Resources for Creators and Small Business

A Primer on Conducting Marathons

If you think running a full marathon or even a half marathon is tough, try organizing one.

From planning the route to selling Marathon Tickets, it needs careful thought and great attention to detail to ensure your Marathon is a memorable experience.

In this post, we give you a checklist of things that you must consider when planning a Marathon.

conducting marathon

Deciding the day

Pick a date at least one year in advance

Marathons are large scale Events by nature and require a great deal more planning than you think.

Don’t clash with other Marathons

Check sites like India Running or Active for a detailed calendar on other Marathon Events happening across the world. 

Don’t forget to consider the season

Avoid organizing any kind of running Event in the wet monsoon months purely because managing traffic in Indian cities can be hell. The cool winter months or the warmer summer months are usually the best time to organize a run.


Selecting the Location and the route

The best Marathons in the world cut across tall mountains (Kilimanjaro Marathon) or traverse breath-taking coastlines (Great Ocean Road Marathon).

Even in India, the best-known Marathons are the ones that wind across the Sahyadri range (Satara Hill Half Marathon), the Ladakh Marathon and the Great Tibetan Marathon.

Since most Marathons in India still happen in cities, organizers prefer a loop or an out-and-back course.

Have a half marathon (21 km), 10 km (10 K), 5 km (5 K) along with the full marathon (42 km).

You will sell more Marathon tickets that way and get amateur runners or non-runners interested

Easy access to your Event

Draw more people. Ensure there are plenty of public transportation options for people to access your Event.

Charting out the route

Consider space for parking areas, water and energy drink or medical booths

Get your route certified by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races. Doing that will put your Event on the world marathon calendar.

Selecting the Location and the route for marathon

Obtaining Permits

With a route map ready, it is time to identify the various permits required to conduct the Marathon.

Get your route approved by the traffic police since traffic may need to be diverted on Marathon day. Also get police and fire department clearances. Check if there are other city-specific permits that you need before you proceed.

If any of the civic authorities have objections to the route or dates, you will have to modify both or either.

Don’t start selling tickets for your Marathon before you have all the permits in place.

Obtaining Permits for Marathons

Build a great core team

While you hire volunteers, you need a core team who can manage and oversee the Event.

With a great team, 80% of your task done.

Be sure to include a running enthusiast in your team who regularly participates in Marathons. Have them run your Marathon so you get first-hand feedback on the running experience.

Build a great core team

Teaming up with the right Partners

As a Marathon Organizer, you will most likely team up with other vendors. A basic rule of thumb while selecting partners is to focus on your budget and whether the vendor has the ability to service the number of participants that you are expecting.

Here is a brief checklist of vendor partners that you are likely to need

Medical partner to provide emergency medical aid

Race Timing partner

Logistics partner to ferry things like T-shirts, water, food, etc.

Media partner

Hospitality and Travel partner

Event Ticketing and Registrations partner

Charity partner

Insurance partner 

Associating with Charity

Running for a cause is increasingly gaining widespread appeal.

According to the Running USA 2011 National Runner Survey, 42% people say participation in running  is influenced by a charitable cause or affiliation. In India, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is marketed as India’s biggest charity Event.

For Marathon organizers, the classic recipe to selling more Marathon tickets is to partner with a nonprofit, whether it is the entire focus of the Event or simply facilitates donations when participants sign up for the Marathon.

Associating with Charity

Marketing and publicity

Your marketing strategy will depend to a large extent on who your main audience is, that is who will RUN your race?

The best way to promote any running event is to advertise at other running events. Set up a booth during pre-race expos for other marathons so you can get word out on yours.

If your race has a charitable cause, rope in the charity and their volunteers and staff to promote your Event. In any case, marketing for a marathon needs to start at least 3-4 months before the Event.

It is good to have a media partner handling all the traditional media outlets but your closest ally for promotion will be the internet.

Set up a Facebook page and a Twitter handle that will aid you in multiplying your reach, translating into more registrations and higher interest from the public. Always keep these updated and share anything that might be of interest to the running community.

Send mailers to all previous year participants unless you are a first-time organizer. Offer some discount off the Registration fee to encourage them to sign up early.

Distribute flyers at well-known gyms, running groups or health clubs.

Online and Offline Registrations

Having a simple and hassle-free registration process for participants is important and so it is best to have both online and offline registrations methods.

There are several ticketing firms out there like Explara who offer a high quality and end-to-end ticketing experience to help you sell Marathon tickets.

Your Ticketing partner should enable the following:

Helping people access registration from anywhere, be it the Marathon website, your social media pages or any other website.

Customizing the Registration form to collect the information you need.

Securely processing information and payments.

Race day registration functionality.

Online and offline Marathon Registrations

Ordering bibs, medals and awards

Order your race numbers, medals and awards at least 2-3 months prior to the Event. Order more than you will need.

At packet pickup and on race day, have plenty of safety pins for participants

Put some thought into the design for finishers’ medals. People will sign up for your Marathon next year just to get a cool medal!

Recruiting volunteers

To manage the Event from start to finish, you will need a large volunteer brigade.

Ensure you have 1 volunteer for every 10 participants that you expect on Race day. Every place participants stop at – registration, water and snack stations, first-aid, finish line chutes and more – will need to be manned.

To get volunteers, check with local NGOs and building colonies. Many corporates also have programs where employees volunteer time. Tap into these networks to recruit volunteers.

Recruiting volunteers for Marathons

Pre-race expo

The pre-race expo that happens 1-2 days prior to race day is usually a good revenue generating opportunity for you that will help you keep Marathon registration costs low.

Participants show up at the expo to pick up their bibs, timing chips and goodie bags.

Partner with vendors who can sell health and fitness-related goods at the expo.

Pre-race expo

Event day

So Race day is finally here. For a first-time organizer, it can seem like a daunting task since there are a zillion things to manage but that’s what all the pre-race preparation was for, right?

Important pointers:

Set up the stations – spot registrations, snacks and drinks, medical aid. Snacks may include biscuits, bananas, energy bars, etc. and drinks may be liquid glucose, energy drinks, water, etc.

Create a great display at the starting

Ensure there are enough signages that can help direct participants and non-participants. Signages must also be located at all traffic junctions that can help direct traffic

Traffic must be managed well, ensure your team works collaboratively with the traffic department

Plan to have enough toilets – at least 1 every 50 runners and few every 2 miles along the way. They must be clean with running water or toilet paper and some light

Have a megaphone for announcements along with a stage for DJ/MC and enough space on the side for cheering squads

Arrange for professional digital photographers who can click pictures of runners and the Event

On Marathon Event day

Post Event

Just because the Event went off well does not mean your work is done. All areas of the Marathon course must be cleaned before winding up. Seek volunteer help to take down the banners, pack up equipment, pick up trash, etc.

It is important to do a thorough job cleaning up so the building colonies and neighborhoods along the course don’t complain to city officials that can create problems for you to get permits next year

Post results as soon as you get them. Don’t waste too much time after the race because the excitement may peter away.

Once results are live, send an email to all participants and also thank them for their participation and for making the Event a great success!

Collect feedback from participants, volunteers and your core team. This will help you make improvements to your Marathon next year. Online ticketing partners provide options to send customized feedback forms to participants.

Post Marathon Event

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