I, like many folks I know, am annually in denial about how busy and hectic the holiday season truly is. Travel, family visits, shopping trips, school vacations, and holiday parties all conspire to make for a crazy four to five week stint starting in late November. As usual, I did not accomplish everything I would have liked for the last month. But it’s not all doom and gloom because I did cross a major milestone: race registration is now open! Seeing as I have finally made it over the registration hurdle, I decided now would be a good time to write up some of the things I’ve learned.
Choosing an an online registration service
While there is no shortage of options for online registration companies, I was able to narrow down my choices early in the process. There were three major players that I considered: Ultrasignup, Active, and Raceplanner.
Ultrasignup was an easy choice for consideration. They are the big name in ultramarathon and trail racing registration. If I’m looking for an ultra, that’s the first place I go. They also have a feature that tracks your results across all the races that Ultrasignup has on record and shows your relative ranking and projected times for new races. It’s not scientific, and sometime contentious, but it’s certainly fun and engaging. A strong choice all around.
Active is an online registration behemoth. If you more than a couple races in a year, chances are at least one of them is on Active. They get plenty of traffic, and folks searching for events are likely to come there. They also have help for race directors, a ton of additional marketing info, webinars, and other goodies. These were all decent perks for an inaugural event and novice race director like me.
Raceplanner is one of several smaller players in the online registration space. They don’t have the name recognition of the other two, but they have a solid history in the business and good list of clients, including a couple nationwide events like Girls on the Run. They also have one big advantage: they’re located right here in Chico, CA just a short drive away. A big goal for me with this event was making it a showcase for local businesses, so that last item weighed heavily in their favor.
How much does it cost? And who pays?
An important factor I didn’t mention above is the fee charged for using the service. These companies expect to be compensated, and the way that’s done is through a fee based on the price of your event registration. Active has the highest fees, coming in at 6.75% plus $1.25 per registration. Ultrasignup is a straight 6.25%, and Raceplanner is the lowest at 3.5% + $1.25. These fees aren’t astronomical, but they can be a bit galling to a runner. Which led to one more decision: should I absorb the service fee or pass it on during registration? Neither are ideal, but in the end I went with what seems to be the most common approach of passing the fees on to the participants. My race budget is a work in progress, but money is likely to be tight and passing on that fee gives me a lot more wiggle room for other race goodies.
In the end, I decided to get the best aspects of all three options. For solid software, the support of a local business, and the lowest fees I went with Raceplanner for my official event registration. Even though I’m not using the Active registration service, I can still have my event listed on Active and available in search. Similarly, Ultrasignup provides an option to list an event without using their service (though their “price” is a free race entry) so I will be front and center for any ultrarunners searching for races next summer.
As I write this, I’m still waiting for my first official registration to come through. It’s exciting (and a little nerve wracking) but I’m happy with the choices made and I think Raceplanner will serve me well. What do you think? Check out the event registration page, or the Rim To Rim website, and let me know in the comments.