the Junior League of Little Rock (AR) launched their annual Downtown
Dash event in 2014, one of its goals was to make it accessible to
families and runners of all abilities. “We saw a need in the community
for more foot races, specifically 10Ks, which are a popular bridge
distance between a 5K and a marathon,” says 2016 Downtown Dash Chair
Ashley Hudson. “We also wanted to create a race that was in line with
the Junior League's mission, which in part deals with our goal of trying
to decrease childhood obesity, so it was important that our races were
open to all.”
The Downtown Dash event includes three components: a
5K and a 10K, which follow a route in downtown Little Rock, and a 1K
fun run for small children. The routes and scheduling were carefully
selected with handicapped runners and stroller runners in mind.
Hudson shares some of her tips for creating a safe event that's accessible for runners of all abilities.
- Pick a consistently flat and paved route.
“You need to think about the terrain on which runners will be expected
to run the race,” Hudson says. “There is a popular place called River
Trail that some other organizations use for their footraces that
incorporates some unpaved trail, but because we wanted this race to be
accessible to runners and walkers of different abilities, we chose a
route that loops through downtown, which is relatively flat and provides
a wide track.”
- Appoint volunteer “route scouts.” In the
week leading up to a race, a team of volunteers are tasked with
surveying the route for potholes, construction sites and other potential
hazards that could potentially cause a risk for runners and walkers,
including those who might be visually impaired or sitting in a
wheelchair on race day.
- Set an earlier “gun time” for wheelchair-bound racers.
“We always give our wheelchair-bound racers a head start to go off
before the rest of the pack,” Hudson says. “We try to time the race to
the best of our ability to ensure we aren't unintentionally creating
more of a traffic jam than there already is at the beginning of a race.”
- Position stroller racers at the back of the starting line.
This alleviates some congestion and eliminates the potential
frustration more serious runners may experience in a crowded space.
- Market the race to your intended audience.
“We try to take every opportunity we have to spread the word about our
foot races, whether it be a broad or narrow audience,” Hudson says. “I
make it a point to talk about how accessible our race is whenever I
speak on local media.”
Source: Ashley Welch Hudson, 2016
Downtown Dash Chair, Junior League of Little Rock, Little Rock, AR.
Phone (501) 375-5557. E-mail: Ashley.Hudson@kutakrock.com. Website: www.jllrdowntowndash.racesonline.com