Directing MY Hometown Race

by Carl Larsen, Jr., Lake Escape Race Committeeman

Last year and this year, I have been involved as a Race Committeeman for our little race on Lake Iroquois called Lake Escape. In the past there used to be 10k race on the trails on Lake Iroquois in Loda which is 35 miles north of Champaign.

This race was organized by a local resident of Lake Iroquois who was the cross country coach for many years from the local high school ...PBL. It was small and very nice little race but was unsupported by the board of our lake association. It did have any lasting longevity. In early 2018, I was approached by a board member who knew very little about races to help to volunteer. So I decided to help. Ken McMillan and Jay Bennett who are members of our club also were on the committee. My article today is about my experience with this Lake Escape 10k 5k Walk Run Race.

Last year’s Lake Escape Race was to celebrate our 50th anniversary of our existence. We managed through sponsorship and registrations to generate $2000. With the proceeds a lighted cement marker was pur- chased honoring our 50th Anniversary. This year’s race on June 22 is being run to help restock our lake with bass, catfish, and walleye. On July 8th of last year Lake Iroquois experienced an oxygen inversion where 1000s of fish were killed due to the lake actually flipping where warm water was turned over into the lower level and the cooler oxygenated water forced upward. The flipping or inversion caused the less oxygenated water towards the bottom and trapped the fish. It took 4 days, 24 truckloads of fish to be cleared from the waters and shorelines. The event was quite unusual and devastating on our lake. Most of the fish were nuisance fish... carp, shad, and stunted stripers but there were hundreds of sport fish that were lost. I was personally involved in the cleanup and again involved in this year’s cause. Restocking the lake with the proper fish and vegetation is very costly.

My involvement this year is personal as I live on this lake. I know we will never ever be the size of an Illinois Marathon or a Chicago Marathon, however I am finding this year’s involvement to be just as challenging as last years race and maybe twice as challenging. I have a whole new appreciation for Race Director responsi bility. Even on a small scale such as our race there are so many challenges. Small and local race organizations’ little mistakes can make a huge impact on its success. Balancing one’s budget without breaking the bank is the biggest challenge. Local races have smaller budgets. Having the correct number and shirts and food and drink is another. Most people do not register for a race until 30 days of the race and that puts a tremendous amount of strain on a Director. Having enough volunteers for the race is common. I can only imagine what Jan and Mike are going through this week with a volunteer shortage.

Setting up for a race and making sure people will not get lost was something our race (to say the least) was very concerning. Last year’s race we utilized both Lake Iroquois and Bayles Lake as our race routes. Making signs, marking the routes, making sure race distances are accurate, and thinking about where people will park before a race are vital to a successful race. Not aggravating the neighbors during our race was something we focused on as well. Coordination with the neighboring Bayles Lake Association was and is something we could not dismiss. Huge advertising costs deplete the budget as well as high Insurance costs.

Can we afford chip timing or not is something a Race Director or Committeeman ponder about every race. Making sure there are proper medical folks on hand in case of an injury and or exhaustion lends to many sleepless nights.

I can remember getting up at 2:00 am last year the night before to set up our race routes. We were tweaking the routes even in the middle of the night.

Once we finished, the sun was coming up and before anyone knew it we were accepting last minute registrations at sunrise. Then the race is over. The day flies by, thankfully, without any kind of major inconvenience to our runners or residents. When our race was over the tear down begins with removing the signage and highway cones. Now it is dusk the day is over. Our day flew by.

My particular day was not over as we could not af- ford chip timing and results had to be published. I was working on results through most of the next day due to a snafu. But we did well to bring a little bit of proceeds to small cause and like running and the popular of course is “What won’t kill me makes me stronger.”

We are hoping last year’s experience will indeed make this year’s race stronger. I personally have a much more empathy for races and those directing. Until you are involved in one you really don’t know how a race evolves to be a good or bad race until you volunteer to helprun a race.

I am not sure if this writing will be out in time for this year’s Illinois Marathon but please consider volunteering for this year’s race and if you can register as early as possible this will make for a better race and so much easier for a Race Director or Committeeman. Take the time to be involved in a race and you will have so much more empathy for the volunteers for who put on race. I know I have a whole new appreciation now due to my involvement. In the meantime, I hope to see you fellow members at this weeks Illinois Marathon either running and or volunteering. Please help support such local races such as our little race and sign up as soon as you possible. It can as it can only make your running experience better for you and for the people who take the monetary and personal risk of putting on these events.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of In Passing.