How to Contact a Race Director

Highly competitive – dare we say elite – post-collegiate runners face many challenges beyond the day-to-day aspects of training.

One of the toughest aspects can be getting into competitions and figuring out how and when to contact a race director for elite-entry into road races. Many elite runners have agents who do the work for them. However, there are even more runners out there who have to be their own advocates and learn to market themselves.

Before contacting a race-director, you have to do a bit of homework. Then get ready to make your case.

Step 1: Figure Out What You Want

The usual requests include a comped (free) entry, travel (airfare or gas money) and a hotel room at race headquarters, or some combination thereof. Lay out the best case scenario for your situation before you make the first contact, but be prepared for a slightly watered-down deal from the race director. (For example: free entry and up to $150 travel; free entry and a free hotel room; or worst case scenario, just a free entry.)

Step 2: Evaluate the Race Itself

Contacting the ING Houston Marathon is one thing; begging for free entry into a local 5k for AIDS-awareness is another. Here are some good indicators that the race is too small to ask for special treatment:

  • There are no other elite runners entered.
  • The race is named for a charity. (For example: Race for the Cure.)
  • The prize is a ribbon and a pint from the local bar
  • The website for the race look like it’s from the 90’s and boasts having 50+ participants.

If any of these fit with the race you have in mind, you should probably just suck it up and pay the $20 entry fee.

Step 3: Find Contact Information

If the race is large enough and well funded, explore the website to find the elite-athlete section. There, you should find standards for elite status, and in some cases, an application for entry. Sometimes there are no time standards, so you just have to gather your personal-best times or best performances and submit them. And there is not always an application. If this is the case, then you have to email the race director or elite athlete coordinator with your request and information with the subject heading, “Elite athlete entry.”

Hot Tip: Try Email First

Email is usually the preferred communication method and can be found under the “contact” section of the race website. If you can’t find an email address, then make a phone call.

Step 4: Make Your Move

As stated above, email is usually the best way to contact the person in charge. Here is a standard format for an email requesting elite athlete status:

Hi _______(try and find a specific name, it’s more personal than “to whom it may concern”),

My name is _______________ , and I would like to be considered as an addition to the ____________(race name) elite-athlete field.

Next, talk about your personal best time in the specific race distance and recent (best) performances. Include times, top finishes, and highlights in all distances (track or road), but keep it succinct and about your best-of-the-best performances.

The next paragraph is a good place to provide a brief history of your running career (two to three sentences should suffice) – but only if it helps your case and seems applicable to the situation. Include where you went to school, your athletic honors and achievements while there, and basically any piece of information that makes you seem like a desirable, marketable addition to their field.

Example: I went to ______ University, where I was a five-time All-Conference athlete and three-time All-American.

Finally, it never hurts give the race director/coordinator a little ego boost at the end of the email. Mention some connection you might have to the race itself, how long you have wanted to participate in their event, and/or the wonderful things you have heard about it.

Before you close, thank the person and mention that any assistance you might be able to provide would be greatly appreciated. It’s a concise, straightforward, but polite way to make sure that the race organizers know that you are looking for a bit of support.

Then, of course, the sign-off:





Important Things to Remember

Now that you know the general protocal for contacting a race director, here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • You are your own advocate. Learn to brag about yourself, but do so in a polite, objective way. Runners have the impartiality of time and place, so use statistics to your advantage.
  • Make sure that you apply with plenty of time to spare – usually two-plus months before the race itself. If something comes up (injury, emergency, etc) you can always opt out, but remember that the race directors are organizing thousands of people and mind-bending logistics. If you do apply late, acknowledge that in the email and explain why.
  • Be prepared: Get a USATF membership. USATF (USA Track and Field) is the governing body for all track and field and long-distance running competitions in the United States. You must be a current member to participate in any national championship races or sponsored events. To join, go to
  • Race directors almost always have other day jobs, so be patient while awaiting their reply and recognize that they really are doing it all for the love of the sport.
  • If things work out and you get included in the elite field, make sure to send a thank you email after the race. It will help establish the relationship for future years.

Good luck!

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