Sarah Ratzlaff is president and “chief inspiration officer” of the ZOOMA Women’s Race Series, which hosts running events in destination-locations, from Texas wine country to Bermuda. The series, planned by women for women, focuses on overall event experience, female-tailored swag, fostering community and building support for women runners.
We recently spoke with Ratzlaff to learn more about her organization and her top insights for other race directors.
What sets the ZOOMA Women’s Race Series apart from other events?
ZOOMA is a women's race series in destination-locations like Bermuda, Cape Cod and Amelia Island. Our series is run by a staff of women whose sole focus is to ensure all of our runners feel included, supported and also have an amazing time. Our weekends include more than a race. We have yoga, shopping, welcome parties and group excursions, in addition to all of the race activities. Oh, and our medals are incredibly popular!
We also offer online challenges throughout the year, so we can continue to engage and support our runners even when they're not signed up for a ZOOMA race!
Why do you feel it’s important for women to have a racing experience unique to them?
I think it's important for women to have a unique racing experience because women often focus on different things during a race. We crave connection with other women and being a part of something that's fun and supportive. Plus, women tend to let down their hair a little more when it's just women. And, to be honest, no one ever really designs a swag bag just for women, and we tend to want something a little different—we like different colors and female-focused designs—and that's what ZOOMA creates for our ladies!
How would you describe your working style?
Well that's a tough question. It kind of depends on what each project needs. I prefer to work as part of a team and collaborate and brainstorm together. I've always found that a race turns out much better when we let others weigh-in with their ideas and create something together. I'm also a very creative person, so sometimes my creative process can get a little scattered. I have a team that supports me and helps keep our business in check, while I work to generate new ideas and fun experiences.
Can you share a moment where you felt like you had the best job in the world?
Yes, at the finish of our ZOOMA Bermuda Half Marathon this February. We finish in a park right on the water, and it was simply breathtaking.
What tools have you used to increase your success at ZOOMA?
One of the tools I use is feedback. I try to gather feedback in-person or with a post-event survey, so that I understand what our runners are looking for. Another tool I use is the ACTIVEWorks Endurance dashboard. I monitor my registration pacing daily to see what tactics and offers or emails are getting the best response.
How have you handled a major challenge in the past?
During one of our races with a double loop half marathon course, the double loop signage was confusing, so some runners ran longer than they were supposed to. Most were understanding about the issue, but we still provided a free entry to the next year's race. We wanted to go above and beyond their expectations. We were able to use the ACTIVE registration system to facilitate that process.
What’s your number one tip for race directors looking to take their events to the next level?
Listen to your runners! They will tell you what they want, and then you can create the experiences that they're looking for.
What work accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
Before owning ZOOMA, I worked for runDisney for over 12 years. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of the team that built out the runDisney race series to the huge success that it is now. But I'm also very proud to have taken all of that experience and put it into my own series. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been fun to create these unique and amazing experiences for women.