As the mom of two children under the age of ten, I often talk with my little ones about what they want to be when they grow up. Their answers often change as their little personalities evolve and their interests diversify. I try to instill in their young minds that they can be whatever they would like to be, as long as they are willing to work for it.
I often wonder about alternate career paths for my own life and think that being a race director would have been one that I should have explored when I was younger. As a weekend race warrior, with both Milwaukee and Chicago within an hour from my home, I have had the great opportunity to watch several different race directors perform their craft, gracefully executing the production of large scale events with thousands of participants. So many race directors make it look incredibly easy as they handle ten different issues at once.
One of my favorite race companies, Silver Circle Sports is owned by a charismatic, energetic individual named Sean Osborne, who performs at the top of his race director game at every event I have attended, making it look easy to an outsider like me. Silver Circle Sports is a race production and timing company that hosts a large number of races in Southern Wisconsin. I asked owner, Sean Osborne, to tell me a little bit about his company and his career as a race director.
“What makes our firm different is that we are one of a very few companies that source all aspects of an event internally. We manage races, time races, supply equipment for races and have an internal graphics department that produces printer materials (shirts, banners, postcards) for clients. If it is race related, we do it. Generally speaking, when you are at a SCSE event, everyone there is part of our team,” Osborne says.
Unique to only a small number of race companies, Silver Circle Sports is responsible for all components of each race they host, which allows Osborne control over the entire race experience for runners. If you follow the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” motto, this makes for a controlled, high level experience done right. However, I would imagine it also adds to the responsibilities undertaken by Osborne and the SCSE staff.
While many race companies rely on vendors to provide timing services and equipment, SCSE owns and operates this very important component, and as such, must ensure its reliability and accuracy, in addition to the normal pre-race and race day tasks undertaken by a race director. So, how does Osborne handle the enormous number of tasks required to produce a successful race?
“Planning, planning, planning and execution. There are a million details that all have to come together to pull off an event,” Osborne explains.
“A typical race day starts months and months ahead of an event. We like to say that 95 percent of the work is done before race day. If everything is set and ready to go, race day is a piece of cake. All we have to do is execute the plan and watch for curve balls. Depending on the race, my day usually starts at 3 a.m. I always double check the timing databases and the dozens of emails with last minute changes. We meet at the office at 5 a.m. and then head to the race site. Usually we are done by noon. After every race, we have a staff / volunteer debriefing on what went well and areas we need to improve. After that, we head back to the office to offload equipment and then the staff takes off.”
Preparation and flexibility are integral to Osborne’s success as a race director, but there are always situations you just can’t plan for.
“Two years ago we had a triathlon. I woke up at 1 a.m. and decided to drive the bike course and check signs. At mile five of the bike course the road was blocked by a police car. A tree had fallen on a power line and the road was closed. They could not guarantee the road would be open in time for the race so we had to reroute the course AND get it approved by the police. Changing a course in the middle of the night can cause an immeasurable number of issues but our athletes never noticed it and the event went off without issue.” Osborne reminisces.
It is clear that Osborne loves what he does and that the runners who race SCSE races love the experience. After hearing about the enormous amount of work that goes into these events, I think I’ll stick with my day job, but I’ll definitely search out the race director at my next event to offer my gratitude.