Economic times are tough; it’s been in all the papers. Some Wall Street salaries are even being slashed to a half-million dollars. Unfortunately, the recession is even being felt in the running world. We’re seeing the effects as the Oak Park Runners Club firms up plans for next spring’s edition of The Race That’s Good for Life on April 11.

Organizing a successful race involves lots of details and a significant budget. I’m always interested that runners who have never helped with the process of organizing a race have little appreciation for the work and money involved. It’s way more than drawing a race route on a map and inviting people to run.

Big cost items include the scoring service that handles the computing of age group winners, and provides timing equipment, computer chips and the start and finish line sensor mats. Then the t-shirts, which can cost $8 and up for high-tech fabrics, plus the awards for overall and age group winners. The event needs advertising to attract runners, plus other stuff like race application forms, ad posters, porta-johns, race bib numbers and rental of the high school. And there are those newly-announced village fees for public events (we’re holding our breath to see how hard we get hit).

We always hope to encourage race sponsors to supply food items for post-race refreshments, but financial sponsorship (dollars) is a critical element in being able to put on a race. West Suburban Hospital has been a long-time sponsor, but their status is currently in transition as new owners come on board. Local banks, which have felt the effects of a depressed real estate market and the general economy, are being understandably conservative with sponsorship money, as are retail businesses, which have seen dollar volumes decline. Race Director Deanna Doohaluk and her Race Committee are scrambling to find sponsors who can help.

It’s a budget balancing act – keeping the entry fee sufficiently low to attract participants, but providing the amenities of a quality event (our race has regularly been honored as one of the region’s best). And if we have a good turnout on race day, there’s enough money left over to donate to charitable organizations. The United Way of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, and the Friends of the Oak Park Library have been our designated charitable causes, but if revenues and sponsorship funds are reduced, so are the chances for positive financial balances after the race. It all trickles down.

Some say why give out t-shirts to all participants? But t-shirts are one of those traditional things that are expected – and they provide post-race advertising for the event and its sponsors. Or why give out all those fancy award plaques? If you’re a non-elite runner who had a good day, and earned an age group award, those plaques are like gold. End of discussion.

So, we’ll keep our budget as lean as possible, keep looking for sponsors who would like their product or service focused on 1,200 healthy runners, and keep our fingers crossed. And if you’d like to be a sponsor, contact Deanna Doohaluk at

Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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