In Canada, you can’t really be into running races without knowing about Canada Running Series.
It’s a great series for races taking place all across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver. Which races? Well, Montreal 21k, Toronto Waterfront Marathon or East side 10k in Vancouver!
Ready for some knowledge bombs?
What is your background? How did Charlotte Brookes end up race director?
I grew up in the industry as Alan Brookes’ daughter. It really has been part of my life in some way or another since I was in diapers. Alan had me putting together sets of 4 safety pins and stuffing them into race kits at the age of 5. Then working all through junior high and high school at all our Toronto and Montreal races on registration and packet pickup. When I went off to University in Montreal I started to get more responsibility and assisted our Race Director out there with the planning of the event. At the age of 21 I started to work in the Toronto Office and really had an incredible opportunity to start at the very bottom of the company and learn as much as I could to prepare me for my position now 12 years later.
What is your most memorable day as a race director?
There are so many memorable moments it is hard to pick just one. STWM (that’s ScottiaBank Toronto Waterfront Marathon) 2012 I had my friend at Brooks pull me aside at Expo setup and give me a fancy pair of bright pink shoes and a matching jacket just because he said it had been so nice to work with me that year. This was my first year as the Event Director and I was used to being behind the scenes so the idea of getting something extra overjoyed me – it was potentially a small token on his part but really meant a lot to me. Ed Whitlock breaking 3 hours at the age of 72 and 73 at STWM was also pretty special and then seeing the Ed Pacers at STWM this year finish his 3 most famous World Record times almost made me cry. I also loved all the confetti we had at the finish line this year – so much fun!
What makes races from Canada Running Series truly unique events?
Alan always told people “we are runners in business, not business people into Running”. I think we have an incredibly dynamic team of people here at CRS who work very hard year after year to make sure all our participants have the best possible experience at our events. We actually read all the feedback that comes in and learn so much from it year after year.
What do you wish you knew about organizing running races when you started out?
Just the volume of work and time that is involved with putting on road races you can be proud of. I think a lot of people go into this business because they love running but don’t realize how many weekends and evenings are involved with pulling off that magical day. The payoff though on race day is a feeling I’ve never felt anywhere else so the time involved is definitely worth it!
You must have seen everything when it comes to race logistics! What are your best logistics tips for race directors?
I think organization and various technology platforms that help keep you more organized would be my best tips. Make sure you’re looking at things from as many angles as possible and consider potential alternatives in case things don’t go according to plan (we all know how often that happens!).
Your races at Canada Running Series seems to be always sold-out, what are your best race promotion tips?
Can’t give away all our secrets but the number one way people tell us they heard of our event is word of mouth. So make sure your event is something everyone is chatting about! Put on a good show and make sure you’re always keeping things fresh and innovative!
How do you manage different categories of race competitors?
We have participants in wheelchairs, some times strollers, participants with guides, elite athletes, etc. We differentiate all our participants with their bibs and sometimes (walker category vs. runner) through separate results.
How many volunteers do you have? How do you recruit & manage them?
We have over 5,000 volunteers per year at our Toronto & Montreal events and 3,000 at STWM alone! We have a dedicated Volunteer Manager that spends year-round recruiting, managing and retaining those volunteers. She recruits through high schools, various sport or leisure groups, colleges, etc. All our volunteer registration is done online and allows us to track them, communicate with them and for them to be able to pick the exact volunteer position and shift that they want to help with.
Race directors’ #1 challenge is securing sponsors. What is your secret sauce when it comes to finding & securing sponsors?
I think it goes back to the “how do we promote our events”. You need to create an experience that people are excited about, chat with each other about and have people either wanting to sponsor or participate in. Sponsors are always looking for something specific so there is no hard and fast rule on securing new partners. You just need to figure out who aligns with your race brand the best and therefore who could become incredible partners at your events.
What is usually your biggest challenge when it comes to organizing races part of Canada Running Series?
I think the biggest challenge would be the things you can’t control. The weather, what’s happening in the City that has nothing to do with your race or the vendors you work with. Everyone plays such a huge role in the success of the event and if something changes or goes against what is planned, it can have a serious effect on so many different areas. We moved dates for STWM this year because of a financial conference scheduled over our race weekend, there was a protest at City Hall the day we were setting up in the square, we had a vendor that was 1.5 hours late showing up to our start line this year that was providing us with all our power, etc. You can create lots of plans for the event but you also need to be flexible when things come up that aren’t part of the plan and be willing to adjust those plans as needed.
Where can people find you and your race online?
Want to read other interviews like this one?
Head over to our interview from Martin Drolet of The Color Run Canada.