Does your race offer a kids run alongside your main events? If not, you could be missing out on a great opportunity to make your race more attractive for families, as well as getting a few more sponsors on board that may not normally take an interest in sponsoring your race.
Lucie Murray of specialized kids run production company Run Kids Run has been managing kids runs for some of the largest races on the West Coast, including the LA Marathon, Surf City Marathon and Santa Monica Classic. She is an expert in developing youth and family programs for races, and on this episode she’ll be sharing with us her insights on how to put on a successful kids run, how to make it work alongside your adult races, as well as some tips for monetizing your kids run through sponsorships with family-oriented brands and businesses.
In this episode:
- The benefits of adding a kids run to your race
- Managing kid runners (and overeager parents!)
- Ensuring your kid runners' safety and privacy protection
- Swag: kid wants what mommy/daddy got! + more...
- Marking the most of your kids run: family registration, kids zones, kids run sponsorship opportunities
Thanks to GiveSignup|RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 21,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use GiveSignup|RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about GiveSignup|RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit runsignup.com.
Lucie, welcome to the podcast.
Hi. Thank you, Panos. Thanks for having me.
Well, thank you very much for coming on. So, first things first - where are you currently based?
I'm actually in Los Angeles, California.
About Run Kids Run
You are the owner of Run Kids Run. Through that, you've helped a number of really high profile races in your area - LA marathon, Santa Monica Classic, and others - to add kids races to their main events, which is what we're going to be talking about today. Basically, you're the person people call when they want to put together, like, a really amazing kids race. So, tell us a little bit about Run Kids Run - what you've been doing with kids races with all those big events? How it'd all started?
Well, thank you. So, Run Kids Run started in 2008 - quite by accident. I was a mom with a young child. I was personally very involved in the running community. I was running marathons and 5 km. And I was even coaching a women's fitness team. And I wanted to get my daughter involved in the running community too. As a mom, I wanted to pass that along. And, so, I started bringing her to my events - signing her up for the kids runs. A lot of events here have kids runs, as part of their main events. And what I found was - while many of them had events that were geared to kids - a lot of the events were either a little bit of an afterthought, or they had just a lot more to offer that the race directors weren't taking advantage of. And I had an events background, a fitness background, and I've worked with kids through the YMCA, many years ago. I felt like I could bring something to the race directors in my community, and help to bring a little bit more professionalism to their kids events. So, I reached out to some of the race directors I knew. I said, "Hey, I'm interested in helping you with this." Of course, race directors were very eager to hand over the operations of this event. Many of them said that they wanted to have kids run. They loved having an event like that, but they just didn't have the time, the energy, or the resources to manage it properly. And, so, I started doing that for some of my local race directors. It became very, very popular. And at this point, 13 years later, I have produced over 300 events. I've probably cheered tens of thousands of kids over the finish line. I've worked with kids runs, triathlons, and cycling events. I've worked with schools, festivals, and charities. Basically, any event that wants to have an active kids component - I help them to figure out how to do that.
That's great. And, actually, I was just thinking - as you were saying that - everyone who has been a race director knows-- I think that one of the great pleasures is to welcome people at the finish line. Right? When you put all that energy into the event, seeing all those people, really, having a great time at something you created is amazing. And I guess, having that with kids must be a little bit more special. Right? To have the five, six, and ten year olds crossing that finish line.
There is really nothing like it. When I started this 13 years ago, I didn't realize how stunning and how special that can be - to watch a kid get their medal, to be told by parents, "My child took their medal to school, and showed it off to all their friends." - to just see that excitement. Look, not every child crosses the finish line with a smile across the face. But, in fairness, neither do most adults. I crossed many finish lines, crying my eyes out, for good and bad reasons. So, but it is just, yeah-- and also the pride on the parents face - they're just being able to share something, that's so special to them, with their children. It's really a wonderful vantage point to be in.
Yeah, definitely. And we'll get into children, running, and getting them to the finish line, actually, later in the podcast. I know when we were discussing about this, you keep calling them lemmings, at some point. So, we'll get into that, like, they-- one follows the other, and it exists to, sort of, like, keep them on track. We'll get into that in a minute. I think what you said there is, actually, quite important. So, it's not like-- I mean, there are people who don't have kids races on. And I think this episode is going to be really helpful for them. And we'll try to make a case - why adding a kid's race has all kinds of benefits, which is great. But a lot of events already do have kids races. And I think what you're saying there is really important - that there's a lot more potential to a kid's race than just the typical afterthought than this, that this often happens to be for most people.
Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of potential there. And it goes well beyond, "I need to get kids moving." It goes well beyond that. There's so many benefits for a race director in adding a kid's activity that reaches into so many places. And I think we'll talk about that a little bit later. But it's just-- to me, it's the right thing to do. It just has so many benefits - from the perspective of getting kids moving, and making our events better, and more inclusive - that I just don't see, "Why not do it?" But, also, do it the right way. You don't want to put on a kids run, that is an afterthought, that has safety concerns, that is potentially going to frustrate or anger a parent who will be making sure that their child has a good experience. So, putting some thought into the kids run is a really, really important first start, whether you're developing a kids run, or trying to grow the one you already have.
What is a kids run?
Okay, cool. So, I suppose, mostly for the people who are not that familiar with the concept of a kids run, let's try and frame that a little bit. So, what are we talking about? We're not talking about, I guess, a standalone kids run. Right? Just organizing a standalone event for kids. We're talking about races for kids that happen as part of a broader event. Is that right?
Correct. So all of the events that I do are part of a main event - a marathon, a triathlon, and a 5 km. We are adding a kids component so that we can draw on the existing participants who want to bring their families.
What age groups participate in kids runs?
Okay, great. And what ages are we talking about? So, when we say kids, what kind of age group is that?
Kids runs can be for pretty much any ages. I've done diaper dashes, where we literally had crawling infants race across a stage - a 10 foot space on a stage. I had older children participate. However, if I'm going to nail down, sort of, a typical, a really good starting point would be about four years old to about ten or eleven. That's the age group that can really benefit from a kid's run. But, like I said, it really depends on your audience and what your space is, because you can really develop a kids run for any age.
What distances are kids runs?
And let's say, for that 4-11 year old bracket, what kind of distances would you offer to an age group like that?
A typical kids run is one kilometer - so, 0.62 miles. That said, because kids events aren't timed, there's no placing or awards, there's no BQ for a kid's run. You can really do any distance. A lot of events will go with a half mile. But, again, that 1 km is standard. It just depends on what your course availability is, and what age group you have. But yeah, for that - 4-11, oh, excuse me - 4-10 year old span, 1 km is a really good distance. And just so your listeners understand, children will run that distance in four to ten minutes. So, a lot of times, there's sort of this, like, feeling that it's gonna take-- we're gonna have plenty of time between when the kids start and finish - four to ten minutes. It is a quick event, and that's fine. But you do have to plan for that.
Wow. For me, it's four kilometer. It's not actually that bad, I would say. I mean, it's--
There's some fun out there. And many of them are on their track teams. They want to go. They're kids. They run all the time. So, some of them want to go fast. Others will tag along, and just have a great old time. But you do have to plan. Yep. That was my daughter.
What is a typical size for a kids run?
I put my four year old to do a 1 km, I think, yeah, I won't be waiting up for dinner, let's put it that way. It's gonna take a while. And what is the typical size for these kinds of events? Like, what's the largest you've done? Is there some kind of ceiling, in terms of how large these things can grow?
I find that the size of the kids run reflects the size of the main event - as a percentage. For the most part, if we're looking at a 1,000-5,000 person main event, we're probably looking at anywhere from 50-200 kids. I think that's a really great number. It's a really manageable number. Your bigger events, as long as you-- an event could very easily get bigger. But you just need to make sure that you have the time, the resources, the space, and the permitting - the road closures available. Some events that I've worked with are way bigger than that - talking in the thousands of kids. For those events, they tend to, actually, hold those the day before the main event. So, they'll hold them on a Saturday, when the main event is on Sunday, just because there's so many children that it's very difficult to manage that scale in a kids run, when there's all the logistics of such a large scale main event. But, 50, to 200, 300, up to 500 kids is very manageable on race day, depending on your your space and resources.
Right. And I think the correlation between the number of kids in the kids race, and the number of participants in the main event is probably because the kids who run in the kids race have a parent in the main event. Right? It's not, like, there's parents entering kids randomly, who want themselves to do the main event.
That's right. Yeah. Most people who bring their children to a main event or a kids run are registered or have a family member who's registered for the marathon or the 5 km. I have - depending on the course known - met parents who've signed up their children for the kids run just independently. It's usually because it's on a pretty spectacular course. Whether it's inside a theme park or a zoo, or-- I work with the Rose Bowl Half Marathon. We finished the children on the Rose Bowl field. And, so, events like that will, perhaps, appeal a little bit more to non-running families who may just sign up for the kids run. But, yeah, typically it's the main-event runner who signs up their child.
Kids run before or after the main event?
And you mentioned that, sometimes, particularly for the larger kids races, they tend to be scheduled on the day before the main event. Is that typical for the kids race - to come before the main event?
In my experience, I think it is more advantageous to have it on the day of the main event, so that you're capturing the parents and family members who are coming to spectate, and to cheer mom or dad or grandma over the 5 km or marathon finish line. The families are already there. They are a part of the activities in the day too. That said, because of space or time consideration, sometimes, a race will have to put the kids run on the day before the expo. And that's fine. It just may affect numbers. Usually, it's more appealing to have the event on race day.
And if you have it on race day, does it make more sense to start the kids run before the main event or after the main event?
Definitely, after. In Los Angeles, our events tend to be held and start very early in the morning. We're looking at between 7.00 am and usually 8.30am. I know in different parts of the country and world, their start time's at different times of the morning. But for Los Angeles, we are, typically, an early morning start time. And, so, it makes the most sense to put the kids run later in the day - after the main event has finished or, at least, the majority of the main-event runners have come in, so that you give people the opportunity to watch their kids do the kids run. I have done an event where we put the kids run very early in the morning, just because we had to. It was running along Hollywood Boulevard, on a Saturday morning. And there were a lot of implications for road reopening. It worked, but those were some really groggy children. And we're very, very tired. It was a little bit more of a cranky event. But it was fun. And it is really special - because Hollywood Boulevard - when do you get to run there. It was definitely a little bit more challenging.
Are parents allowed in a kids run?
Yeah, I can imagine. So, basically, you would have mom or dad who's part of the main race. They would run with their kids. Right? They will probably, sort of, like, run alongside their kids, in the kids race.
It really depends on the age of the child. So, I love to encourage-- and also the space implications of the event course - I do love when we can give parents the opportunity to run alongside their children, especially with the younger ones. When you look at four and five year olds, they do love to have their parent run next to them. It's also safer. Five year olds will follow the herd, but many will get overwhelmed, or might not be used to that kind of distance. So, it's nice to have a parent run alongside the children. Older kids tend not to want mom or dad along, and are perfectly capable of following the course themselves, and doing it themselves. And often, honestly, the older kids - the parents can't keep up.
Yeah. For a minute, I wouldn't.
Right, exactly. You see that many more parents, sort of, at the sidelines taking photographs, in cases where they have older children. And that's great. Yeah. But I do love to ask parents to run alongside their children. That said, when it comes to timing, you'd want to make sure that your kids run starts late enough in the morning that a parent has enough time to finish the main event, and be at the start line with their child. Now, you're not going to be able to to accommodate everybody. And, honestly, if you time it so that it starts too late in the morning, you're going to have people going home. They just can't stick around that long. So, there's, kind of, a delicate balance between making sure that the majority of your running crowd is back and starting the kids run without making it too late in the morning.
What are the benefits of kids runs?
Okay. Now, the big question, obviously - which is probably where the whole, like, half heartedness comes in the case of some people - what are the benefits of actually having a kids race? Like, why would a race director - who already have a ton of stuff on their plate and, like, a million things to worry about, why would they - want to add a kids race to their main event?
I love this question because I love answering this question. When I ask race directors, "Why do you have a kids run?" They say, "Well, you're supposed to get kids moving. Obesity issues. That's what you should do." But what I find is that a lot of race directors don't realize how many amazing other benefits there are to a kids run. So, when you offer family youth components to your events, you can reach out to different media markets - parenting magazines. Here in LA, we have LA parent and we have a lot of social media groups that are local parent focused. So, being able to use those platforms to market your race, not only do you reach potential parents who might want to bring their kids. But you might reach parents who - particularly, now, after a post-COVID running boom - are interested in getting involved in a 5 km, but don't quite know where to go. And this might be their first opportunity to see your event name. So, they might not be looking at the race calendars, but they're looking at the parent calendars - the family calendars. So, the marketing opportunities broaden when you have a family event. It's also offers some opportunities to partner with vendors and sponsors that might not, otherwise, connect with a running event, especially - for local events, reaching out to - realtors, coaches, legal services, and, sort of, those businesses that may not really feel like there's a place for them at a 5 km or a marathon. But, once there's a youth or family component, they may feel like that's a better demographic for them. Adding a youth event might also appeal to some of the charities that you're working with. So, it might encourage some of those charities, donors or participants to come with their family to the event. It makes it a bigger event. It makes it more than just a run. Now, it's become a day - an event for the whole family. And what I love seeing is-- I have a lot of events that - obviously, during this 13 years, I have many events that - I go to every year. And I watch families come back every year. They make a tradition out of it, especially things like Turkey trots or other, sort of, interesting events that coincide with a holiday, or a special time of year. They come back every year, and what starts it is, maybe, a child running the 1 km. Eventually, that child ages up and they they want to run the 5 km. And maybe they bring a friend or a cousin. Some of the families bring other generations of family members who may not participate, but maybe they spectate. Maybe they come and volunteer. I have a lot of parents or grandparents who come with their child and end up volunteering, because that's something for them to do. And, so, it becomes a bigger event than just a 5 km. Now, it's become a family tradition. So, there's so many great advantages that, unfortunately, we don't often see in our bottom line, because they're not direct benefits. Although, if you're looking at sponsorships or vendors, that can really increase revenue. So, yeah, there's just a ton of great reasons to do it. And, then, of course, it just feels like the right thing to do.
Yeah. And I think we'll definitely go into some of that later in the discussion, when we're going to be talking about the economics of the whole thing, which I think are really interesting. Yeah. You open my eyes when we were discussing this the other day, about - which you didn't mention here, which I thought was, like, lightbulb for me in terms of - sponsors. People like dentists and stuff. Right? I mean, all those family type businesses that want to reach out to the family. And, as you say, maybe in the 5 km, budget-wise as well, it might not be suitable for them to come into the kids race. It's just obvious. And the one thing I would add, actually, to what you were saying, more explicitly, is that, like-- so, I don't run 5 or 10 km often, but if I train for a marathon or whatever, I'll do that. And when I used to do that in the UK, which also has a pretty strong kids scene, I used to love all those kids races. I wasn't a parent then. But I used to love them still. And, actually, today, if I had to run a 10 km as a training event or something, and I had the option of two events near me - that would be just training events - and one of them offer the 1 km that I could run with my son. I would definitely go for that. I think many parents would love to run with their kids, as do the kids-- like, whenever I go out for a run, my son is always, like, "Oh, I want to grow up and come running with you." So, it's definitely very appealing - I think for the whole family dynamic - and super special.
Yeah. I think that's such a good point. You're right. As a runner, you're deciding between two events. And a lot of things are comparable. Having a youth activity - being able to share that with your child, even if they're not running, maybe they're just coming and participating in a kid zone, or maybe they're just watching the other kids run - that to me is often the tipping point. Yeah. I'd rather do this one because I want my daughter to be part of this community. I think our running community is so special, and such a great place to be. And it can feel a little intimidating from the outside. But, once you get in there, you realize what a great group of people the runners are.
Do I need special insurance for a kids run?
Okay. So, let's get into some of the nitty-gritty of the kids race. Because definitely before meeting you, and getting to know a little bit more about this subject, my instinct was - as maybe it is, for most people who haven't been involved in a kid's race - it's almost like an adult race with smaller people. But, actually, it's not at all like that. So, let's begin with the kinds of things that, I guess, would first come to mind to a race director, which is things like permits, insurance, and that kind of thing. Right? Is there anything special there for me to think about - in terms of permitting, or in terms of special insurance I might need?
If your event is happening on the same day as your main event-- if your kids run is happening on the same day as your main event, you probably don't need to worry about any extra permitting. You do want to make sure that your road closures and your permits extend through the kids run. You don't want to have all of your roads suddenly reopen early. You have a 10 o'clock kids run start, and everything starts opening up at 9.45. You definitely want to make sure that your permit extends long enough, and it encompasses all of the streets, or the area that makes up your kids course. You definitely want to have a waiver that the parent signs on their behalf, especially if they're going to be running with their child. And, also, that includes their child's information. Insurance - I suspect that most events have coverage for people under 18. And, so, that would extend to the kids run. But as with everything, you'd always want to check with your insurance company. You'd always want to check with your municipality to make sure that you're covered, for children who are under 18.
What's the best choice of course for a kids run?
Okay. And for my kids run course, how should I think of that? How would I set up the start and finish line? Would I have it - I guess, it would probably make sense to have it -like, a loop course? How should I think of all that?
It really, really depends on the event - the space that you have, and the schedule for the day. And this is where I'd probably have the biggest role with the race directors I work with. It's in creating that course. Just some basic things to consider - kids are not looking at a course like an adult. Right? So, an adult is looking at something interesting. I want to have this really-- I don't like go out and back. I don't want to go the same way I came or went out. I want to have these, sort of, interesting perspectives of the city, or the park that we're running through. And that's great for adults. But children aren't looking at your race course that way. And, instead, you need to plan a course that is going to be safe. That is going to have the fewest obstacles - preferably the fewest turns. Ideally, it should start and finish in the same place, because if you have a parent who's spectating it is going to be difficult for them to get to point B - if it's a point to point. So, unless the start and finish line are fairly close, and it's an easy jog to the finish line, it's a good idea to do the start and finish at the same location. And, again, if you can do an out and back with the kids run, I think that's the best option. It's your best use of volunteers which, as we all know, by the end of the day, a lot of our volunteers start petering out and disappearing. And, so, if we can have an out-back course, it's really easy to staff with volunteers. It's really easy to mark. It's really easy for the children to follow. That's really easy for the parents to see, because, remember, they're going to want to take photographs. They don't want their kid disappearing off into some lovely back trail or whatever. If they can't take pictures, it didn't happen. So, we just want to consider things like that, at the absolute utmost importance of the course. So, that means making sure as few opportunities for traffic to coincide with the kids - whether that's a driveway or an intersection. And, also, considering the main event runners-- so if your kids run starts before all of your main event runners are in, and you're using part of the main event course, you need to make sure that children and tired marathoners do not collide. Children are not looking out for the adults that are slogging through the last one or two mile of their their marathon. And the adult runners are not expecting a five year old to come running past them. So, you really need to make sure to mitigate any of that dual traffic.
If there’s one thing that’s key when planning a kids run, it’s ensuring the safety and privacy protection of your kid runners. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the law, so making sure you’ve got everything in place to manage the registration and ongoing protection of minors in your event should be top of your list. Thankfully GiveSignup|RunSignup takes care of all that for you. So let’s hear a little bit more about that from GiveSignup|RunSignup’s Jordan Desilets. Jordan, thanks for being with us today.
Hey, Panos. Thanks for inviting me.
So, kids runs is something you know a few things about, through your work with the Healthy Kids Running Series and other events. When a minor is signing up for one of my events, what should I look out for, as a race director, to make sure that they’re going to be safe in my race and I’m not going to end up in any trouble?
With minors, it's really important to make sure that parents are involved with the signup process. For example, you'd want the waiver process to automatically recognize that the athlete is a minor, and require the parent to sign instead. You're also going to want to make sure you can add custom questions to the registration so that you have emergency contacts and phone numbers.
Right. That makes sense. And then there’s COPA, right? The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act? Tell us, who does COPA apply to and what requirements does it put on me as a race director of a kids run.
As it relates to races, COPA applies anytime there are children under the age of 13. The goal is to protect the online privacy of minors. This means keeping the parents email - instead of the kids' - and communicating directly with the parents, as well as requiring someone to be over 18 to upload photos. Additionally, whenever a child's information shows on a public-facing part of the site, such as a participant search or results, the name that is shown is just the first initial and last name with no other identifying information. If a race director wants to be extra cautious with the kids event, they can also just hide the participant look-up option entirely.
Ok. There’s a few things to keep in mind there. Thanks a lot for coming on and sharing this very helpful information with us, Jordan - really appreciate it. Now, let’s get back to talking hectic kid start lines with Lucie Murray.
Kids race start lines
So, for the start line, I mean, I guess 200 kids there, a few Cheerios down their tummies. It must get pretty crazy.
It does. And remember that 200 children bring 200 adults. So, when you create a start line and-- going back to what I said in the beginning, which is, a 1 km will take 4-10 minutes. It is a short event. This is not the lengthy marathon. It's quick. So, you also want to make it a little bit more fun than just, "Okay. Run there. Run back. Here is your medal." Right? So, you want to have your start line be really festive. You want to have warm ups. This is a great way to - by the way - engage a vendor or a sponsor, to bring in their team to do warm-ups. It gets great visibility for them. You also want to speak to both the kids and the parents. So, the children - you're gonna want to ask them to check that their shoelaces are tied. You want to find out who's running their first kids run. You want to make it about them. You want to remind them which is right and which is left. And, so, if you say, "You're going to be turning left. Everyone, show me your left hand." Right? It's very engaging. But you'd also want to speak to the parents, and you'd want to make sure that the parents have thought about, "Does your child know if you're running with them? Or if you're going to be standing at the start or at the finish line waiting for them, do you know where you're going to reunite after the event? What happens if you guys miss each other at the finish line?" You'd want to tell the parents where the courses-- parents - they want to know where their kids are going. They're about to send them out into this adventure. And they want to know where they're going. So, you'd want to make sure you're very clear about where the children are going and what's going to be happening. You'd want to make sure that you're telling the parents or reassuring them, "I have volunteers on the course. I have signage. I have pacers. Here's what you can expect. Parents, don't worry. Your children are in good hands." So, you're really speaking to two different audiences. Also, if you have a really big group, you might need to have wave starts with, sort of, the older children first. I like to do older kids at the beginning, and, then, the younger at the end, just because the older kids are going to go faster. And you just don't want them to cross paths on the course. So, you want to be really clear about their age. You want to be really clear about whether parents are allowed to run with their kids. So, there's just a lot of things you want to make sure you cover. And, then, of course, you want to make it fun. Having a fun announcer at the start makes it really great. I will give you one really-- my pro tip is, if you're taking a picture at the start line - and you have, like you said, 200 kids and 200 adults, taking a picture of the kids start line - you will only see adult faces. So, have the parents squat down to get next to their kids, and you'll get a much better picture of the start line. So, there you go - my pro tip.
Do I need pacers for a kids run?
That's a great tip. And, actually, there were a couple of other nice tips in there that I want to touch on a little bit. So, did you mention pacers?
Oh, no. I always have pacers at my events. A pacer could be somebody on foot. It could be somebody on a bike. I've even had police officers on most motorcycles. I've even had somebody on one of those electric scooters, bird scooters, or whatever they are - lime scooters. The point is you need to have fast people because, again, kids are fast. And you need to have somebody who can stay ahead of the fastest child. It's great to engage sponsors, if you have a running shoe company and they're sending some of their athletes to come and rep, maybe they can be the pacers. I've also used high school track teams. I also have my own little crew of pacers that I call on when I need them. And their job is to - basically, either the faster ones - stay ahead of the fastest kids. But I do have pacers who are a little slower that work their way through the crowd, who'd just encourage the kids, show them where to go, check in with them, help the older ones learn how to pace themselves just like adults. They go flying out of the start line. And, then, they peter out and get winded by the end. So, a pacer is going to help them, also, learn how to pace themselves. So, it's just a really nice way to just add a safety element - again, showing the kids where to go. But, also, to add just a nice encouraging voice amongst the crowd.
Yeah. So many elements to it. The other thing you mentioned was kids and parents - making sure they're gonna find each other at the finish line and all that. So, do you get lots of cases of lost children, or lost parents, or like, just chaos?
It happens. It happens everywhere. I'm a mom. I've lost my kid in the grocery store. They see something that they want and they go after it. So, what I'd do, I always assume that there's going to be a lost child. And a lot of times, there aren't. But I always assume there's going to be. And, so, when I'm speaking to the parents at the start line, I'm reminding them, "Make sure you have a plan with your child. Make sure they know where you're going to be meeting them." I encourage them to write their cell phone number either on the back of their child's bib or even on their arm - somewhere on them - so that if we need to, we can contact them. And, well, before the event, when I've had my my prep meetings with our race directors, we have a plan. We have a lost child plan. That is so important. You don't want to be figuring out what to do with a lost child when it's happening, because it is terrifying for the child. It's terrifying for the parent. Panos, if you've lost your kid, seconds feel like hours. And in a public place, a big crowd, you as the race director, you want to be able to take control, and be able to put your system into place. So, obviously, every event is going to have to approach it their own way. But some just basic things to think about is have one or two people be in charge of what to do, how to handle, and be really clear of what to do with a lost child or lost parent. If you're making any announcements over radios, you don't want to mention a child's name, at least not their full name. You want to respect the privacy and the safety of the child by not not mentioning their full name. You don't want to announce over the loudspeaker. This is what a lot of people will do. They'll say, "Okay. We'll take it to the race announcer and have the race announcer say, 'Little Jimmy is here at the race announcer's stage. Come on over if he's your kid'" You do not want to do that. That is-- there's certainly ways to use your race announcer but broadcasting that you have a lost child, their name, and identifying features is not the safest way to do it. I like to employ, if possible, our medical tent - our EMTs or safety medical tent - as a reunification place, those we usually staff our medical tents with EMTs and other emergency responders. So, that would be a great and calm place for a child to go and wait to be reunified with their parent. So, that's a really good resource. And, by the way, that brings me to - always make sure your medical team is still there when you're doing your kids run. Sometimes, medical crew will will pack up after the final finish or runner has come in for the main event. But they need to be there for the kids run because kids trip. Kids overheat. Children have these things. And they need to be there during your kids run too.
Do I need aid stations in a kids run?
What about things like porta potties or aid stations? Would there be aid stations in a one kilometer race? I wouldn't think so.
Yeah. I have not done aid stations on a kid's run. It's such a short distance. And, honestly, it's distracting. If it's a particularly hot day - which in Southern California, we obviously get a lot of those - I will have volunteers, maybe, have a few water bottles with them, maybe, at the turnaround. And if they see a kid who's struggling, that's a good time to, maybe, offer them a small water bottle. But as a general rule-- it's such a short distance. Children will clump up if they think they should stop and get a drink of water. And most of them don't need to. But do have water at the finish line. That's the best place to have it. It's a great place also to include a some kind of a fruit, just like we have at our finish line at the main event. Then, it feels more like a like a real race. And it's also a great way to add a sponsor. Right? So, if you have an apple sauce or some kind of fruit bar that's made for kids, it's a great way for a sponsor engagement.
Kids run privacy considerations
So, one thing-- of all these things that I couldn't think of, one thing that I could probably think of, in this day and age, would be privacy with kids, which is also a big thing with adult participant, but I guess so, even more of a sensitive consideration in a kid's race. So, how do you handle that - all kinds of random spectators taking photos or videos of kids? Like, random people showing up and snapping pictures of five year olds and stuff like that. Like, what's the best policy around that?
Back when I was starting this and when my daughter was three, I hated having race-- people take pictures of her. I was very, very about the privacy. But at that time, not everybody had little flip phone, cell phone, or photo cameras. And, now, unfortunately, the genie's out of the bottle on smartphones. And everybody's taking pictures. And if you've ever been to a winter choral performance at a child's school, you know that every parent has a camera trained on their child, even if you tell them, "Don't worry. We're taking professional video." They want pictures of their kids. And there's-- I just don't think there's any stopping that. The truth is that most of them are taking pictures of their own child, and they're using it for their own purposes. They're not using it for media campaigns. So, I think we can definitely remind parents to, please, just take photos of their own children. I will say one of the big issues with photography and spectators is that parents will do whatever it takes to get a great picture of their kid. And that's something you're going back to the start line announcements. I actually remind parents that it is not okay to stop in the middle of the course or the finish line to take a picture of their child because they may be blocking or tripping other kids. In fact, I hate to say this, but most of the injuries and tripping hazards that happen on a kids run course are either at the start line - when everyone goes flying out of the gates and trips over their own feet - or it's a parent who stops in the middle of the road, and other children who aren't paying attention run into them. So, I'd like to say, "Mamarazzies and paparazzies, make sure that if you're taking a photograph of your kid, stop on the side. Make sure it's safe and take a picture when you're out of harm's way. And, also, please don't stop at the finish line." We have to give them the opportunity to take pictures. So, when planning your course and your spectator barricades, think about how a parent is going to be able to use those barricades and, sort of, that crowd management to take pictures of their kids, because that's all they want. They just want to take a picture of their child doing something amazing. And, honestly, they're probably going to show it to friends. And that could be a great way to get more participants next year. You just need to lean into it and expect that parents are going to take pictures. Just give them the right opportunities. And design your spectator areas so that they can get the best view, because they will - by the way, they will - move barricades and cones if they can get the right picture. And, I mean no disrespect to parents, but they will do what it takes. But, also on photography, I think it's really, really important that race directors get - if they have a race photographer, get - that photographer to the kids event, because taking pictures of the crowds of kids running, and posting them on your website and your social media is such a great way for parents to see that, "Yes. I can bring my kid who may not be a really fast runner, or may be a little shy or anxious, but I can see that this is an inclusive event. It's not a big competition. It's not a whole bunch of really fast kids. Get lots of pictures of the kids having fun - smiling. And make it visible that this is something your kid can easily come and do. And they're going to be welcomed to do it. The only other thing I would add with those kinds of photographs, though, is if you're taking-- it's better to take, sort of, crowd photos, group photos. Try not to use or-- I don't like to use full face photos of children participating and, especially, if they're wearing any fitting that would identify their name, what school they go to, or anything like that. So, if you have a picture with a child wearing a, "I go to ABC charter school." This is not the picture to use.
What swag do I need for a kids run?
Cool. Okay. Sound advice. Before we wrap up, I think it's really important - now that we know why it's a good idea to put on this race and how to do it, great tips there - to look at the economics of it a little bit. And let's start on that with something that both adults and kids love which is the swag. I guess medal is a no brainer for the little ones.
Yes. So beyond that, what else is typical to offer in a kid's race? Would that be a shirt? Something else?
I think I have found that-- yes. And, by the way, yes, the medal is a no brainer. It's so important on so many levels. Especially, if mom's getting a medal, kiddo also wants a medal. It doesn't have to be the exact same medal. Or maybe it's easier to do that. But just a medal is really important. And, by the way, if you've never seen a mom who have a child who didn't get a medal, because you ran out, that's a scary scene. So, make sure you set aside enough medals for your kids run. I always do that. I said, "If a 5 km runner doesn't get one, an adult doesn't get one, I can apologize and send it later. But a kid - that's not something I want to--"
Try apologizing to that.
Whoa. I've had to do it and it's horrible. So, a shirt is often really appreciated. Parents love shirts. It's hard, because just like our main event, participants wait until the last minute to register. And it's really difficult to order shirts for adults. It's even harder with kids, because parents often wait until the last minute to register, even more so than the main event because kids wake up in a bad mood. They wake up with sniffles. They suddenly have a soccer tournament. They suddenly have a birthday party and a lot of parents don't want to spend the money for registration, and then just basically lose it. So, ordering shirts for kids is really, really hard. Kids come in all different shapes and sizes, too. But parents love them. So, if you have the ability to do it and you want to, it's a great way to-- a child's going to also wear that shirt just like their parent did. So, there's your marketing. But, there are other options I've seen. I've done races where we've had caps. So, it's one size fits all. I've done where we've had hats, or we've had, like, a little stuffed animal that has the logo on it, and the shirt on it. So, those are the things that are less size dependent.
What should I charge for a kids run?
Okay. Well, from all of this, with everything we've discussed on how to put this race on - which sounds like a few people being involved and, now, discussing swag that, probably, you'd need to be charging for these kids race, like, a fair amount - what is the typical rate for a race like that?
Yeah. It's hard. I personally encouraged race directors to keep the price point as low as possible because it is an add-on. And, again, you've got-- when you're training for a marathon, as an adult, you're not going to miss that marathon unless you have to. And many of us will start even though we shouldn't. We have an injury, and we're like, "No. It's fine. I'll just push through." But with a kid, it's hard. They may have loved running for the last month. And all of a sudden, they get to the event and they hate running. So, you're taking a risk by signing up your child. So, when you charge too much, it can keep people out, especially, if they have multiple children. So, I like to keep the cost as low as possible. The market here in Los Angeles - $15 is like a really nice number. It's just enough to be able to cover a lot of the costs. But it's not too much that it's going to turn parents off, or make them feel like, "Well, I've got three kids. How can I do that?" That's where if you can get a vendor or, I mean, a sponsor to underwrite your costs, and name the event, that's your best way to go. The reality is your kids run is probably not going to be your big moneymaker. But it has all those other benefits that we talked about in the beginning - the indirect benefits like media, press releases. A whole family who comes out and does an event - what a great story in your local paper. The charity piece, the legacy runners, it's just a great-- so, yeah, it's not going to be your big moneymaker. But it really-- I wish we could we could find a way to track all the indirect benefits. So, yeah. My advice is keep the costs as manageable as possible, and try to underwrite them in other ways.
Yeah. Because with kids, it's not-- they're not paying for it. You have the parents. So, you have the same dynamic, as when you see ads for toys on the TV. It's not the kid you want to convince. It's the the person with a wallet. And I guess what you're saying the business model here is cover your costs, obviously. You don't want to be losing money from the entry itself. So, price the entry at the point where it makes sense. You're covering all the swag and stuff you're giving out. And, then, have your sponsorships - that are the dedicated kid sponsorships - on top. And, then, have all of the other benefits - making your race more attractive, the community element, and all that.
Yeah, exactly. You put it perfectly.
Should I offer a family registration package?
Would it make sense - considering that the kids that run there have a parent in the main race - to offer some, kind of, family option or something like that? Like, a package thing.
I think that's a great idea. And I love when races do that - as a family plan package, or even a-- once you register for the main event, you could get $5 off a kid's run, or any way you can to get kids into that event, into the race again. You're not going to make huge money from it, but you might as well bolster your numbers and have a really, really nice event that you got great pictures from, got great feelings, people telling their friends about it, "Let's do it next year. Let's bring the whole family. Let's bring the cousins next year." It's better to look at it that way, and just encourage participation.
Great. So last thing I want to ask you is - other kids activities and, sort of, things you would do around the kids race itself that go beyond the kids race, and just make it a, kind of, kid/family type event - how do you make the equivalent, I suppose, of like a really nice festive finish line that you would have for the adult event? How do you do that for your kids race and make it, like, more of just the run?
I love to add a zone to my events. And, in fact, that was something that when I first started this business, the self serving piece of that was my husband would bring our daughter to the finish line to watch me cross my marathon finish line. And by the time I crossed, she was so bored. And they were both so bored. They've gone and visited all the snack bar companies. They've eaten granola bars, Gatorade, or whatever. And they were done. And, so, I really wanted to hang out at the finish line. I wanted to stretch. I wanted to visit the vendors. I wanted to connect with some of my running community friends, and just really experience that, sort of, sense of accomplishment. And they were just ready to go. A number of times, we'd just packed it in and got in the car because dealing with a five year old who was over it, and had been up since really early in the morning - it was easier to go. And, so, I started adding kids zones to my events. So, that could be games, crafts, inflatables. Although, when I say inflatable - bounce houses - where kids get inside, it can be a little iffy. It can be a little dangerous, and they can also add to your insurance. So, inflatables, like sports games, so really colorful, bright basketball hoops, and things like that. Face painters, balloon artists, and coaches that offer some games - hula hoop games - things like that. I think it's just a great way to keep the kids happy. You've dropped off your main event. Mom's running the race. And, grandpa is there, or Auntie so-and-so is hanging out with the kids at the expo - and what a great way to entertain them - while they're waiting for their their parent or family member to cross the finish line, or for their own kids run. I also love kids zones because even if a child isn't ready to do the kids run, they still have a way to become engaged in the running community, and see that it is a great place to be. There's something for them there. It doesn't have to just be about running. It can be about having fun. So, I think you just have to be creative. If you have a budget to put into it, or a vendor who can sponsor it, I think it's a great way to, again, just enhance the event. I would not charge parents for it. I never want a child to feel like they can't participate in those activities. Maybe, they want to come and just do craft, and that's okay. So, I would find, again, a sponsor. Or you can even reach out to community businesses, and say, "Hey, I'll give you a free booth if you offer a craft or a game at your booth for kids. And we'll put you into this one kids zone area of the expo, and and you'll get a lot of families. So, that could be a nice thing. You could either do it for free, or you could charge them depending on your event and whether you have that that ability." But, yeah, I think a kids zone is a really, really great way to just make it a bigger, better day.
How can I get some help organizing a kids run?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yeah, you see so many things, and so many opportunities, really, with the sponsors, with the people you invite, like, so many synergies and nice ways for your event to become better, to give it an extra commercial edge, and just give it like an extra dimension with a community as well, which is fantastic. So, we mentioned at the top of the episode, that you've been putting these events on for a number of very prestigious events. I know you're now, also, kind of, like branching out to consulting - along these lines - for these kinds of events. So, how can people reach out to you if they want to discuss things around putting on a kids run, or they need advice in this kind of field?
Well, obviously, I have a website - RunKidsRun.com. And I'm on Instagram, and Facebook. So, they can certainly follow me there. On my Run Kids Run website, I have some resources for parents - that race directors are welcome to use - about how to prepare their child for their next kids run. I also have resources, some blog posts, written specifically for race directors who want to add an event. I am available for consulting, and happy to help anyone to either grow or develop a kids event. Maybe they need to just audit what they already have, or look at their website and see where they can make it a little bit better. And, so, I'm really available. I'm here in Los Angeles. I will travel if need be. I do some hands-on. Actually, I have a small team - we go and actually work events here in Los Angeles. Like I said, I'm available to help race directors all over - who just need help taking advantage of their kids run - to just build a better event.
And your email?
Perfect. I'd like to thank you very, very much. This has been amazingly interesting. You clearly know your stuff. And I think if anyone considers doing anything around kids races, you're the person to call. Lucie, thank you very much. I hope to be seeing you on another episode.
Thank you so much, Panos.
I want to thank, also, everyone for tuning in. And we'll see you all next time.
I hope you enjoyed this episode on kids runs with Run Kids Run Owner Lucie Murray.
You can find more resources on anything and everything related to race directing on our website RaceDirectorsHQ.com. You can also share your questions about kids runs, race family activities or anything else in our Facebook group, Race Directors Hub.
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