What makes a race great? While running events vary widely in when it comes to size, distance, and course profile, there are a number of fundamental factors that all great races have in common.
For the past three years, we have compiled The BibRave 100 - the definitive list of the best races in America - as a way to highlight events that go the extra mile for their participants. We develop the list by seeking out runner nominations in select categories. This year’s categories included Top Marathons, Half Marathons, Races 10 Miles or Less, Best Weekend Experience, Best Medals and Swag, and Best Themed Races. The nominations for the distance categories are then voted on to ultimately rank the top races in each category. The BibRave 100 has become a resource for runners looking for their next race as well as an inspiration for race organizers aiming to improve their event experience.
In this whitepaper we dive into the 2019 results of The BibRave 100 to tease out the key takeaways for race organizers. It’s good to know that the races on list are the best of the best, but it’s even better to know why. Here’s what we learned about 2019’s Best Races in America.
Race organizers will be glad to know that their tireless behind-the-scenes work does not go unnoticed by runners on race day. There were multiple factors that runners cited when nominating and voting for their favorite races on The BibRave 100, and for the third year in a row seamless race organization continues to be at the top of that list. The races on The BibRave 100 make sure that every facet of the race is buttoned up for race weekend so runners can focus on the finish line.
What does this sort of race organization look like? It’s the extra volunteers at the Flying Pig Marathon that are available to hand out water and medals but also to take pictures and look for medical issues before they become a problem. Another great example is the public transportation information available at the AJC Peachtree Road Race expo that aids runners in finding their best route to the start line and even gives them the opportunity to pre-purchase a MARTA card to save the extra step on race day. When races know their runners and meet their needs before they even ask for help, it saves everyone time and trouble.
We weren’t surprised that two-thirds of the finalists on this year’s list are previously recognized races on The BibRave 100. There’s a reason that races such as the Missoula Marathon and the One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon not only make the list from year to year, but they also land in the top spots.
These races, like many of the others on the list, dig deep to find out what worked during their event and what didn’t, so that they can address issues before they become a problem. They also work all year long to build relationships with their volunteer base and community supporters to provide a fun and positive experience for all participants from one year to the next. That kind of consistent planning, relationship building, and preparation shows on race day, and it’s what earns the runners’ trust and support year after year.
Call it the Boston-effect but runners love to BQ and PR. Many of the races on The BibRave 100 feature flat and fast courses that attract aspiring, goal-oriented runners. Big or small, runners love the opportunity to put their training to the test and let their legs fly. That’s easiest to accomplish at races that offer fast courses with perks such as the distracting eye candy found at the Walt Disney World Marathon or the lively community support of the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon .
Don’t worry, hilly courses have their chance to shine too, most notably in races such as the Flying Pig or the Blue Ridge Marathon where a course’s hills are as much a part of the event’s experience as its distance.
Either way, be knowledgeable about how your course might affect the runner experience. Celebrate and message it for what it is.
Detailed event apps were the name of the game for runners and their loved ones in 2019. Runners appreciated having all of the event’s information in one spot so that they could easily access anything from expo times to course amenities. Event apps also provide a convenient way to spectate and track all runners on race day.
Almost 20 percent of the finalists on The BibRave 100 for 2019 utilized the MYLAPS EventApp with features like tracking, selfies, and course information. These numbers were strongest in the marathon category with 60 percent of the Top 5 Marathons and almost 50 percent of Marathon finalists utilizing the MYLAPS app. When it comes to providing information seamlessly across 26.2 miles it’s critical to have a partner that can provide an easy consumer experience combined with accurate timing solutions.
Time and time again, runners cited an amazing race after-party as an event highlight. The post-race experience is now almost as important as the race itself, as it provides an opportunity to celebrate achievements and connect with the running community.
Races that offered plentiful supplies of beer and wine were big winners here, but runners also love it when races bring out special treats for finishers such as the Honolulu Marathon’s warm malasadas (handmade sugar-coated doughnuts) or the beach bonfire and massages at Zooma Cape Cod .
Having an after-party is table stakes. Providing a unique offering at your post-race party is a critical way to stand out from the crowd.
Want to know what runners love more than a good race? Two good races. Or three! Especially when they can conquer them all in one weekend. Races that offer multiple distance options appeal to runners seeking out a weekend challenge. They also offer more opportunities to attract race-cation buddies who are at different stages in their running and training.
Runners sought out races that offered unusual experiences. At the Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon , weekend activities include samba dancing lessons and photo-ops with celebrities while at the Blue Ridge Marathon’s relaxed-pace Slow-K, runners are encouraged to grab a donut and a cup of coffee to take with them on an easy-paced stroll. These events give all participants a chance to try something new while connecting with race organizers and the running community.
Runners have never been shy about their love of all the things, and that adoration is clear on The BibRave 100. Unique offerings, such as the wax-dipped bourbon bottle medal from the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon presented by Jim Beam® or the fleece blankets given to finishers at the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon generate buzz from runners eager to commemorate their race day accomplishments. The races at the top of The BibRave 100 know that runners can’t resist great bling and will gladly run a race to get it.
As you are thinking about special features of your race, be sure to translate what makes your event unique into your finisher medal and/or swag offerings. Not only do creative designs and swag generate great social content and engagement pre-race, but race day and Medal Monday shares will help fuel interest in your race for future years to come.
In 2019, runners sought out races that offered something special - whether that was an unusual experience at the expo, a fun weekend race challenge, or eye-catching bling. They also remained fiercely loyal to the races that have earned their trust, continuing to support events that obsess over the details to make the entire race experience seamless and special. PR-worthy courses are a plus but the real winners are races that offer a memorable weekend experience so that runners can celebrate the day regardless of their run time or place. The races on The BibRave 100 nail all of these factors and more, going above and beyond for their participants and the running community.