Wednesday 23 May 2018

Race organisers need a recipe for success

Gerry Duffy was impressed by the healthy food platter on offer in the GAA hall in Longford. Photo: Getty Images.
Gerry Duffy was impressed by the healthy food platter on offer in the GAA hall in Longford. Photo: Getty Images.

Gerry Duffy

Just last December I ran in a 'tasty' 10-mile race in Co Longford. It was tasty for two reasons.

The first was the tasty hill that appeared in front of our eyes at mile three, which lasted for almost a third of that.

That certainly wasn't tasty at the time but it was as I travelled home a few hours later. The aftertaste of having overcome the challenge was very nice indeed.

The second reason it was tasty was the post-race refreshments. That Sunday was colder than an ice-cream fridge. As runners began crossing the finish line, people poured into the GAA hall to stay warm and be fed.

Adjacent to the cups of tea was an array of beautifully presented and finely cut salmon, chicken and salad sandwiches; all of which were hugely tasty. It was the extra offering adjacent to them, however, that I found intriguing and which really caught my eye and my taste buds.

Perhaps you have seen evidence of this before, but for me – at a race – it was a first. On offer was a spread of healthy food choices, including carrot sticks, celery sticks and cucumber slices. The culinary talents of the race organisers had also extended to offering bowls of grapes and finely sliced apples and oranges. It was a wonderful idea and was surpassed in appreciation only by the variety of colours which radiated.

Now, perhaps you think I'm being over the top in highlighting this unusual banquet, but, I kid you not, it went down a treat with those who were there. It became a talking point among my group and the empty plates – 30 minutes later – perhaps offered concrete evidence of its popularity.

On the way home I reflected on why something so wonderfully delicious, something so simple to prepare and something so aligned with healthy living is not offered at more events. Simply by taking part in races, competitors are demonstrating a desire to be healthy. This promotes healthy eating habits.

I am sure competitors would latch on to such offerings if they were offered and might even regale the efforts of the race organisers to friends.

It is a competitive market out there. Every weekend has perhaps a dozen race options. In an old column, I highlighted the necessity for race organisers to do things differently to attract people to take part in their races over others. One way is to add extra value.

I know of one triathlon event in Ireland which – year after year – understands that it is the customer who must be catered for first. Apart from offering an iconic location and race organisation, they give competitors a complimentary jacket as part of the very reasonable race entry fee.

By being different in post-race refreshments you can stand out, and for minimal cost. After all, I have ended up writing about it, so it must have resonated. It would be great if other race organisers could jump on the bandwagon. It will leave your customers with tasty memories – ones that they might be keen to share.

Gerry Duffy is a motivational speaker and endurance athlete.

Irish Independent

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