Category Archives: Planning

Going Into Business – Part 1

As a would-be Race Director, I am planning on having dealings with a wide array of people. There will be runners, of course, but also potential sponsors, media, the city government and who knows who else. Setting up a race will involve running a business (albeit a very small, narrowly focused one). Nothing says I can’t conduct this business as myself. I can send all my emails, write all my checks, and fill out all the requisite paperwork simply as an individual. But is it enough to just be… me?

I am committed to putting on this race, and I would very much like to make it an annual event. If it goes well, who knows… perhaps another ultra in the future? Either way, I want to make this endeavor feel like a serious, professional effort. I’d also like to be able to write off any money spent along the way. To that end, I decided I will create a business entity to serve as the company putting on the race. This immediately requires a decision. What type of business entity? There are two options that would apply for me: a Sole Proprietorship or a Limited Liability Company.

In truth, a Sole Proprietorship only barely qualifies as a business entity. The business has no existence apart from that of its owner (me). However, it does afford you the opportunity to operate under a separate business name and have a bank account for the business, forming a very clean divide for an individual between their personal and business dealings. Setting up a Sole Proprietorship is very straightforward. There is minimal paperwork and the only outlay is the cost of filing and publicizing a Fictitious Business Name. When it comes time to do your taxes, you still do them as an individual but with a separate Schedule to track business income (and, perhaps just as importantly, expenses).

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is an actual, legal business entity. It affords some degree of legal protection since the member(s) of an LLC are not liable for financial debts and obligations. It’s a newer, fairly popular form of business entity since it’s less onerous to create an LLC compared to actually incorporating. While it’s far easier than forming a true corporation, there are still some additional steps involved and some additional tax implications to consider.

After some consideration, I decided to set myself up as a Sole Proprietorship for the time being. I have familiarity with the process, having gone through it many years ago when I created my own software company. It’s straightforward, inexpensive, and won’t make me sweat anything on my 1040. Additionally, I don’t have any employees, so I don’t need to worry about that angle.

To that end, I’m following these four steps for establishing a Sole Proprietorship in California:

  1. Choose a business name.
  2. File a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the county recorder.
  3. Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  4. Obtain an Employer Identification Number.

So, my Fictitious Business Name paperwork is in the mail. Stay tuned and I’ll post another update when I move on to the exciting world of business licenses and Employer Identification Numbers. I will also continue to update my Resources page with links related to creating a business entity.

Anytime Can Be the Right Time

Picking a date can be a challenge for any big event in our lives. For that matter, even just getting a couple friends together for a night at the movies can become a scheduling nightmare. So when faced with picking a date for my race, I had to weigh a lot of factors.

The Weather

Everyone wants the perfect race weather. Not too hot, not too cool. Not too wet, not too windy. And Chico definitely has a lot of perfect weather days over the course of a year. The trick, as always, is finding a balance between the average weather conditions, and the high/low extremes. I’m putting on a trail race, so I don’t want too much chance of heavy rain and a risk of trail closures. On the other hand, the terrain is very exposed, so I don’t want to aim for high summer where there is zero chance of rain, but guaranteed triple digit temps. So, Spring or Fall become the target seasons. Easily 4-6 months out of the year to choose from. Easy, right? But I’m not the only one putting on a race…

Other Races

Trail races continue to grow in popularity. While there isn’t anything exactly like mine in Chico, I don’t want to overlap too closely with similar races in the area. I’m hoping to draw folks from out of town, and that means not forcing too many conflicts with other runs they’re hoping to do. We have a 50k in nearby Red Bluff in April, and the finish of the Western States 100, which takes place the last weekend in June, is less than two hours drive away. Throw another half-dozen 50k and 50 mile races in the Spring and early summer season, and things start to get crowded in a hurry.


So now I’ve narrowed my choices considerably. One more limiting factor on the calendar: holidays. Turns out, Spring is also the time for things like Memorial Day and Father’s Day. No law that says you can’t hold a race then, but since my goal is to encourage participation I don’t want to make people choose between heading out of town with the family and my event.


So I’ve got all those factors plugged into the date picker. Just one catch: if you need to reserve an area for the start and finish festivities it needs to be available. For me, the area I’m looking at is a fairly popular spot, and when the weather is nice is exactly when you get the most competition for space.


So, how did it all work out for me? I went with Saturday, June 6th, 2015. The average high temperature is in the mid 80s. There are a small number of local and semi-local events. It skips all the nearby holidays (including the Chico State graduation… pay attention to local events that are practically holidays!). And the space I need is available. All in all, it looks like a win!

One interesting post script: As I write this blog entry on June 12th, the forecast high for the day 84 degrees. There was even a cool breeze for several hours while I was on my morning run. Perfect! And what was the weather a few days ago? 102 degrees. We may very well have a post in the future on preparing for an extremely hot weather race.


Picking the Distance

As the idea for this race took shape in my head, I thought a lot about what options to offer for race distances. The simplest of course would be to simply pick the one distance and have the race completely focused on that. Another is to add some other, shorter options to make the race a little more inclusive, though diluted from a pure ultramarathon. There are plenty of 50 mile races that fall into either camp, but for my race I elected to go with the broader set of options. I decided to offer a half-marathon, marathon and 50 mile distance for participants to choose from.

A couple factors weighed on my decision to broaden the set of distance choices. Chico is a great town, but is most definitely not in a large, urban area so the pool of local participants is not enormous. I’m frankly not sure how many folks I’ll be able to recruit for the 50 mile option. Offering a marathon and a half-marathon will hopefully encourage some racers who might be otherwise on the fence for year one, and lead to even greater participation in the ultra distance in the years to come.

The course itself was also a consideration when looking at the distance options. The nature of the course is two loops in a “rabbit ears” arrangement, and each loop was easy to get to about 13 miles. This just calls out for the half/full/ultra combination and doesn’t require any weird modifications to a course to try and make the shorter options viable.

When everything comes together, I hope to strike a good balance between encouraging participation on the shorter distances and still making sure the race gets to shine with the 50 mile distance.


What do you think? When you have done races with single vs. multiple distance options, what do you find most appealing? I’d love to hear from you.

Day 0

Just under one year from now, on June 6th, 2015, I will direct the Rim Job 50, an ultramarathon located in beautiful Chico, California. That journey begins today…

Okay, that is probably a bit of poetic license. The idea for this race has been rattling around in my mind for the better part of a year. However, there is one difference: today I begin telling the story and making the idea a reality.

The motivation for this blog is very simple. I’m a runner with no experience as a Race Director. As such, I’m going to have to learn a lot in order to put on a successful race. I will seek out all sorts of tips, tricks and advice. I’ll have some amazing successes, and some colossal screw-ups. And I’ll record it all here for posterity. Just think of me as your little black box for directing a trail race.

My goal will be short, frequent posts with small updates of my progress and nuggets of wisdom that I may have picked up along the way. I’ll supplement this with longer posts on specific topics where it’s appropriate. I will of course be making full use of all the information put together from other sources on the web, and I will link to any and all high-quality external resources.

Welcome, and thanks for coming along for the ride!