Special Feature: Queen’s 5k – A Day (Or Three Months) in the Life of a Race Director!

A Day (Or Three Months) in the Life of a Race Director… by Lee Maginnis:

When toeing the line at the Queen’s 5k (or many other races for that matter), have you ever thought about the work that goes on behind the scenes to make the event happen?

Robby Rankin opens the lid on the surprisingly complex world of the race director. Recovering from a long term injury, and subsequent surgery, he takes charge of the Queen’s 5K (and associated 3K) for the third time this year. Why has he returned again, and over two years since graduation? Well, possibly because there was nobody else to do the job!

Q. Does the fact that you are a runner yourself help in organising such an event?
A. Yes, definitely. I have not run in a few years and the input from current athletes is invaluable.

Q. When does the work really start?
A. We usually need to get things moving the December prior to the race day. However, I think the first year I was involved we started in October because there was a lot of work to do to improve the event!

Q. How much of your time does the job take up?
A. That’s hard to gauge. I reckon in 2016 I was maybe spending up to 20 hours per week on it in the month leading up to the race. This year it has definitely been less as there’s a good team of students doing a lot of the work. The help Queen’s Sport give us cannot be understated either.

Q. When is the busiest time in the build up?
A. Definitely the week of the race.

Q. Does it make much difference having Championship Status this year?
A. We’ve had Championship Status for a few years now. It doesn’t make too much difference from an organising perspective but ensures that plenty of high quality athletes enter the race.

Q. How do you ensure that the courses are accurately measured?
A. One of your “Legends Among Us”, John Glover, sorted this for us. I think it has to be remeasured every five years.

Q. What about insurance?
A. Good question! Athletics NI provide public liability insurance for licensed races in exchange for a fee. However, fortunately Queen’s has its own cover.

Q. Do you have entries on the night?
A. We just stick to online entries now. We used to have late entries on the night, but the race fills up too far in advance now! It also leaves things easier for our timing partners; Glenn Grant’s Champion Chip Ireland.

Q. What is the worst aspect of organising such a huge event?
A. I would say, trying to predict numbers, costs etc well in advance – it adds a bit of pressure.

Q. Apparently the rules regarding road closure have changed recently. Can you explain what this entails?
A. From what I understand, we are still transitioning to the new rules. The application process is going to be handled by each race’s local council instead of the Parades’ Commission. From our point of view, we’re going to have to be organised much further in advance! Unfortunately it’s likely to result in a higher cost as well.

Q. Have you ever competed in the race yourself?
A. I have raced it a few years. The last time was in 2011. My best result was 30th in 2010 with 16:28. My memory is hazy, but I think there used to be a Junior mile that I won in 2004!

Q. Do you get any time to actually enjoy the racing?
A. Yes, when the race starts I have a bit of time to watch, before the work starts again.

Q. What is your best memory?
A. Not sure – it is always great to see friends race well.

Q. How do you know how much pizza to order for the post race spread?
A. Double the year before!