This a guest post by Scott Mansker, a race director of the Missouri River 340. This race from Kansas City across the state of Missouri to St Charles will be run for the third time this year.
You can find many tips on-line for racers how to train, prepare and paddle marathon races. However, we need somebody to organize races for us, and, it is much more difficult to find any tips how to do it. So, if you are a race organizer, please share your experience with us. I hope that the Scott's article will be the first one in a series.
Scott Mansker and Kaw Warrior on the Missouri River
near St Charles during 2007 Missouri River Race
Marek asked that I write a bit about what I’ve learned since the first Missouri River 340. Marek and Connie have been there from the beginning with help and advice. It’s my pleasure to oblige.
1. Keep it simple
You can drive yourself and your entrants crazy by adding complexity to the simple concept of “first one there wins.” In wrestling with the idea of putting on an ultra marathon race, (it was 10 years of daydreaming and false starts) I realized that it was all the complexity that was actually preventing me from doing the thing. It was only after applying Occam’s Razor and stripping it down to the most basic premise that the pieces started coming together.
One area you can get really crazy with is race classes and boat specs. Ideally, yeah, you want apples racing apples and oranges racing oranges. But over a distance of 340 miles there are so many variables that oranges and apples might trade victories every year. And just when you’ve got the odds figured someone brings a papaya to keep it interesting. After following some of the evolving class and spec battles in some of the more established races, we opted for unlimited. Meaning bring whatever you want, provided it is powered by double or single blade paddles. No rowing, no sailing, no peddling…
2. Be true to your concept
You absolutely cannot please everyone. Racers will respond to your decisions in one of 3 ways. Appreciation, Apathy or Apoplexy. For each entrant it will be different. They’ve all got their own idea of how they’d run the race if they were calling the shots. And most of this is based on what they’ve known in other races. But it’s not your job to reproduce their favorite race for them. They can do that themselves, if they’re so inclined. Your job is to put on a safe and well-subscribed race that people come back for again and again. And hopefully YOU will come back for again and again as director. If you let yourself get talked into running some version of your race that you despise, you will burn out quickly and walk away.
That being said, it is definitely worth your time to ask for opinions and advice from seasoned (old) veterans of other races. I did this and benefited greatly from what they had to say. Marek Uliasz offered advice very quickly after I put the race on the website that first year. West Hansen piped up from Texas as well with support and suggestions. When you get advice that feels right in your gut and is consistent with the spirit of your concept, take it.
3. Get help
The first step is admitting you have a problem. You can’t do this alone. Not even close. The first year of the 340 it was pretty much done with 2 guys; Russ Payzant and me. But we knew that the following year would require much more help. In 2007 we added Karin Thomas and Travis Worley and a huge list of volunteers. 2008 is looking even bigger. With the success and positive press of the past 2 years, the communities along the race course have been eager to offer help and support. The race has become something they look forward to and plan around. A big reason for this is the graciousness of the racers and ground crews that come through these towns and answer questions, stimulate the economy and provide a spectacle. We were also lucky to get our first major sponsor
Kansas City Paddler. We acknowledge that Lynn took a chance on us and we’re happy that it was worth it to him. We’re on the way to becoming a fairly respectable event that could hopefully add some additional big sponsors and continue to grow.
And if any sponsor out there just can’t wait to see their name associated with “The World’s Longest Non-Stop River Race.” Feel free to give me a call.