August 2020 Issue 433

The Latest in Road Running for Race Directors and Industry Professionals


The "Ops" Manual

By Dave McGillivray

Editor's Note: With staging physical races nearly completely on hold due to COVID-19, race directors may find themselves with idle hours on their hands. This downtime provides a unique opportunity for you to create an Operations Manual for your events. To assist in that effort, Road Race Management is reprinting a column by Dave McGillivray from the April, 2011 issue of the newsletter about how to do so.

Anyone who knows me knows I like to put EVERYTHING in writing. In our industry, there are so many details and so many moving parts that documentation is critical to success. Sharing of information with your race committee can sometimes make or break your event. The more people involved in the race who know what is going on in your event the better. A race director who holds all the information close to his or her vest is doing a disservice to everyone.


Although it can be a lot of additional work, creating an Operations Manual (aka, the race “Bible”) is a must to ensure that the many details of putting on the race have not been overlooked but are being communicated to everyone who needs to know them.

Why Create an “Ops” Manual?

  • It engages the entire race committee in putting in writing the important details of their area. If something were to happen to them, at least you have in writing many of the details about their area, and it is proof to you that they are doing their job.

  • It keeps everyone on a pre-determined timeline in getting things done so that these documents can be included in the manual.

  • It proves to all involved that all the necessary work was completed.

  • This is an impressive document to provide to city officials, sponsors and other  supporters of the race.

  • Any and all questions about the race should have the answers in the manual, and users should be able to locate them easily.

  • It is a great reference and starting point for the next year.

Some “Ops” Manual Tips:

  • Everyone on your race committee should participate in providing a document for the manual.

  • Ideally, all documents should be completed within two weeks of the race, and manuals should be printed and distributed within 10 days of the race. However, everyone should be told that things change and things can be added at the last minute, so they should always check and follow up on details.

  • Create an electronic folder and start saving documents as early in the process as possible. Waiting until the last minute can prove overwhelming.

  • Designate one person on the committee to be responsible for collecting all the documents, reworking them if needed and eventually assembling the manual.

  • When completed, you can consider creating a .pdf version of the manual and emailing it out to the committee rather than having the manual copied and distributed to everyone. I’ve done both, but I have found that this is one item that committee members prefer to have printed out and handed to them so they can refer to it easily when things come up.

Frankly, I don’t know how any race can be conducted without an “Ops” Manual. Imagine an NFL team—especially the quarterback—not having a playbook? I can’t imagine too many Super Bowls have been won without one.

Dave McGillivray is the race director of the BAA Boston Marathon. In addition he directs or consults on a number of other major events ranging from the TD Beach to Beacon 10K and the New Balance Falmouth Road Race to the 2004 and 2008 Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials. He is the owner of Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises, a complete event management firm.

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