 

High event fees 

Many first-time races are charging nearly $100 a person to register. If you have a large, well-established, race people may be willing to spend that amount to participate. But if you’re a newer race, it’s possible the fee could turn people off. 

Our data shows the average cost of registration has increased, but most are still quite affordable. For example, in 2023 the average registration cost for a 5k was just under $30. The price generally goes up the longer the distance of the race, but you need to be mindful of how much you charge no matter what. 

If you need a benchmark on how to price your race, our Race Trends Report has a ton of great data on pricing (check section 3.3 on pricing trends). You should also consider adding in things like group discounts, or family rates. These can make it more affordable, while also encouraging people to spread the word about your event and get more people to join. 

Limited donation information

It’s fairly common for endurance events to have a philanthropic component. Either the event is held by a non-profit organization, or is raising funds for one. Events are a great way to get donations, but only if you offer them as an option. 

With RunSignup you can add a standalone donation button on an event website, or include it as an option in the registration path. In both cases it’s also incredibly important to share information about the organization and/or cause you’re raising money for and how the funds will be used. 

Having more robust information helps potential donors form a stronger connection with the cause and usually makes them more likely to donate. If you want a few more fundraising tips, this article is a great resource.  

Closing registration too early

We know from looking at years of data that around 25% of all registrations happen event week. For shorter distance events the number is generally even a bit higher, sometimes close to 30%. That said, we commonly see races close registration as much as two weeks prior to the event day. 

There are a few different reasons why event organizers choose to do so. Generally it’s so they have time to handle different logistical things like passing out bibs. However, if you use RunSignup we have a lot of different tools you can use that make late registrations easy to manage. Things like:

Our article When Should Races Close Registration goes into more detail about how you can use RunSignup to manage late, and day-of registrations to make a great experience for everyone involved. 

Looking ahead  

With all the complexity that exists with putting on an event, chances are high you’ll make a few mistakes here and there. The real goal shouldn’t be perfection, but doing your best to avoid common mistakes that could negatively impact you or your participants. With access to the right information and tools, it’s something that’s well within your reach. 

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