Recently, the United States has taken a more introspective look at systemic racism and how individual actions affect inclusion and diversity.
As with many industries, endurance sports as a whole can do better on both fronts, and at ACTIVE Network we believe everyone should be able to enjoy the rush of endorphins from working toward a goal and crossing the finish line.
As a race organizer, how can you help promote diversity at your local running event, triathlon or bike race? What are some things you can do make your event more inclusive of all races, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds?
It’s a broader issue that requires more than just a single article, but here are some simple and immediately actionable tips that can make a big difference.
Make Virtual Racing Accessible
Virtual racing is a great way to attract athletes to your event during COVID-19 due to its inherent social distancing structure and flexibility in terms of date and location. It does, however, require internet access and a basic smartphone or computer, and athletes in low-income communities may not have the same access to technology as those in more affluent neighborhoods (note that it’s been proven mobile helps bridge the digital divide, and mobile registration and forms increase enrollment rates).
You can help provide access by putting together a guide on where to find a public computer or tablet (for example, a library or school) and the steps for navigating the technology and page. Creating a narrated step-by-step video with a screen share is a great way to help supplement your guide/instruction sheet.
Offer Discounts for Low-Income
This option would likely be on an honor system and shouldn’t be a clickable option on the registration page, but leverage social media to offer discount codes to anyone who is interested in signing up, but is in a tough spot financially. Network with community leaders and influencers to refer people they know and have them reach out privately via email or direct message to claim their custom discount code.
If you’re expecting “X number” of athletes will be registering for your event, consider donating an additional percentage of your entries to a local church, after-school program or organization close to your heart. This can be in conjunction with a charity component of your race, or a separate initiative altogether.
Promote Diversity in Marketing
Similar to how Tiger Woods changed the racial landscape of golf, it’s proven that if people see someone who looks like themselves competing in sport, they’ll be more likely to participate. Be mindful of what your marketing materials look like when you create a social media post, send mailers or create email marketing campaigns. Make a conscious effort to include photos and videos of athletes from all races, ages, genders and abilities to be more inclusive of everyone.
Decrease Financial Barriers by Using Sponsors
Especially relevant for cycling and triathlon events, it can be seriously expensive to gather all the gear required to cross the finish line—a wetsuit, tri suit, road bike, helmet and every other piece of gear needed to race adds up quickly. Your sponsors might already have a program in place to rent gear (or offer gear at discounted prices) to low-income athletes, so talk to your rep and try to make the program available at your race. This takes a bit of planning ahead to align both with sponsors and get athletes the gear they need, so be sure to give yourself a bit of a runway.
Swimming, cycling and running might be second nature to you and most of your athletes, but for a first timer whose immediate social circle is unfamiliar with the event, there’s a lot to consider before registering. When creating your website, landing page and marketing materials, think like a first timer and try to address as many concerns as possible. This might mean you write blog posts about training, race day or safety tips (or at least link to some—ACTIVE.com has a great library of free articles), go live on Facebook for a weekly Q&A session or create a private Facebook group for your event where people can lean on other more-experienced athletes for guidance.