Race Director Magazine - Fall 2021

Page 1



Get Ready for TRE



is Changing Running

22 SUSTAINABILITY Matters More Than Ever








33 MEET THE RACE DIRECTOR: Kirsten Fleming 38 Standout KIDS PROGRAMS


COVER: Photo courtesy of Oiselle ABOVE: Credit Lucie Murray

Join the Muuvment

Publisher & Editor In Chief Dawna Stone Managing Editor Leah Etling

VP Partnerships & Sponsorships Christine Bowen

Membership Development Manager Jake Jendusa

Graphic Designer Sarah Page

Contributors/Interviewees Heath Aucoin, Lia Colabello, Duchane Thomas Cole, Alison Desir, Kirsten Fleming, Jordan Hamm, Gary Kutscher, Jessica Murphy, Lucie Murray, Kim Nemire, Kelsey Petersen, Rafael Perez, Mike Sommers, Heidi Swartz, Shelley Villalobos, Kim Nemire

Cover Alison Desir (Photo Credit: Oiselle)

Published By

RUNNING USA BOARD OF DIRECTORS Virginia Brophy Achman Tanner Bell Alex Bennett Donna Grogan Stevie Jones

Bryan Lively Jeff Matlow Kyle McLaughlin Meghan Najera Troy Schooley Max Siegel

Lonnie Somers Dawna Stone Heidi Swartz Matt West Tony Yamanaka

PARTNERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES Contact Christine Bowen +1-858-952-3269 | christine@runningusa.org Race Director Magazine is published quarterly by Running USA Copyright 2021 All rights reserved. The entire content of Race Director Magazine is copyright protected and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the publisher. Running USA assumes no liability for products or services promoted herein.


Your U.S. Manufacturer of Medallions, Awards, Apparel and Race Promotional Items










all is here. When we released our summer issue of Race Director Magazine in mid-June, feelings in the industry were trending positive. In the short survey about fall events included in our last issue, 95 percent of respondents said they had events scheduled between September and November, and 77 percent were feeling optimistic about event business performance during the second half of 2021. It’s safe to say that if we were to run that same survey today, those numbers would have changed. The Delta variant surge has prolonged the U.S. pandemic in unexpected and disappointing ways, especially for race directors in some states who were looking forward to returning to live events before the end of the year. A handful of cancellations have been announced in the last several weeks. Despite these challenges, at Running USA we find many reasons to be optimistic. As of this issue’s publication, the Chicago, Boston, New York City, Los Angeles and Marine Corps marathons are still on track to proceed with their events with vigilant safety precautions and protocols in place. The staff and board of Running USA are confident that the more successful events held by year’s end, the better off the industry will be overall. We encourage race directors to make use of our COVID-19 white paper, with guidelines that will continue to be applicable for events as long as the pandemic continues. As we continue to adapt and respond to new challenges, it becomes more important than ever to prepare our businesses for long term success. I am happy to share that in addition to programming on this topic at our annual conference, set for Feb. 20-22 in Orlando, Running USA will present a number of sessions at The Running Event (TRE) in Austin from Nov. 30-Dec. 2. You can learn more about these sessions in our TRE spotlight on page 5. Our partnership with TRE is new this year and is just one of many ways Running USA is working to help the industry survive today’s challenges and thrive in the future. This issue of RDM includes many inspiring features to get you thinking about how to improve your events in the years to come. And I hope you’ll be sure to read my cover interview with Running Industry Diversity Coalition co-founder Alison Desir, who is changing our sport in important and positive ways. Happy running, and happy reading,

Dawna and her St. Pete running buddies at the Asheville Half Marathon & 10K in August. DAWNA STONE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER 8 | RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE

NOV 30 - DEC 2, 2021 | AUSTIN, TX | #TRE21

Off to the Races:

The Running Event 2021 This November 30 to December 2, the running industry will come together in Austin, TX at the 15th annual The Running Event. With new partnerships, programs, and onsite events, #TRE21 will offer more opportunities for learning, networking, and business than ever before. With a new partnership with Running USA, The Running Event sets the bar high for race director conference education. Held on Tuesday, November 30 in conjunction with retailer-specific sessions, the Race Director track will include five conference sessions focused on exploring key industry issues and emerging opportunities. Running USA will guide the creation and development of the content, including speaker recruitment and participation. “This will be one of the first opportunities for the industry to come together en masse, and Running USA plans to elevate the race director content offered at the event while addressing timely topics that are top of mind for all,” said Christine Bowen, Vice President of Programming, Operations & Partnerships, Running USA.


Produced by:

ACT FAST: Early Bird pricing ends September 20!


• Interactive pre-conference workshops—free for conference pass holders—will offer actionable training from industry experts

• A special presentation by the Running Industry Diversity Coalition will share valuable insights and facilitate meaningful peer discussions

• Market-leading brands (such as Brooks

Running, On, New Balance, and Saucony) and new-to-TRE exhibitors (like Puma and Veja) will enable attendees to source new products and build key business connections

• A peer-to-peer mentorship program will

welcome and connect new attendees with experienced industry professionals

REGISTER HERE or visit www.therunningevent.com to get more information.


In Issue 2 of Race Director Magazine, we asked our event producers what they expect fall racing season to look like. In short, things are looking up!



Take the new survey, part of our ongoing Running USA Event Management Study, on page 48.

77% of race producers are optimistic about their event business performance.

95% of respondents are holding a live event this fall.

Majority of race producers have not added any additonal events this fall.

One-third of fall events were orginally held earlier in the year.

Fall event sizes are closely split across the board.

Are you holding a live event from September to November of 2021?

5% 95%

21% 79%

Yes No

21% 21%

5,000 runners or more 2,501 - 5,000


1,001 - 2,500 Less than 1,000

No Yes

How large will your fall event be? 31%

Have you added any additional (not rescheduled) events from Sept. to Nov. now that restrictions are loosening?





As regulations begin to scale back, how are you feeling about your event business performance in the second half of 2021? Optimistic Neutral Pesimistic

Was the event(s) moved to fall for 2021, but normally held earlier in the year?

34% 66%

No Yes


A candid conversation with the co-chair of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition and Oiselle’s Director of Sports Advocacy. By Dawna Stone


lison Désir is changing running for the better.

Her journey as a runner began, like so many do, as a personal challenge. But after completing her first marathon, she wanted to help others achieve the same experience and started a community group, Run Harlem, that continues to thrive today. Over the last year, Désir has been a force in the


movement for improved access and racial inclusion in road running, and she currently co-chairs the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC), an organization that is working to “create a more equitable and inclusive running industry where race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, socioeconomic status, and ability do not serve as barriers for full enjoyment.”

Photo: Credit Daphne Youree


Alison running with her husband, Amir Figueroa and their son. “We are looking at the ways that historically, Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) have been made invisible in this industry, both in the community and in positions of power,” Désir said of RIDC’s work. The group has recently earned non-profit status and will soon begin looking for an executive director. RIDC provides resources and education for events and race directors who want to produce inclusive, safe and welcoming events for all. The running world has long been an overwhelmingly white space, and Désir’s voice is one of many now working to change that. She’s currently writing a book about the experience of BIPOC participants in the sport and revisits the last running boom through their experience. Earlier this year, she was named Director of Sports Advocacy for Seattle-based women’s running brand Oiselle. 14 | RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE

Above: Credit David Jaewon Oh

I was grateful for the chance to sit down with Alison recently to discuss how race directors can take the first steps to improve their events, building community at Oiselle, and much more. Read on to join the conversation. And as always, you can find the full video of our chat on Running USA’s YouTube channel, which includes extra content like one of Alison’s bucket list races and what she likes best about living in Washington state.(Ed. note: Interview questions and responses have been condensed for clarity.) DS: You've been very personally out in front leading the charge for running to be a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable space. What do you think the running industry needs to continue to do or needs to do that they haven't done to make that happen?

AD: It's been really exciting. It's been really exhausting. It's been really frustrating. It's been all those things. I feel very privileged, though, to be in this position of connector and community builder within the industry. Before this, talking to a CEO was not really something I did. And now, It’s “hey Jim, hey Sally.” So I recognize my privilege to be in those spaces. I also really honor and respect the folks that are in those (leadership) positions that recognize that it's important, that they have to be on these calls and involved in this work. The Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC), we're right now undergoing a strategic planning process, something I've never done, but it's really helping us hone in on what we're here to do, which is really talk about racial equity from an intersectional lens. We are looking at the ways that historically, Black, Indigenous, people of color have been made invisible in this industry, both in the community and in positions of power. We're doing this strategic planning to really think about what our goals are for next year, what are our goals for five years, 10 years? Thankfully, we've gotten some massive financial contributions. We are now a 501c3. And this money from – well, I can't reveal it just yet. But brands are realizing that this is important. It's important to have an organization that is focused on racial equity, that's focused on education and training, that's focused on providing talent, pipeline and job opportunities and creating new race directors who are people of color. Within a few months, we hope to have an executive director, and we've got some money to do the work that we do. I won't be (RIDC) cochair forever, I'm realizing I will need to step away, because it's a lot of work. But I feel really good that we are setting up this permanent organization to be a respected and meaningful part of the industry. DS: I think most of us in the running industry realize that we have work to do. What do you

say to event organizers out there as to what their first steps should be? Do you have something that you can share with them to say, here's how you get started? AD: Absolutely. But first I want to say that we as people who move and run and walk - we have a natural proclivity for doing tough things, right? We are people who decide that we're going to do something that's almost impossible. We're going to run for a long, long time, we're going to do something really hard. And that's not always fun. But we're going to get through it. I think that as endurance athletes, as people in this space, we are set up to do this well.


In terms of how to get started, I think there's personal work that needs to be done to be applied in this professional systemic space. For a lot of people who hold privilege. Me, I'm a Black woman, those are my marginalized identities, but I hold privilege in that I'm able bodied, I’m middle class, I'm well educated. It's hard for me to see when my able bodied privilege is showing. I don't spend my day thinking about all of the obstacles the world would present me if I were in a wheelchair, because that's not my experience. From a personal space, white people and people with privilege have to start thinking about ‘what are the ways that I am privileged in this space? What are the ways in which I go into meetings and don’t think about the fact that it’s all white men, in particular, in this industry.’ Dawna, I know you know that, being the woman behind Women’s Running magazine. The



fact that you had to create an additional space (for women in the sport.) I think the first thing is just building awareness about your privilege, because that will allow you to see things more clearly. And then, this work is about making sure that more people have access to the sport and access to opportunities and power. I was really excited to see that the Hardrock 100 has started to look at the percentage of participants, and next year they want to commit to having more women at the starting line. And my question is, what was the racial diversity of that group? How many people were Black? How many people identified as indigenous? Right? So start asking yourself those questions. And know that you will make a mistake, you will offend somebody, you will get something wrong, but you will have the opportunity for redemption. We say it's an ultramarathon with no medals. It's long work, and we cannot see the fruits of our labor. But I get it, it's scary to have conversations about stuff where you don't know the language. And you don't want to offend people. But guess what, you will. People who identify as men offend me all the time because of patriarchy. But we move through that. So I would say that it's both a personal journey, but it's also about redistributing power and access. DS: Everything you said resonated. I hear people say that they're honestly scared to not do the right thing, they're worried they're going do the wrong thing. And so you're saying no, just move forward. And you probably will offend somebody. But as long as you are moving forward, and you are trying, and then hopefully, more and more resources will be out there for everybody to take the first step. AD: There are already some really useful tools. I want to draw everyone's attention to Jordan Marie Daniel who put together this toolkit that really moves beyond just land acknowledgments. Wherever we are, we're on indigenous land. So

Photo: Credit Ryan Warner

wherever your race is taking place, what are the ways you have a relationship with indigenous communities? Even broader than that, do you have a relationship with the communities that you run through in general? That might not be something you're even thinking about. Where are your vendors coming from? Wouldn't it be cool if you have local vendors involved? If your (race is) going through neighborhoods that are under-resourced, what are the ways that your race going through that neighborhood can contribute to the growth of that community? Because you want to have a longstanding relationship with where you're doing your event. DS: So it's been over a year, but Ahmaud Arbery's murder in Georgia opened a lot of people's eyes about the dangers of running while Black. It’s such a hard question to ask, but do you think there's any positive change or increased visibility that has come from that, or will come from it? AD: I think it is a difficult question. And I think, for me it's something that, when you're Black, this is something this is a reality that you know from a young age. And there are conversations around that I think about that I'm going to have with my son soon. He's only two years old, but around, you know, police, and to be honest, not trusting police and being cautious and making sure that he knows his rights. This was not eye-opening or shocking in any way. It was heartbreaking. And it was really personal for me because of my son. I didn't have a son before. Something that has been really meaningful is that the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the injustice, allowed white people and many people who never considered what it's like to be in a different body, outside, that there are differences. And it allowed people to start to think about well, within my running group, there's mostly white folks. And we don't think about these issues. And we don't think about how running through a suburb at a certain time of day has


different implications for people. I like to think that women should have this understanding because we know that running in a sports bra could put us at risk for being killed. And then, just the year of us being inside and so all these racial and justices landing even harder. It's not that more black and brown people were killed in the past year. It's that we were at home, and we were watching the news and it was landing in this different way for folks. I do think that lit the fire. And now, how do we make sure that that fire still burns? You know, when it's a women's issue, it can't just be women fighting for change. We need all genders to be on board with us. It can't just be Black people doing this work, it has to be our white allies alongside us.


DS: I also wanted to ask about your running in general. You have a compelling personal story about why you started running, can you share that? AD: Growing up, I had been a 400 and 4x400 meter runner. And it's so funny because I had these pipe dreams of being an Olympian. And now that I have actual friends who are Olympians, I'm like, I had no freaking idea. There is no chance in hell that could have achieved that,


because you have to want it in a way that I just did not want it. Anyway, so I was a 400, 4x400 meter runner. And then I went to school and life happened. I found myself in 2011/2012, very depressed. I could not find a job, I was in a really bad relationship. My father was very sick with Lewy body dementia. I was at home all the time. It felt like I was watching other people lead their lives. But thankfully, one of those people I saw was a Black guy who was training for a marathon. And this to me, really brings the point home about the importance of representation. Because I saw a Black person running and I was like, ‘this guy doesn't look like a runner.’ He was super average looking. I thought marathoners were skinny white guys. So he drew my attention. And I saw him do something that I thought that people like me didn't do. So I decided I'm going to give this a try. And like so many people can attest to, just the transformation in terms of seeing what was possible for me. Breaking up something really hard into little parts was a perspective that I began to apply outside of my life. So I ran my first marathon. Shout out to the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. And I raised over $5,000, and I decided, I want to build this community for people like me. At that time, and it's changing now, but the conversation around mental health was even more taboo. I wanted to put this front and center about the connection between mental and physical health. And then, of course, me being me, I went back to school and got my master's in counseling psychology. I always feel like I need to be the expert in things. And that's where I started off in building community that was centered in mental health and really in racial justice, making sure that folks like me were out there running. DS: I know we talked about this a while back, but you started the Harlem Run running movement. So how did you go from your first marathon to building out a community?

Above: Credit David Jaewon Oh

AD: It was very, very slow. And not glamorous at first. I had been blogging about how amazing the (marathon) experience was. And I felt like, why am I just talking about this? Let me actually create this. So I started in November of 2013. For four months, nobody was showing up. It was just me every Monday. I would post photos of random people's feet so that it looked like there were people. It was a lot of sad calls to my mom at seven o'clock, crying, ‘nobody's showing up!’ But I just I kept showing up. People really can become fanatical about running when you've had that first positive experience, and I felt like I needed to share it. And so that just kept me going. I was like, I know that people are going to love this when they show up. So I'm just going to keep showing up. And sure enough, within six months, there was one person and then five

people and then a year and a half later, there's 150 people. Now, I live on the West Coast, in Seattle. But Harlem Run is still running and we still have a leadership team. That's a beautiful thing. They've embraced it as their own community, their own movement. I take pride in that it's never been about me. It's been about other people having that experience. DS: And it's probably nice also to see that something that you were so passionate about, lives on, right? Because it's not just about you, but you created this movement that just moves on its own. AD: That's the dream. Working yourself out of a job and having the community remain. For me, that's a big success.


DS: What advice would you give to people that just want to start out and run? I'm sure you've been asked this a million times as you built up that community. AD: Consistency. It's so similar to when you're on your running journey, starting again or just starting. Or whether you're building community. It's going to suck sometimes, but you have to be consistent. I've heard people say those three throwaway miles, right? But it's building your mitochondria, right? It’s an important piece of the puzzle. That's how I started to think about when you show up, and there's not a lot of people and there's the blow to your ego. But you’ve got to be consistent and you have to remember why you're doing it. Because if you're doing it for fame, then I would say take a different angle. There's better, easier ways to get fame. But if you're doing it because you really want community and you really believe in it, that will be the thing that allows you to keep showing up when nobody does. DS: So fast forward to 10-plus years later and you’re a mom, super busy, does running help you? AD: Running has taken on a very different significance. I guess I was really naive. Or maybe there's just not enough information out there showing different types of pregnancies and postpartum experiences. Because I thought, ‘oh, I was super active, within three months, I'll be back to my old self, and I'll be fine’. And then, of course, I had an emergency C-section and all these other things. No matter whether your body physically looks the same, it's a different body. So I'm just in a different body, a larger body, hips that are so freakin’ tight. I can't even believe it. Running for me brings me so much joy and clarity. But I'm also like, oh, this is how this body moves. So it's a re-discovery. And my plan is - Ted Metellus, look out! I'll be running the New York City Marathon in November. Hopefully you can catch me at the end. So it used to be hard, but far easier than now with a


two year old. And my husband (Amir Figueroa) is training for Run the Rut 50K in Montana. DS: Is there anything else you want to share that you feel is important for our readers to know? AD: I would love to share that I'm working on a book that's set to come out in October 2022. It tells my personal narrative, but it also tells the running boom story from a different lens and centering the experience of Black and Brown folks in running. I’m working on it now and it’s set for release October 2022. I hope that it's something that everybody buys, and it gets on the New York Times bestseller list. Really, I hope that it's something that similar to the last year, where lots of folks have had their eyes opened. I hope that this book offers that experience, but also offers some tools around what we can do to make this space more inclusive. So look out for that coming soon. And I hope to see you at the Industry Conference in February. DS: Do you have a working title that you can share? AD: The title is ‘The Unbearable Whiteness of Running,’ which is a play on the book, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being.’ And so the concepts of light and weight are part of the book in terms of, what is the weight that you carry, the mental weight of some of this stuff. DS: Wonderful. I will look forward to talking to you again when that happens. Thank you so much for taking the time. I know you’re busy, but it’s always great to catch up with you. //

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SUSTAINABILITY M AT T E R S M O R E T H A N E V E R Races share what they’re doing to make a difference for the planet By Leah Etling


or brands and events alike, the need to be conscious and proactive about environmental impacts has never been greater. Consumers are increasingly aware of corporate values and seeking out businesses and events that take positive action for a cleaner earth. In a consumer sentiment report released last year by IBM, 57 percent of respondents said they were willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce negative environmental impact. Younger consumers are even more likely to take notice, with 62 percent of Millennials stating that they prefer to buy from sustainable brands, according to Forbes. “I worry about when and where, not if, climate protests will come to road racing,” wrote Keith Peters, board member for the Council for Re-


sponsible Sport (Council) and retired Executive Director of the organization. “Our events are certainly not the most egregious consumers of fossil fuels, though airline travel to any big ‘destination race’ results in significant emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I’d say the likelihood of climate protests at road races is pretty high just because we present an attractive nuisance of sorts.” (Read the full blog post by Peters.) At leading hydration brand Nuun, the company became a Climate Neutral Certified Brand by measuring its greenhouse gas emissions when producing and delivering products, and taking action to reduce, eliminate or offset them. Climate Neutral Certified brands must repeat the process each year. As a partner of many U.S. running events and vendor member of Run-

ning USA, Nuun has devoted resources to educating and supporting the industry in its efforts to be greener. The Practical Guide to Hosting Radically Responsible Events, launched at Running USA 2020 in partnership with Nuun and the Council, is an excellent place for events to start improving their sustainability practices. “The first thing to do is to invest in knowing your impact and setting goals. That is truly the first thing to do,” said Lia Colabello, a sustainability consultant who works with Nuun and recommends that all events make use of the Practical Guide. “That takes resources – people, time, and leadership to prioritize that. But I would start there.” Shelley Villalobos, Managing Director of the Council, says that the challenges of the last year have helped illuminate ways that events can reduce their impact – like virtual events – but have also showed how dependent the industry is on fossil fuels. Regretfully, the best way to eliminate emissions is to stop traveling altogether.


“We still need a lot of investment to get to the point where we’re reducing demand for fossil fuels enough,” Villalobos said. “Carbon offsets are not the ideal solution.” She hopes that the collective power of the running industry could become a force for impact23 | RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE

ful change. “How great would it be for the road racing industry to say we’re all going to choose a project that would mathematically have a positive impact and all pitch in on that? For the millions of runners who want to act and be accountable – it doesn’t matter how many races they run, but they could be pooling into that project – it would be exciting to see how that would pay out.” Running events that have committed to sustainability saw both challenges and opportunities over the last year. Here are some of their stories.

OFFSETTING TRAVEL AND REDUCING WASTE AT CHERRY BLOSSOM Awarded Gold Level status by the Council for Responsible Sport, Washington D.C.’s “runners’ rite of spring,” the Credit Union Cherry Blossom (CUCB) 10 mile race, was among the first event to offer runners the option to purchase carbon offset credits to reduce the impact of their race day travel. CUCB began offering offsets more than a decade ago. “95 percent of all emissions from races are from participant travel. That’s the place we need to focus quickly if we are going to successfully make a dent in our impact,” Villalobos said. CUCB partnered with Native Energy, a corporate sustainability facilitator, to handle runners’ offset dollars. Since 2010, more than $45,000 has been donated and runners are becoming more aware of the consequences of their travel. Prior to the event’s COVID-prompted 2020 cancellation, the race was on track to have its largest offset donation ever. Kim Nemire, CUCB volunteer sustainability coordinator, explained that the race has worked diligently on messaging and targeted participant communications to achieve those results. “If starting an offset program, put together a communication plan to generate awareness

The Cowtown Green Team is passionate enough about sustainability to sort the garbage.

and explain why, and then make it as easy to opt in as possible. Including the option with other add-ons during registration works well for us,” Nemire said. She believes the event’s relatively low price point of $50 aids runners’ willingness to pay for an offset credit. The offsets are just one small part of CUCB’s sustainability program. “We are really proud that we do enough to achieve Gold certification from the Council. That includes diverting around 90% of the 10 tons of waste that the race generates annually. We're also proud to be working toward the elimination of most of the post-race plastic water bottles, which is still a work in progress,” Nemire said. Other initiatives have included: implementing paperless registration, offering virtual goodie bags, opt-in medals, collecting used running shoes from participants, asking vendors to minimize and recycle packaging, donating unused event food, donating discarded clothing from the course, upcycling HeatSheets and composting food waste.

The ultimate sign of success for CUCB, though, will be when its highly visible Green Team, which wears lime green shirts on race day, is no longer needed. That’s a long term goal. “To get to a point where a sustainability team is no longer needed because sustainable practices have been integrated into every activity, ingrained in every decision and have become second nature for everyone involved with the event. That would be amazing,” Nemire said.

FEWER CUPS, MORE COMPOST AT THE COWTOWN While many events have expressed concern that the pandemic moved them backward in terms of sustainability initiatives, one race that had a positive experience was The Cowtown in Fort Worth. Despite being held on a smaller scale than usual in May of 2021, a concentrated effort to have runners supply their own hydration was a major step forward for the event. RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE | 24

Executive Director Heidi Swartz estimated that up to 75 percent of Cowtown runners came prepared to handle their own hydration needs with wearable devices like a hydration vest or belt. The race offered water stations for refilling runners’ vessels, and those who did not bring their own water bottles could make use of compostable cups. “If you tell people there will not be hydration on the course unless they bring it, then they will bring it,” noted Villalobos. “COVID pushed us far faster to that place than we would be otherwise.” Switching to the compostable single use cups along the course in 2020 made a huge difference in the amount of compost produced by the 2021 Cowtown Half Marathon, said Heath Aucoin, volunteer sustainability coordinator. The Cowtown produced 100 pounds of compost from its 2019 event, and that jumped to 2600 pounds in 2020, primarily due to adding the cups. Hydration partner Gatorade helped make them possible. Aucoin decided to focus on compost as one of the event’s initiatives because it aligned with community efforts in Fort Worth. A local company, Cowboy Compost, picks up the event’s compostable waste. “You really need to coincide what you're planning with what your community is doing. We’re trying to use sport as a vehicle to introduce people to these important lifestyle concepts,” Aucoin explained. Runner education is never easy, but critical. It starts before the event in runner communications and includes detailed signs about what waste can be thrown in which bins. “Sustainability is not easy. You have to be diligent, and the communication has to be over and over and over again,” he said. And all those efforts may not be enough. To prevent compost and recycling contamination, the ideal setup is to have a trained volunteer monitoring every 25 | RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE

refuse station. At the post-event festivities, it’s most ideal to take runners’ trash from them at a station and have a trained volunteer sort it into waste streams. Next year, Aucoin hopes to place a dedicated sustainability volunteer at each of 26 individual water stations, which would more than double the number of volunteers working specifically on Cowtown environmental programs. One tip he offered: look for college students in environmental programs or others already interested in sustainability to help. “It's a little bit easier when somebody has a passion for green initiatives to dig in garbage. Because that's really what you do all day,” he noted. The Cowtown has also earned Gold Level status from the Council for Responsible Sport for its sustainability initiatives.

A VENDORS’ PERSPECTIVE At Running USA vendor member Waste Management (WM), a dedicated division supports comprehensive sustainability program design and implementation for professional sports venues, teams and leagues. Lee Spivak, Managing Principal of WM’s sport and entertainment team, explained that proactive environmental practices have been a longtime priority for one of the country’s largest environmental services providers. “We are committed to providing comprehensive solutions that cover a variety of environmental impacts – materials, water, emissions, engagement, and reporting. To do so, we review event operations and their organizational structure,” said Spivak. “It’s essential to ensure that sustainability is embedded in the formal processes of event management since environmental priorities are more effective when they are positioned alongside other company objectives.”

CUCB volunteers with recyclable cups from Gatorade.

For an example of how WM has holistically implemented sustainability and social responsibility at a major sports event, check out the 2020 WM Phoenix Open Sustainability Report, billed “the Greenest Show on Grass.” From the grass to the track, WM also works with organizations within the running industry, including the New York Road Runners, to implement sustainability-related best practices at races of all sizes. When establishing an effective sustainability program, Spivak recommends starting at the top with leaders who are committed to making sustainability a consistent consideration, not just a priority when a major event rolls around. “It’s about directing your team to consider environmental impacts when making everyday decisions. An internal commitment will help ensure that sustainability is a formal part of the planning process rather than being a siloed department or a secondary thought,” he said. “To embed sustainability in an event’s DNA, managers must make sure it’s part of the beginning stages of planning for operations, vendor and sponsor engagement, and marketing.”

Vendor management is especially important and can be a cornerstone change for running events that wish to reduce their environmental footprint. “We help organizations and events map out their stakeholders, create a unique engagement and data collection strategy, add measures to ensure vendors comply with environmental priorities, and create a strong foundation that makes partners want to support sustainability goals instead of just feeling like they are complying with requirements,” Spivak said. Such partnerships can help events expand and improve their sustainability efforts each year. //

Are you innovating creative sustainability practices at your event? We’d love to hear about them. Write to content@runningusa.org to share your story and possibly be featured in a future edition of Race Director Magazine.




Brooks Booster Club expands reach, fuels youth track team dreams By Leah Etling When Jordan Hamm reaches out to a high school track or cross country coach to let them know that their program is the recipient of a Brooks Booster Club grant from Seattle-based running brand Brooks Sports, he can hear the emotion at the other end of the phone line. “It’s always amazing to hear the coach’s response,” said Hamm, sports marketing specialist for Brooks and the lead staff member for the Booster Club program. “Some of these coaches are in tears knowing that their kids are going to

have their lives changed in a meaningful way,” said Hamm. “Others are silent and just kind of in awe.” Founded in 2015, the Brooks Booster Club has helped 150 schools and 6,100 young runners across the country. Each team selected receives $12,400 MSRP in Brooks gear, including shoes and uniforms, as well as a $2,000 grant for the athletic department to be used at the coach’s discretion. In the last six years, Brooks has invested more than $2.1 million in cash and gear, and it will increase the number of schools it funds in 2021 to 32 across the U.S. Here are two of their stories.

The Brooks Booster club support is helping the athletes at Northeast High School dream big.

Norte Vista High School cross country team was provided with new shoes, jackets and jerseys through the Brooks Booster program.

Bringing team pride to Norte Vista, Ca. Rafael Perez, head cross country coach, assistant track coach and a social sciences teacher at Norte Vista High School in Riverside, Calif., knew that his team would benefit greatly from the gear and donation. “My first reaction was this could not be real. I had never won anything like this before and I was just in shock and I went to my assistant coach at the time and had her read it as well to make sure it was legitimate,” said Perez. He knew the gear and fund would make a huge difference for his athletes. “They were in disbelief and could not believe the extent of the grant,” Perez recalled. “They were incredibly appreciative and could not wait to wear the new shoes, jackets, and jerseys for our meets. They also were excited that we can look more uniform with one another.”

Perez had set out to find outside grants because his school could not afford to fully fund the material needs of the Norte Vista cross country program. “I had started my cross country career in a program with a large parent booster group in an affluent neighborhood that always had funds for resources for the team,” he recalled. “I wanted to help the Norte Vista team gain the same level of professionalism that my previous team had, like canopies with the school’s name and jackets to wear on meet day. There was not a lot of funds at my disposal to make this happen and expected it would take years for me to get the team to where I envisioned it could be one day.” The Brooks Booster Club support helped him achieve his goal, and he also applied for and received grants from the Aftershokz Making Stridez Grant, Running Warehouse, and Donorschoose.


The impact on his athletes has been evident. “The investment in our program from Brooks made a huge impact on our sense of pride. Many of our students took greater ownership in raising the standards of our program. Many of the leaders on the team would say it helped them create a stronger legacy among the team and proud to wear the gear we got that has our names on it,” Perez said. Back at Brooks, Hamm explains that the company is motivated to support the program not only to help schools in need and improve access to great running gear, but to encourage the next generation of runners from all walks of life. One of the program’s goals is to reach more coaches who have never heard of the program before and help raise up their efforts. He hopes to use the power of word of mouth within the running community to do that.

“There's things that we often take for granted. When you say, ‘it's so easy to go out for a run, just put on a pair of shoes and go.’ That's not always so easy, depending on your scenario. We want to make sure that kids have the opportunity to try running and love it,” Hamm said. Perez agrees. “Young athletes are the future of running. We have events all year round that bring runners out to compete in local 5ks to marathons and so many say they wish they tried it sooner. I think the more companies that follow Brooks in creating grants and scholarships for young programs may attract more people to the sport at younger ages. Running is a hard sell to high school athletes, and when we get grants like this it helps us boost our numbers because students want to be in programs that have investment.” // Learn more about the Brooks Booster Club at www.brooksrunning.com

Coach Perez with athletes from Norte Vista.

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Job title: Executive Director Race or company name: Run Calgary Years in the industry: 10 this October! I volunteered for 2 before pursuing it as a career.


RACE DIRECTOR Kirsten-Ellen Fleming celebrates her ten year anniversary as a running industry professional this fall. In that brief time, she has become a force on the Canadian running scene, all thanks to the influence of her aunt and uncle while living in Dubai. From the Middle East to the Great White North, Kirsten’s passion for race day brims over with enthusiasm and excitement. You may have seen her on stage at Running USA 2020 or co-hosting one of our early pandemic strategy webinars. But no matter where you find her, Kirsten is sure to be rallying people to get out and enjoy the sport that’s changed her life. Read on to meet her.

What got you into the running industry? I credit my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Brian. I was living in Dubai in 2009 and 2010 and became involved in the Dubai Creek Striders Run Club through them. I got roped into volunteering at the Johnson Arabia Dubai Creek Striders Half-Marathon kit stuffing and helping on race day. I was already a runner and went to races but never gave much thought into how it all happened before this experience. When I returned to Canada, I had the opportunity to work on Calgary Marathon as a contractor through the agency I worked for and when they were looking for an executive director, I aggressively pursued the president of the board until he gave me an opportunity to interview for the role. The board of directors took a chance on me, I am forever grateful. Why do you love your job? We are positively contributing to our communities and impacting peoples’ lives. We create experiences that bring communities together, raising funds that go back into our communities, and we help individuals achieve goals while living healthier and happier. How can you not be excited to get to work when that’s the ultimate outcome! What’s your favorite part of event production? Each year we try to implement new systems, processes and better ways of doing things, the goal is to do 100 things 1% better. It is very fulfilling to take what you learn from industry leaders, whether from the Running USA conference or while volunteering at

Chicago Marathon and adapting those takeaways. I love seeing how our events get better over time with those small changes. It’s kind of a long game, but I am here for it. And conversely, what you dread the most about “day of” the event? The 10 minutes before the start of the race. It’s stressful going through the checklist in our event command center and waiting to hear whether roads are closed properly and not having a lot of control but just faith that we have prepared everyone from police to volunteers well and they know what to do. Starting a race on time is crucial and only once in over 100 races have I had to delay because of a traffic issue. Your go-to fuel up snack or meal on race day? All the coffee my stomach can handle is balanced out with green juice/smoothie. Plus whatever my mom and Charlotte Brookes from Canada Running Series hand me. They’re always insisting I take at least one bite. The 3 most essential items in your backpack or event kit? My radio, zipties and lip chap.

Do you have a lucky charm or outfit you wear? Maybe a quote you keep in mind? I really try to remind myself throughout the day to take it all in and enjoy what we have worked so hard to create. This often means observing the moments at the finish line and just soaking up the positive vibes radiating from all the participants and volunteers. If you weren’t doing this work, what would you be doing instead? I would probably still be a journalist. I loved being a storyteller and working in news as I am genuinely interested in people. I look back on my time as a reporter fondly and would likely have continued to pursue working internationally had my life not taken this turn. What was your top takeaway from the last year and dealing with the pandemic? People first. We took care of our staff, participants and stakeholders and made decisions based on putting people above profits and it allowed us to stay the course. If we had cut our staff, we’d be hard pressed to ramp up again and had we not given participants options they were happy with, we risked losing them forever. I think we did right by our many stakeholders by following this philosophy. RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE | 34

What’s the next race you hope to run yourself? I am going with some of my best race director lady friends (Charlotte Brookes from Toronto, Rachel Munday from Winnipeg, Janet Raugust Myrmel from Chicago Event Management, Virginia Brophy Achman from TCM, Stacey Embretson from LA Marathon) to Michelle La Sala’s newest race called WineShine Half Marathon in July in Napa. The 7 of us have been having monthly Zoom happy (and sometimes not so happy) hours during the pandemic and their support has been invaluable. You’re a committed Running USA attendee and helped emcee the 2020 event. What’s your favorite part of the conference? THE PEOPLE! I have made so many dear friends in the industry over the last 10 years and attending Running USA really is a highlight of my year. I adored working with T.K. (Skenderian) in 2020 and I am so grateful for the mentorship by some truly remarkable people who are incredibly generous with their time. I appreciate it all, the keynotes, awards and networking but some of the best nuggets over the years I have taken away have come from race camps. Anything else you'd like to add? My stoke is at an all-time high to get back to start lines and of course seeing everyone in person in Florida! Invite me to your races and put me to work!

Do you know a race director you’d like to introduce to the rest of the industry? Nominate them for a future feature in Race Director Magazine by emailing content@runningusa.org


The Running Industry Diversity Coalition was formed to create a more equitable and inclusive running industry where race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, socioeconomic status, and ability do not serve as barriers for full enjoyment. We exist to increase representation and access to employment, leadership and power for those who have historically been excluded from the running industry. We will work with all aspects of the run community, including but not limited to retailers, brands, national organizations, events, clubs, non-profits, and local businesses to improve until we can all truly say, running is for everybody.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. RIDC - Run with Us You matter to our movement. The strength of a coalition, and this one in particular, is the inclusion of diverse voices while working together to positively impact our world. You may have been working on DEI issues for years or you may be just stepping forward to learn how you can start. We accept you and your organization wherever you are on this journey. We are now a 501c3 non profit and accepting donations.

Find us at runningdiversity.com and @runningdiversity on Instagram.

WE'RE LISTENING Take the 2021 Running USA Event Management Study

Approximately how many years have you been working in the running industry? Less than 1 year

5 to less than 10 years

1 to less than 3 years

10 years or more

3 to less than 5 years

What is your company's annual revenue? Under $50,000

$1 million to under $3 million

$50,000 to under $100,000

$3 million to under $5 million

$100,000 to under $250,000

$5 million or more

$250,000 to under 500,000

Not applicable

We have sampled a few of the important questions from the new iteration of the study here, you can provide input on all areas of relevance to your business by clicking through to the full study webpage anywhere on this page.

$500,000 to under $1 million

How were your 2021 live events impacted by the pandemic? Was not able to hold live events

Held some live events but not a full schedule

Held live events but at limited capacity

Operated as normal

Still have live events to come in Fall 2021

Other - Write In

What type of event is your primary event? 5K Road Race

Trail Race

10K Road Race

Color / Mud / Obstacle Event

Half Marathon Road Race

Virtual Event

Marathon Road Race

Other running event

Approximately how many of the following types of EVENTS are you producing in 2021 and plan to produce in 2022? (write in number) 2021


The 2021 Running USA Event Management Study is now in the field. This study, conducted every two years, aims to take the pulse of event managers and the event business as a whole.

Thank you in advance for your input, which helps inform and educate event managers throughout the nation! The study will close in early October and results will be released in December 2021. All responses are confidential.

Are your virtual events: An alternative participation option to your primary event Standalone events without a live event option

5K Road Races 10K Road Races Half Marathon Road Races

Do you provide the same swag to the virtual participant as the in-person participant?

Marathon Road Races Trail Races Color/Mud/Obstacle Events


Walking Events


Virtual Events All Other Running Events

How have the impacts of the pandemic changed your business? Reduced staff/contractors

Reduced participation levels

Changed relationships with sponsors

Reduced operating income

Reduced volunteer support

Changed relationships with vendors

Made permitting more difficult

Increased expenses

Other - Write In

Made insuring events more difficult

Increased marketing needs



RUNNING Takeaways from two award-winning Running USA member youth programs. By Leah Etling As running programs across the country look towards the future, many have recognized that one of the best ways to ensure a next generation of committed runners is to connect with them as kids. As a result, many events of all sizes have incorporated youth running programs or races into their portfolios. Two successful programs produced by Running USA members are the Cowtown CALF Program in Fort Worth, Texas and the Orange County Marathon’s Kids Run in Southern California. We caught up with both programs post-pandemic and came away with insight about what makes their efforts to get kids running so successful.


LA MARATHON'S 26TH MILE KIDS EVENT IN 2019 Photo: Courtesy of Lucie Murray

In Texas, young runners benefit from fitness, shoes and socks The Cowtown CALF program is another yearround, school-based running initiative in Fort Worth, Texas. The program reaches 105 schools in 17 districts and has donated over $1.5 million in shoes and race entries. Heidi Swartz, Executive Director of the Cowtown and a Running USA board member, described how CALF has evolved over the last 12 years. It all started when a running coach who annually brought a team to the Cowtown Kids Run showed up to pay her runners’ entry fees – using her personal income tax refund. “I asked her why she was doing that, and she said she really needed these kids to get exercise, but their families could not afford for them to run in the event. So we went looking for grant money and ways that we could help fund the kids running,” Swartz explained. The next year, she spotted another pain point: their shoes. “At the finish line, we were watching the kids that we had given scholarships to, and they were running in hiking boots, flip flops and

cloth shoes with no arches. The next year, we added a free shoe program. It was a natural progression,” said Swartz. “Some of these children have never had their own pair of shoes, and some can’t afford socks,” said Traci Cottrell, one of the CALF program coordinators. Using a trailer that serves as a mobile shoe store, the CALF kids are fitted with running shoes a few weeks before race day. They also receive several pairs of donated socks. For many, it’s their only new pair of shoes for the year. In a normal (non-pandemic) year, up to 8,000 kids under 18 run the Cowtown 5K thanks to CALF – most running in shoes that they received as part of the program. Since the program began, more than 35,000 kids have received shoes. In 2020, CALF still distributed shoes and socks to the kids, but relied on teachers or parents to fit the shoes to their feet. This fall, Cowtown staff and volunteers will be resuming school visits to make sure the shoes fit well.



Two other unique attributes that help make CALF a success include: Make it easy for the schools to participate. Swartz and her team go above and beyond in accommodating the needs of the schools so that they can participate. For one school that was more than two hours from Fort Worth, the Cowtown team drove halfway to meet the participating students for weekly run practices and to deliver them free shoes. Access to transportation is important. For schools that don’t have transportation to get their teams to race day, Cowtown will fund a bus. “We want to make it as easy as possible for them for the kids to participate. (The districts) have already got enough on their plate,” Swartz said. In spring 2021, kids ran their final CALF 5K at school rather than coming in-person to the event. But in February 2022, most will be back at the stockyards for race day. Encourage families to join in. Some of the participating schools require an adult to come to the Cowtown with their young athletes, and that gets more potential participants exposed to the event. Parents, grandparents, and siblings of CALF participants have all been inspired by the program. And as CALF runners grow up and graduate from Fort Worth schools, they are infinitely more likely to come back to the race as running adults and later pass a love of the sport on to their own kids. “The sooner they learn that there’s great joy and achievement to be gained from running, the more benefits it will have in their lives. And that will do nothing but strengthen running as

Left: Courtesy of Lucie Murray Above: Courtesy of Kids Run the OC

a whole. The more youth running programs we have, the better off we’re all going to be,” said Swartz.

Kids Run the OC works to get back up and running Kids Run the OC has been part of the Orange County Marathon since the early days of the event, which began in 2004. Prior to 2020, the program historically reached around 10,000 kids in kindergarten through 5th grade at over 150 schools each year. Participants train for the run in after-school programs with volunteer coaches, and then come together for a triumphant Final Mile as part of the main OC Marathon event. Due to the disruption of 2020, Gary Kutscher, race director of the OC Marathon, and Kelsey Petersen, program director, expect to undergo a rebuilding year for the program in 2021/2022. The kids’ Final Mile will resume during OC Marathon race weekend on April 30, 2022. Not only have kids had nearly two years to age out of the program, but many Southern California families have moved and teachers have changed schools or jobs, Kutscher said. To help kids stay active in 2020, Kids Run the OC offered a free virtual triathlon during the pandemic that incorporated running 26.2 miles, completing eight nutritional challenges and reading six books. Over 1,000 children participated. “We had good engagement with families reporting what books the kids had read and how they’d completed the nutritional challenges,” said Petersen. They also sent more than 5,000 shirts and medals to schools so that kids could RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE | 41

Kids run with their parents at the SoCal event pre-pandemic. run their virtual final miles as part of PE or at home in a socially distanced manner. Now, the challenge turns to recruiting new volunteer coaches and welcoming new kids to the program once school starts in the fall. One pandemic pivot that may stick around is using video calls as an option for new coach training. “I think the value of our program is in the in-person, after-school dynamic, but I do think we’ll make use of technology where helpful moving forward,” Petersen said. Kids Run the OC isn’t based on running laps around a track. There are nearly 40 games outlined for the volunteer coaches on curriculum cards. The bulk of the running the kids do is all pure fun, including games like “Simon Says,” “Blob Tag,” “Elbow Tag,” “Pace and Stride,” and more. Kids Run curriculum and programming is available to races across the country to help

Have an amazing or innovative kids program you’d like to see profiled in a future edition of Race Director Magazine? Email us at content@runningusa.org

Above: Courtesy of Lucie Murray

you implement a successful kids program or improve your existing program – reach out to the OC Marathon for details. Other key components of Kids Run the OC’s success include: Keeping costs low. The after-school portion of Kids Run the OC is completely free. The only portion of the program that families need to pay for is the Final Mile event on OC Marathon weekend. Scholarships are available for families who cannot afford the $29 kids race entry fee. The program relies on sponsorships, grants and donations to make up the rest. Runners in the OC Marathon can also add the cost of a scholarship to their race entry as a donation. Comprehensive coach training. Kids Run the OC requires its volunteer coaches – who can be teachers, parents, or school administrators – to take part in two mandatory training sessions each year. One focuses on training and programming best practices and another gets specific about race day procedures. Both are set

up to strategically introduce brand new Kids Run the OC coaches to experienced veterans, so they can learn from the longtime coaches’ experiences. Nutritional challenges. In addition to physical activity, Kids Run the OC participants get educated about healthy eating in the form of gamified nutritional challenges. They are simple, such as giving up juice and soda for a week and drinking water instead or choosing veggies instead of a sugary recess snack. “Their coaches challenge them to try it for a week and find that the kids are excited to be proud of their healthy snacks and their changed behavior,” said Petersen. “We’ve heard from some principals that their entire school has become more health conscious as a result of our program.” Finally, race day is epic. “It’s really the best part of our weekend. We have thousands and thousands of smiles that I wish we could show to everybody,” said Kutscher. “Our Final Mile event is such an exciting morning. The kids love everything about it. Their parents and grandparents come out to watch and enjoy all the pomp and circumstance.” He’s looking forward to seeing all those excited and smiling faces back out running next April, a true sign that things are back to normal. //

The Definitive Guide to a Great Kids Run Running USA introduces new white paper by kids run specialist Lucie Murray Lucie Murray never intended to become an expert in how to produce a great kids run. But as she headed up a training team for moms over a decade ago, the Southern California fitness professional became just that. In 2009, she founded Run Kids Run, a consulting and event management company focused completely on events’ youngest participants. Like so many in the industry, over the last year Murray had the chance to reflect on all she’s accomplished and look for ways to contribute on a broader scale. As a result, she has authored a white paper featuring essential best practices for kids runs, which is now available for Running USA members to download (click through to view and save). “I believe that with well-planned events, we can bring so many more kids into the running community. Parents will feel better about bringing them, kids will have a better time running and they will want to do it again,” Murray said. And isn’t that every race director’s dream? Not only do you encourage a

parent to return next year if their child has a positive experience, but your future half marathon participant could be that very child.

Why kids runs are different

For many small to medium-sized events, including a kids run can seem like a necessary afterthought. A good idea to involve more members of runner’s family, surely. But a piece of the event that requires its own section of the operations manual? Not necessarily. Murray sees it differently, especially when it comes to the planning involved. “If you don’t put a lot of attention into a kids run, it can go horribly wrong. And it doesn’t take much,” she said. “I always say to race directors that if an adult goes off the main course and gets lost, they’re going to come back and probably be mad. But if a kid goes off the course and gets lost, that’s a whole different thing.” The solution is simple: make a plan that adheres to industry best practices. Pre-pandemic, Murray advised around 30 events a year on their kids runs of 50 to 500 participants, most of them in Southern California. Clients include major industry players like the McCourt Sports Foundation (producers of the LA Marathon, LA Big 5K and others) as well as the Pasadena Triathlon, Surf City Marathon, and the Pier 360 Beach Festival. Post-pandemic should be a boom time for kids running events, Murray believes. And virtual events will continue to be an excellent alternative for parents who aren’t yet ready to let their kids run with a crowd of strangers. “I think there’s going to be such an interest in getting kids out and running and moving again. I say, let’s welcome all of them. I think we’re going to have a lot more people participating,” she said. That being said, ready to put on your best kids run ever? Check out the Definitive Guide to a Great Kids Run, written by Lucie Murray for Running USA. And read more about two longstanding and outstanding Running USA member youth events.


After observing the best and worst kids runs for more than 10 years, here are a few of Murray’s takeaways for any race director:

1 2 3 4 5 6

Exposure to running events is a way for kids to expand their world view. Most will have never experienced a mass participation sport before. The impact can be positive and even life-changing. Intentional kids runs are great kids runs. Avoid just checking the box and including a youth event because you feel like you have to. Marketing your kids run helps you market your entire event. Utilizing media, blogs and social media channels focused on families will attract a much broader audience than just kids. That family audience is also attractive to potential sponsors. “It might be a really nice entry level option for a sponsor who isn’t able to help with the main event, but wants to connect to the community,” Murray said. Kids runs are a long-term investment. A positive experience at your race now may create a participant for decades to come. The medal is a must, and don’t skimp on ordering. A five-year-old who just sprinted 1K will treasure that medal more than anyone – and will be in tears if there is no special reward.







Want to become a Foundation member? Contact Jake Jendusa Membership Development Manager Jake@runningusa.org

Photo Credit: Brooks Sports


s professionals in the running industry, we have had to make more hard decisions in the last 18 months than ever before. We simply didn’t have the option to continue with the status quo – even if we would have liked to. After so many months of unexpected and undesirable surprises, it’s no wonder that many might be experiencing serious decision fatigue. As event producers, industry professionals and business owners, no one knows decision fatigue like we do. It’s safe to say that our industry was one not just impacted by the pandemic, but essentially decimated. And just when we thought we were figuring things out, another Delta-shaped curve ball came screaming our way this summer.



The problem with decision fatigue isn’t just that it’s exhausting, it’s that decision fatigue makes us vulnerable and uncertain. It freezes us from action and prevents us from being bold. So how can we get back to being empowered by decisively making important decisions? Ultimately, the choices we’ve made over the last two years will determine our path forward. We simply cannot afford to be scared or hamstrung by decision fatigue – not for our companies, the participants who love them, or our professional futures.

The courage to say “Yes!”

As humans, we aren't wired to take risks. Saying “No” doesn’t carry the same risk as saying “Yes.” It requires much less mental energy. “No” just seems easier. Saying “Yes” comes with enhanced unknowns. It invites the possibility of consequences negative or positive, while “No” simply closes a door and preserves the status quo. “Yes” means having to do and learn something new.

coach. Both he and Stulberg experienced personal burnout in their lives that led them to investigate and report on how we can better prepare our minds and bodies to continually perform at the top of our game.

“Yes” is how you meet new potential partners, employees, sponsors, and supporters. “Yes” is the only way to adopt new technologies and efficiency-generating platforms. “Yes” is how we learn, evolve, and ultimately grow. Everyone who said “No” to social media until the road running industry began to adopt it more widely in 2015 found themselves way behind the people who said yes. Some are still struggling to catch up. The risk of “Yes” can reap rewards down the road. Saying “Yes” means we learn from mistakes and move on to new opportunities, rather than waiting around for a nonexistent perfect alternative. Saying “Yes” forces your mind to go through the mental exercises (literally and figuratively) that lead to strong decisions and success. We must embrace our inner runners when it comes to our businesses – and have the courage to bust past decision fatigue by saying “Yes.”

An inspiring read for runners

One of my favorite books to recommend is “Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success” by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. It helped me realize the importance of continuing to challenge our mind in the same way we challenge our bodies through new workouts. This is logic all runners can relate to. In fact, co-author Steve Magness was a top high school track athlete turned endurance performance

“It turns out that whether someone is trying to qualify for the Olympics, break ground in mathematical theory, or craft an artistic masterpiece, many of the principles underlying healthy, sustainable success are the same,” they write. Stulberg and Magness analyze how societal change has given us more challenges and barriers to exceptional performance – but also more detours and purported quick fixes that are usually too good to be true.


In the running industry, we know firsthand that doing the hard work with purpose and intention is the only effective training plan. I recommend giving “Peak Performance” a read – and working hard on saying yes! //

About the author: Jessica Murphy is co-founder of BibRave along with her husband Tim. Prior to dedicating her time exclusively to BibRave, Jessica most recently served as the Managing Director for Runner’s World. Jessica has run over 20 marathons, 3 ultra-marathons, and loves finding new running adventures to explore!


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