The start/finish area will be ground zero for all the festivities and logistics of the event. You will need a location that is big enough to handle all the participants, spectators, support staff and supplies. If possible, think about how your event in future years might quickly outgrow this spot. Parks and schools can be ideal locations for your start/finish. There is usually ample parking and plenty of space to create a festive scene for all to enjoy.
In smaller towns there might be a central business district or historical district that could work as well. Think about the other events that have taken place on the city streets. Parades, other running events, cycling events, festivals, live music, etc. Some locations probably worked better than others for various reasons. Figure out ahead of time all the permitting authorities you will have to work with to make your event a reality. Each will have their own unique requirements or restriction about what you can and cannot do. Talk to them early on before you get too far downstream with an idea they would never approve, and you have to go back to the drawing board.
The day of the week, the time, and the duration your event will take place will also have a significant impact on how well one location might work better than another. Attend some other community events that are utilizing these areas in similar timeframes and observe what is working well and what is not. Spend time walking around the area and think about the other kind of disruptions your event might create.
Safety for everyone involved should always be your number one priority. The different permitting authorities will dictate much of the precautions you are required to take when sending runners out onto the city streets. It could be as simple as cones separating runners from cars, marshals at street crossings, or police officers directing traffic. Do all that is required and then do a bit more just to be on the safe side.
When choosing the roads to run on, safety is number one, but you also want it to be interesting and highlight the community and support the theme of your event. People do not want to run on tilted two-lane roads with cars whizzing by at 55 mph. Some intersections and street crossings will just not make logistical sense no matter how safe you try and make it.
You know your community. Highlight the beauty and uniqueness of your community. If you are thinking about adding more distances to your event in the future, that can be another consideration when making these choices. Maybe your event is a 10k and in the future you want to add a 5K and a 1-mile fun run. Develop a course where you can create the options you think you might want to have down the road.
When trying to create the exact route, utilizing a mapping application like Map My Run can be helpful. These apps allow you to play around with various course options right from your kitchen table. Once you think you have some viable routes, then you need to lace 'em up and hit the pavement yourself. Run the course wearing a GPS watch to confirm the distance. Walk the course so you can have more time to make observations about safety, locations for aid stations, and other impacts. Once you make a final selection on the course double and triple check the distance. Runners get very upset if a course is too long or too short.
Hopefully some of these points to consider will help you on the road to creating a great course for your event. Once you have got this part all mapped out, then it's time to move on to the 10,000 other details you need to attend to next. Here at RaceDirector our job is to make that job easier. Check out all of our blog posts to find useful tips and information about many of these other tasks and topics.