April 2013

Quality assurance - defining what's important

I don't know why, but i'm fascinated by looking at other races and seeing how they do things compared to how ENDracing does them.  Most notably, i'm interested in what other race directors choose to place importance on.  I've got some of my own ideas as to what is important, but figured since i'm really most interested in serving the racing community, i'd get some feedback.

One of my ideas is that the tougher the race, the less the trappings matter.  Personally at least anyway, when i enter a race that is likely to destroy me, i don't care as much if things look pretty, signage is professional, if i get lots of chintzy swag (although it is fun to have stuff to take back to my kids after a race!).  I don't care if the race director spent 20 dollars on each checkpoint marker or made them himself  out of zip ties and nylon scraps (anyone remember those home-made CP markers ENDracing started out with?  or the stakes and red plastic plates that served as mile markers for END-WET?), as long as they are in the right place.  I don't care if the map is professionally done by some company in Utah - it just has to be accurate and let me, barring mistakes, get to where i'm going.  What I do care about is what i'm getting during the race itself - it needs to be well planned, well organized, and well run.  The volunteers need to know what they are doing.  The course needs to be well thought out so that it needn't be radically altered on the fly during the race itself, except in extreme circumstances. 

And sure, prizes and free stuff (especially nice stuff like the 12+ ibex pieces, ergon grips, saddles, and packs, GJ technical jackets, and packraft we've got for END-SPAR) is cool too - but is also secondary to the race experience itself.  I've never thought a race wasn't worth what i paid for it when i was brutally challenged in a thoughtful way, and things were fair.  But when that doesn't happen, i better make out like a bandit to not feel cheated by the event.

My aim, therefore, in putting on particularly the tougher events of the ENDracing line-up is to focus first on the race course itself (and requisite logistics), then on the hospitality (good food and a warm fire/showers, etc at the finish line), then on prizes/gear that is actually good stuff (things i'd eat, wear, or buy myself) to give away, and finally (last and least), the swankyness and branding of race pariphenalia (signs, markers, banners etc, etc).  Because after all, that stuff is expensive!  And at the end of the day, IMHO anyway, it doesn't add much to the participant experience.  In fact, if i've done my job well racers shouldn't have any energy or ability to really notice these details anyway, confronted as they are challenges that make up the real reason (i hope) they signed up for the race in the first place.