Get Runners to Register Early Through Incentives

Almost every race director has the same worry at some point in time – ‘how many participants will register for my race?’  Until your race is a few years in, it’s impossible to even venture a steady guess of how many participants will register at a given distance from your race, and they will almost ALWAYS register in the week before.  Unless, of course… you give them a reason not to. So, how can we get runners to register early?


Today we’re going to talk about a few ideas on how you as a race director can offer participants an incentive to register early for your race, and in doing so give you a gauge of your overall numbers, provide you with valuable operating revenue, and make race week (and day!) less stressful

  • Early price increases

Typically we would advise race directors to pick the price they want their race to be for budgeting purposes, and slash the price by between 10 and 20% for an early registration incentive.  No more than 1 or 2 price increases is necessary, but adding a price cut perhaps a month out from your race, and then a week before can help your budgeting for important cut-off dates, like t-shirts, prizes, catering, food, and more! If you want to get runners to register early, hike the prices earlier!


  • Day-of cut-offs and price increases

Are you tired of having your volunteers swarmed with participants arriving the morning of looking to register?  Consider making your price a little lower on the early end, and a little higher the day-of!  This will get runners to register early and take the load off of you and your volunteers.  The #1 issue that can stall (and kill) a race is having participants waiting in line for half an hour and not being able to get their warm up in, or worst off having a race start more than a few minutes late!!  Of course, also make sure you manage your volunteers well, and offer packet pickups for larger races and when convenient.

  • Incentive cut-offs

One of the most effective tools you can make for planning involves offering a cut-off for t-shirts, catering, special offers, etc. that coincides with the day before you need to put in the number you want to order!!  It’s a big risk for a race director, especially a new one to guarantee t-shirts to everyone that registers for their race when the order needs to be in weeks before.  Another option if you are on the fence is to offer cheaper (cotton) t-shirts to everyone, and better (performance) tech shirts to earlier registrants to hedge your bets.

SSH Swag

Put it all together and a sample 5K price schedule for a June 1st race may look like this:

  • May 11th: $25, tech shirt guaranteed (tech and cotton shirts go in here – ordering cotton is then the only risk)
  • May 25th: $30, cotton shirts guaranteed to all registered before this date (shirt printing order needs to go in here so you may be over on cotton shirts but not too badly)
  • June 1st: $35, cotton shirts first-come-first-serve on the day-of

By implementing these simple techniques, you’re setting yourself up for a successful event that you’ve planned accordingly for. Try ‘em out for your next race!