Organizing a Marathon – Easier Said than Done!

To be prepared is half the victory,” Miguel de Cervantes.

Something epitomized by our recent Freedom Run 2021. Witnessed by great guests, enthusiastic participants, and supported by grand sponsors, the event was bound to do well.

Since sharing an experience benefits both the sharer and the receiver, here I am putting in words the efforts and planning put into play by our very own Dave McGillivrays, Shawn Verhoffs, and the entire crew, which might help you in organizing a marathon.

Three quick mantras to grasp before we actually dwell into the preparation:

  • First things first

We need to stand anything we start on a base. The base of our marathon is its place and date. Therefore, we must have a tentative day and venue in mind before we kick start our planning and preparations.

  • Be flexible

Flexibility and adaptability are the keys to mental preparation for any occurrence. The venue could be pre-booked, the date might not be suitable from some aspects, or there might be changes required despite your perfect choice of the day. It’s ok, accept it, and come up with the next possible schedule. Instead, it would be good to keep a list of 2-3 dates and places handy with you.

  • Things go parallelly

It is an amalgamation of two mantras – all processes cannot be done sequentially, and you cannot do everything yourself. Make teams – more in number and function by division of responsibility. Have faith in your people – they’ll do wonders when you trust them with work. Let the jobs progress in parallel and ensure all teams meet once every few days to track the progress. It will help in the on-time realization of breakthroughs and lacunae.

Alrighty, with these rules in mind, let’s see how our reel plays!


How conveniently I said earlier that we should make teams. True, nothing without that! But then comes the question – Who will make the teams? Who will chart out the tasks? Who will assign the tasks? Yes, very crucial and basic questions – this is why each successful marathon or half-marathon needs and has a Dave McGillvray and Shawn Verhoff – a Race Director and an assisting Co-Race Director. They know the way, and they show the way. With a crisp and clear division of roles and responsibilities, they will be with all the teams at every step.

On-Ground Activity/Branding

Once we list out our preferred dates and venues for the race, starts our actual preparation marathon. Our plan needs to go through various government offices, local administrative bodies, municipalities, and police stations to sort out the required approvals. We should be on with these activities as early as possible. Our future course of action is highly dependent on the approvals and guidelines (if any).

Budgeting is another significant aspect here. No planning is complete without an estimated budget in hand. In the case of such events, a budget plan includes not only the expenditure involved but also the way you plan to utilize the funds collected through the event. Be mindful of keeping the participants in loop of the latter. If you plan to donate to a cause or utilize it for another occasion, they have the right to know.

Having said that, you would need help from external organizations and agencies to sponsor and support your event. Go out and ask aloud – you will get sponsorship from genuine brands. There are many recognized professional-run organizers out there. Partnering with them will only work in your favor.

Information Dispensation

If you are planning something for people’s participation, people must be made aware of it. In the world of digital media, which de-challenges some of the earlier challenges (of Hows), there is a whole new variety of challenges. You are overwhelmed not by the lack of medium but by an excess of the same. You need to plan when, where, and how often to post about your upcoming event. Not only this, what to post?

The day you have finalized your dates, route, and venue, start publishing. Publish about the marathon’s itinerary, plan, essentials, provisions, and other important details almost every other day. Be creative and make sure none of your two posts are identical. Once you start getting your registrations, connect individually with each participant (our digital teams know how to create such personalization charms). Let them know whom to contact when in doubt. Share every possible information in a subtle way with them. Be with them from the first day of the preparation to the final one!

While we achieve our feats digitally, we should not entirely sweep off the physical medium. It is a race in the open and hence deserves advertisements in the open. We must take approvals for relevant posters and banners along with the other paperwork our team is taking care of.

Food & Beverage Preparation

Nothing on an empty belly! While running, walking, or any physical exercise, it is imperative we keep ourselves hydrated. This makes one of the most vital requirements of a marathon track. We need to ensure that our route has the required and frequent hydration points for our runners. These points should also be equipped with ‘instant energy’ foods like Glucon-D, energy biscuits, juice packs, buttermilk, etc.

Since we talked about hydration points here, the current (and also future) times suggest we also provide handy disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and tissues at such stops. It could be a portable kiosk-type arrangement (or anything that fits the requirement).

Who would want to send back people empty stomached after such a grand event – Not us J. We’ll keep proper and hygienic arrangements for a healthy and tasty breakfast for all our participants, guests, spectators, and organizers.

Community Building & Partners

If got a chance to participate in a Talk Show, won’t you be more enticed to go for the one that invites Oprah Winfrey? Well, why not – and the same holds true for a marathon! You must associate with the right communities, and partners/influencers/celebrities that would do justice not just to your brand but also to the public at large that is participating. They act as role models and guiding figures for the runners. We need to make a genuine attempt to reach out to them.


A soul that takes the initiative, gets up while others are sleeping, runs for kilometers, and reaches the finish line, undoubtedly deserves acknowledgment. The marathon must have a well-planned closing ceremony, a stage that facilitates the same, and apposite awards, medals, certifications, and goodies for the participants. Not just for recognition, such tangibles become lifetime memories of the event. Even so, healthy competition is, after all… healthy! Hence, appreciate the race winners with deserving awards. You may also get the certificates arranged through professional running organizations. These certifications hold international value and would give a credible look to your marathon.

P.S. Don’t forget to arrange photographers throughout the route and at the photo booth or stage as appropriate. Nothing expresses the triumph of an event more than happy pictures.

Management Will

Probably the final point that goes in sync with our first point – reiterating the role of the administration. If you are an organization steering the marathon, you need to be realistic about your expectations. Yes, you need to set them high, but at the same time, they should be achievable. The staffing and the resources dedicated should be hand in glove to meet the targeted goal.

What else?

When we plan any event, we feel a need to personalize it to some extent, and that is what attaches us to the preparation and the occasion. Hence, the ‘what else’ part is never-ending J.

Making a list and penning down everything is the key – a fundamental prerequisite to practically anything that I should have mentioned at the very beginning. Nevertheless, the end kind of ensures you would remember this bit a little longer than others :D. So, create a checklist that has bullets and sub-bullets of all requirements that come to your mind. It could be as basic as a shoelace to something like a bib (an essential component in most races). You may start with and create hundreds of rough lists before reaching the final one.

Before ending, we’ll write down some of the items we think are ‘A Must’ and ‘Good to Have.’ Of course, additions and deletions to the same are always an option.

A MustGood to Have
Bib (race number, tracking purpose, etc.)Extra safety pins
Disinfectant and sanitizerMasks, extra tissues, towels, etc.
Food and BeveragesT-shirts and other costume items (could be personalized)
Ambulance, paramedical staff, first aid kit, healthcare facilitiesSunscreens, vaseline, other cosmetic products
Music and mic system (carefully chosen playlist)Sunglasses and hats
Stage with all necessary facilities (podium, etc.)Mobile chargers and charging points
Proper seating, parking, and restroom arrangementsStationery items

Lastly, something that is of utmost importance. After every few kilometers, it is necessary to have arrangements of security guards, a monitoring team, ambulances, paramedical staff, and healthcare facilities at the very least. Every single person participating in the race and present at the venue matters, and none should suffer a health crisis due to our negligence.

We wish you all our best wishes for your Marathon/Half-Marathon/Race – You will rock!

Avani Raj Arora

13 thoughts on “Organizing a Marathon – Easier Said than Done!”
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