Thursday, 6 August 2015

Why I like pre-entries

Emails from race director Gerrie about my Dawn2Dusk entry have reminded me about a post I wrote many months ago but didn't publish. I was waiting to cool down. Althought I wrote this after the April Metrogaine, the content is comes from culmination of frustrations and irritations experiences from runs, orienteering and other events that I've attended, presented in the past or that I currently present.

There are many reasons why race organisers request that participants pre-enter events.

If you've ever been to a road race where they've been bombarded by on-the-day entries (huge queues, not enough loos, not enough water) then you'll totally understand why it is important that event organiser know how many people are coming so that entries can either be closed at a limited number or that extra facilities and goodies can be arranged.

Limited capacity
Venues have limited capacity - facilities, parking, actual space in the terrain to accommodate more than a pre-determined number of participants, vehicles and spectators.

Swag, whether tees, caps, goodie bags, cupcakes, refreshments, medals and mementos, has to be ordered in advance of the event so that it is ready on time. Suppliers have lead times and these need to be met. Of course an organiser can take a guess, ordering extras - but you'll ultimately pay for this in a higher entry fee.

For map-based events like Metrogaine and orienteering, we print maps for participants on one or a variety of courses. Printing costs add up and with people choosing from a variety of courses, it helps us to know how many people are coming and which course they would like to do so that we have sufficient, we don't have to recirculate maps and that we don't have too many leftover, which would just be thrown away. What a waste!

Things other than the event
Between presenting odd events here and there I have clients, friends, family, time away, other events to coordinate... and these need to be accommodated between planning, mapping, drawing, clue sheets and event admin. Entry deadlines allow me to fit my life into this.

Oh, the admin of event organising... Entry forms, lists and details. EFTs and confirmations. There's a lot of collating to be done and having an entry deadline helps so that everything is wrapped by race day.

Newsletters and reminders
I usually send out a final pre-event email once my entries have closed. This reminds people of directions, kit, weather prognosis and any other relevant - and important - information. This gives me a good excuse (new resolution!) not to answer my phone 20-minutes (err... 5 minutes) before an event when I've kept websites and social media updated and participants informed and reminded of the venue location and gate access (complete with Google Maps location) for weeks (or months).

About two years ago, at around 19h02, just before I walked on to the stage at FEAT, I got a call from someone who was lost, hadn't checked a map, didn't have the address and was randomly trying to find the theatre. Ja, I know.

I spend (waste?) a lot of time keeping websites updated with just this type of content. With smartphones it is so easy to check in the car - although it is far smarter to check where you're going before you even leave home.

The admin side was brought home to me in April following a Metrogaine event.

Entries closed on Tuesday mid-morning. I was out of town from the Friday before - although I spent the Sunday and a bit of the Monday completing the map and working up the clue sheets. On Tuesday morning I updated the entry list, complete with participant details and cross checked EFTs and such. I left for Jo'burg and drove directly to my print shop. Event entries had closed.

I use a place about 30km from home because they're efficient and I get a much better rate than from my local print shops.

On the way, my phone rang, my sms beeped, my Whatsapp whistled and my inbox was receiving emails. I always add a few extra maps to my order (15%) and this time was no different.

I got home and started to work through the admin, responding to people, capturing their details, responding to questions and making sure that they were accounted for.

It doesn't take many enquires to blow away a few hours... This took about four hours on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, the enquiries continued. 5.5 hours later my maps were all gone and I'd had enough of admin. Also, I needed to get everything finalised and to get going to prep the venue.

With no spare maps, I declined a lady and suggested that I add her to the notification email list so that she gets advance notice for the next event. I tried to add her. She was already on the list. I asked her to search her inbox. Ahhh... Unread email. I send out these notices directly to past entrants when entries open and near entry deadlines to remind people to get their entries in.

With website listings, a web page, a FB page and email notifications sent directly to past participants and subscribers, there's not much more I can do.

But I am sympathetic to those who find out on-the-day from friends about the event and want to give it a try. I'd like them to attend but there is a point where enough is enough. 

Deadlines really are there for a reason. 

As an event participant, I like to get my entry in early. I'm sure the event organisers appreciate it.

The only way to do something about this is not to accept any late entries. I find it really hard because I don't like to say no and I aim to be accommodating... but I just don't have unlimited time, resources nor patience. 

To maintain my sanity, I need to - and will - stand by my race rules:

No late entries 

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