ME BACK RUNNING INDUSTRY!
IN THIS ISSUE
SPRING 2022 CONTENTS 8
A NOTE FROM THE CEO
BY THE NUMBERS
RACE DIRECTORS FORECAST 2022
MAKE THE MOST OF RUNNING USA 2022
MEET THE RACE DIRECTOR: TRISHA DROBECK
MEET THE RACE DIRECTOR: BRIAN STENZEL
MEET THE VENDOR: CRAIG OTTINGER
MEET THE RETAILER: JON HUGHES
THE FINAL STRETCH WITH PATRICK STIEGMAN
RUNNING USA DEIA SURVEY
COVER: Photo credit Ben Garvin
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CEO & Editor In Chief Dawna Stone Managing Editor Leah Etling Chief Operating Officer Christine Bowen Membership Development Director Nicole Sparrow Graphic Designer Sarah Page Contributors/Interviewees Anne Bitong, Christine Bowen, Ryan Conrad, Trisha Drobeck, Ryan Griessmeyer, Jon Hughes, Michelle Juehring, Tes Sobomehin Marshall, Dave McGillivray, Craig Ottinger, Trish Portuese, Brian Stenzel, Patrick Stiegman Cover
Photo Credit: Ben Garvin - 2021 Boston Marathon
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 | firstname.lastname@example.org Race Director Magazine is published quarterly by Running USA Copyright 2022 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.
A NOTE FROM THE CEO
elcome back--We've missed you!
For those joining us in Orlando, the unofficial theme for this year’s Running USA Industry Conference is “Welcome Back.” I am thrilled to welcome all our participants to the 2022 event! It’s been a tough two years for the industry and this reunion is even more special because of what we’ve all been through. To quote DMSE’s Dave McGillivray: “the comeback is always stronger than the setback.” I believe we’re all looking forward to putting that attitude into action this year. This past year has also been a homecoming for me. As I took on the role of Running USA’s new CEO in early 2021, I have truly felt welcomed back by my industry friends and peers. Thank you all for allowing me to jump into this incredible role and supporting me and the organization along the way. As I reflect on the past year, what stands out is how resilient we are as a group, how willing we are to help our fellow industry members and go above and beyond for our participants. There is nowhere I’d rather be during these unprecedented times than with the hard-working Running USA team, the talented Board of Directors and the passionate Running USA members. I attended my first Running USA conference in 2005 as not only a Running USA member but also as the founder of the Women’s Running Magazine Women’s Trailblazer award (now called the Women’s Leadership award). I looked forward to each conference and didn’t miss the event for nine years running. In 2013—just months after I sold Women’s Running Magazine and the Women’s Half Marathon Series—I was unexpectedly awarded the Women’s Trailblazer Award. I was humbled to join a long list of accomplished women in our industry. I have missed being part of this conference and can’t begin to explain how blessed I feel to be back. The team at Running USA has worked tirelessly to make this year’s conference the best one yet, with vibrant programming and new opportunities for attendees to expand their knowledge and networks. The conference edition of Race Director Magazine is an extension of conference and includes tips on how to best make use of your time here, insight from race directors, introductions to fellow attendees and much more. Whether you’re on a plane to Florida or reading at home -- welcome back. We look forward to setting a course for a great 2022.
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DAWNA STONE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
2021 RaceTrends in the Endurance Industry
Tens of millions of people participate in endurance events in the United States each year. What can we learn from them about how COVID-19 shifted expectations and disrupted traditional events?
COMPARED TO 2020
Event Participation Grew an Average of
of 2021 Registrations Came on Race Week In 2019, 24.2% of Registrations Were on Race Week
Registration by Distance 40%
COMPARED TO 2019
Event Participation Remained Down
Days Before Event
of 2021 Registrations Were For In-Person Events 4.5% 15.9% 79.6%
Join us at Running USA
at our Idea Lab at 2:00pm on 2/2/22! KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST TRENDS runsignup.com
of Race Website Traffic is From Mobile or Tablet Users
2022 Expectations We asked, you answered. Here is how the industry was feeling about the year ahead as of early January, 2022. While the latest COVID variant prompted overall sentiment about the year to move from optimistic towards neutral during our month-long response period, most expect participation will improve over 2021.
T R E N DI N G
NUMBERS How are you feeling about the 2022 event season?
What are your expectations for 2022 event participation? It will be DOWN
It will be UP
Are you still offering virtual events?
Yes but an an optional way to participate alongside a live event
What is your race day breakfast?
? Cereal 27%
Eggs & Protein 11%
What's breakfast? 43%
Have you personally completed a marathon?
What's in your race day backpack? • Snips and zip ties // 76% • All the caffeinated gus // 11% • Spare radio battery // 8% • Sleeping bag and safety pin // 5%
How long do you think you'll continue to work in the event industry? • Plan to retire in next 1-5 years // 20% • At least 5-10 years // 32% • As long as I can work // 48%
What's your favorite race distance to produce? • 5K // 32% • 10K // 16%
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An improvement over 2021, but still down from 2019 and other past years
• Half Marathon // 38% • Full Marathon // 14%
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WHAT DO YOU SEE IN YOUR CRYSTAL BALL WE ASKED CONFERENCE ATTENDEES:
FOR THE RUNNING INDUSTRY IN 2022? Here's what they said 12 | RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE
ANNE BITONG // AKRON MARATHON RACE SERIES As we look ahead to 2022, we are excited about celebrating the 20th running of our flagship marathon weekend in Akron. However, we can’t look forward without looking back. If we have learned anything from the past two years, it is to be receptive to change, be creative, and try new things. We have reflected on what is important to our organization, what has worked, and what hasn’t. At previous years’ conferences, races were told to find their “why,” which we honor and celebrate in our daily decisions. However, in 2022, it will be the year of “why not?” Change has been a common theme over these past two years. Because of this, we’re more intentional in pushing our organization to continue to change for good, to adapt to modernize our traditional race weekend, and to tweak our event as needed for inclusion. At this year’s conference, we will be asking other races what their biggest learning lessons were from the past two years, and how they plan to incorporate those lessons into future races. We’re excited to rally our community through a year-long celebration and honor the tradition of the marathon weekend in Akron through new, modern ways.
Photo: Hannah Jacobson, Unsplash
RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE | 13
MICHELLE JUEHRING // QUAD-CITY TIMES BIX 7 The challenges we faced the past two years were a springboard to amazing opportunities, the biggest being collaboration. 2021 was a huge success, thanks to the many heads (Mike Nishi of Chicago Event Management, Marcel Altenburg with Start Right, Running USA Zoom calls) and hands (volunteers, staff, health & city officials) that came together to develop & implement a safe return-to-racing plan. I am worried about the increased costs of labor, supplies & shipping tied with supply shortages. To meet normal deadlines, our lead times are much shorter. I’m fearful these tight deadlines might lead to less time in making educated decisions. I’m also worried about the mental, physical and emotional fatigue of my colleagues, who week after week, sometimes day after day, change our race plans, communicate those changes, all knowing it may change again before the ink is even dry. The finish line keeps moving and we all only have so much in us. I’m curious to see if the new wave of runners born during the pandemic will race virtually or transition to in-person competitions. I’m curious if joy, kindness and gratitude can overcome. I am looking forward to surrounding myself with the best in the industry and seeing people IN PERSON at the 2022 Running USA Conference!
I’m curious if joy, kindness and gratitude can overcome.
I want to hear how my colleagues are doing, not only professionally, but personally. I feel the pandemic has removed many of our competitive barriers and we want everyone to be successful – when one of us wins, we all win. Learning, laughing, and reconnecting in person – I’m excited to see how collectively we can continue to grow our industry to be the best it can be.
TRISH PORTUESE // CHAMPIONSHIP RACING, LLC I expect to see the running industry slowly coming back, due to participants not signing up. Registrations were down in 2021, I continue to expect that for 2022. Entry fees are going to go up which will continue to keep participation lower than pre-Covid. Costs to produce a race are going up, sponsors are not coming back, we’re all dealing with supply chain issues. Many charities lost their operations resources, so details on planning are not as crisp as they should be. I expect it will be several years before road racing takes off again and we are back to pre-Covid numbers.
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RYAN CONRAD // J&A RACING 2022 is a year of curiosity for me. As event managers, we have the ability to change and re-energize the participant experience moving forward. Runners are changing and events should be a reflection of the running community. How can we be more inclusive of everyone from the registration process to the event weekend experience? How do we balance what legacy runners have come to expect with the wants of first-time participants? We are in a powerful position within our industry to create positive change, but we need to foster relationships with each other beyond just our yearly conference. Relationships need to extend to the community (run clubs, run crew leaders, run specialty shops, and more). I think we can start to unlock what a 2022 participant is looking for versus a March 2020 participant.
TES SOBOMEHIN MARSHALL // RUNNINGNERDS, LLC The first half of the year I think we will continue to see races being very Covid-19 cautious and transparent to participants. I think it is important for us to give all levels of comfort an opportunity to participate in our events safely. We also need to continue to plan for lower numbers of participants and increase costs of supplies and services until the new normal is established. As we get into the summer months, best practices will be more established, and we will see the new wave of runners begin to mix in with those who have been there all along. I’m hopeful that we don't lose too many runners to this time we are going through. I hope to see the major events and large scale events continue to set the standard and smaller events can follow suit and reap the benefits of safe and well organized road race events.
RYAN GRIESSMEYER // RACE DAY EVENTS The Race Day Events crystal ball is still a bit murky but becoming clearer and clearer each day. We are excited to see participant numbers continuing to improve as well as customer events returning at a higher rate than expected. We are still a bit worried about events in certain areas that are still more restrictive related to Covid-19 as well as participant expectations and confidence in these same areas. We are curious as to how industry partners rebounded during these difficult times and expect to be discussing these thoughts at the Industry Conference in February. We are excited to see our fellow industry experts, trade stories and tips, and most of all continue to produce safe and fun events in 2022.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY // DMSE SPORTS One of my most favorite expressions since the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 has been, “the comeback is always stronger than the setback.” Selfishly, for those of us in the event management business, I am praying and believing this statement holds true for all of us.
The comeback is always stronger than the setback.
So, what has changed? Well, first, nothing is consistent. Everyone is doing it their own way based on what the local officials will or won’t allow. Some races can go back to the way it was with one mass start. Others need to be more socially distant in their approach. Some are requiring wearing a mask at least until runners cross the starting line and others are not. Some are requiring evidence of vaccination and other are not. Some are Covid testing while others are requiring a negative test before picking up your bib number. And of course, all of this is different for different parts of the country. What is happening in Massachusetts is different than what is happening in Florida which is different than what is happening in other parts of the country. Needless to say, it is all very confusing and there remains so much uncertainty. Race directors are faced with trying to keep everyone safe but at the same time trying to put on as “normal” a race as possible. It is a delicate balance between the two. For the past 2-years, a popular saying has been “the only thing that is certain is that everything is uncertain.” At some point soon this must stop for all of us to plan properly. We can’t keep planning with a moving target. For the time being though, we can only plan on what is truly a given now and need to remain as positive, flexible, and nimble as possible and not give up. No one can predict the future and everyone has their own opinion as to where this might all be heading. All of it is individual speculation. The best we can do is to plan for the here and now and hope for the best in the immediate future as we all patiently continue to navigate our way carefully and safely through this pandemic.
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MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR
EXPERIENCE SIX TIPS FOR SURE SUCCESS By Christine Bowen
he Running USA team is so excited to welcome all to our 2022 Industry Conference in Orlando! It has been more than two years since we last gathered in Las Vegas, and we are thrilled to be back in-person for great education, networking, captivating speakers and insight that will move your business forward in the year to come. Throw in great morning runs and interesting conversation over cocktails, and we’ve got ourselves a winner! 2022 marks my twelfth edition as the lead planner and production manager of the event, and it has truly been an honor to host so many of you in cities around the continental U.S. and beyond. We’ll never forget our 2019 conference
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in Puerto Rico, or any of the other amazing locations we’ve visited together. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but we had such positive feedback on our 2017 event at the Coronado Springs that we are thrilled to be gathering here again. And I’m also excited to share with you that in February 2023 we’ll be meeting in Denver, a location decision that reflects the desires of our attendees for an easy to access urban destination. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s focus on the event in front of us. It’s been more than 24 months since we’ve done this, so here are a few rust buster tips to make your time at this year’s conference a success.
For best results, step outside your comfort zone.
This year more than ever, we know it’s tough to unleash your inner introvert. But the good news is, everyone is feeling equally socially awkward! The most important way to make the most of your time here is to be open to introducing yourself to those you don’t know and anyone you’d like to meet. Need a digital assist? Use the conference app to reach out and set up a meeting.
We’re often asked what sessions make the most sense for certain job titles to attend. The quick answer is – all of the sessions on the schedule will have relevance for any role in the industry. This year we have worked especially hard to broaden the appeal of the general sessions. Come with a plan of which sessions you want to attend. During the breakout programming, you’re sure to find multiple options that will spark your interest. If it is your first time attending, you want to make sure to add the First Timers session to your Sunday schedule. I promise you will get out what you put in, so speak up and ask questions.
Use the attendee list to your advantage. You can find the attendee list in the conference app or on RunningUSA.org. Think of it as your yearbook for the event. Who would you most like to meet? Are there shared challenges that you could talk over with fellow events of similar size? One of our industry’s best and most unique qualities is the willingness of professionals to share openly. Make the most of having so many industry leaders in one space.
About the Author: Christine Bowen is the Chief Operating Officer of Running USA.
Take advantage of the designated breaks. They’re not just for checking email. Based on attendee feedback from past events, we know that our set break times are crucial for you to be able to schedule short meetings, check out the expo, or get to know that person you bumped into at happy hour a little bit better.
Don’t forget to sleep and pace yourself. Take it from me, the most valuable tip on this list might be the most obvious. Be sure to get some shut eye every night. Eat well, hydrate and make sure to get outside for fresh air each day. Especially this year, it will be easy to become overwhelmed in the catch ups, conversations and collaborations that are sure to transpire this week. We hope you have a wonderful time, and thank you for being a part of the magic of the 2022 Industry Conference!
All of our programming is designed to be relevant to everyone.
Use social media We encourage you to tweet and post about the conference while you’re there. Tag people you’ve met, or hope to meet, and make complimentary comments about their session, panels and the conference itself. Always use the conference #hashtag, #runningusa22.
RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE | 19
To continue honoring Tony’s legacy and welcome a new face to this year’s conference, one of our two featured race directors this issue is Trisha Drobeck, who will follow in Tony’s giant footsteps. An elite runner who has won the Missoula Marathon four times and holds the current course record, Trisha also raced in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016 (in a profile on the RWM site, she recalls hearing Tony cheering for her at the 2016 event.) New to the production side of the industry, Trisha knows she has her work cut out for her as she takes over the wild but welcoming Missoula race. We look forward to seeing her on the “roads, tracks and trails,” as Tony would say, as well as in the halls and meeting rooms of this year’s conference! Get to know Trisha:
RACE DIRECTOR TRISHA DROBECK In 2020, the running world and Running USA lost an exceptional race director, Tony Banovich of Montana. Unbeknownst to most, Tony had a serious heart condition, viral cardiomyopathy, and was told by doctors the week before his passing that he needed a heart transplant. Despite the pandemic, the running industry came together virtually last year to honor Tony with a run that raised funds for Run Wild Missoula, the non-profit that produces the Missoula Marathon. Tony had served as their Executive Director and Race Director since 2014. 22 | RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE
Job title: Executive Director, Race Director for Run Wild Missoula (RWM) and the Missoula Marathon Years in the industry: This is my first. What got you into the running industry? I've been an active volunteer, marathon committee member and participant at RWM for more than a decade. I've also raced or paced in the Missoula Marathon weekend since the inaugural race in 2007 (and marathon record holder since 2015 :)). When this position flew, I decided to make a huge career change and jump in. Why do you love your job? I have no problem talking about all things running all day long. What’s your favorite part of event production? At the risk of sounding cheesy, I really love being at the finish line and witnessing ath-
From left: Missoula Team, Trisha running with her kids, Trisha cheering at the finish line.
letes accomplish their goals. I'm forever a champion of the participant. I know both ends (athlete and cheerleader) pretty well and can appreciate how much some encouragement can enhance a race experience. My husband was an IRONMAN Triathlete and after he'd compete, eat dinner and go to bed, I'd stay up and cheer in all the late night finishers. And conversely, what you dread the most about “day of” the event? Technology glitches .. but luckily the team here is amazing at quick troubleshooting. Your go-to fuel up snack or meal on race day? A gallon of coffee and donuts. The 3 most essential items in your backpack or event kit? Duct tape, iPhone, zip ties. If you weren’t doing this work, what would you be doing instead? I came from a sales and sales supervisor job for 15 years, so I'd probably still be doing that. What is top of mind for you heading into your first year of leading the charge to produce the Missoula Marathon in June 2022?
After two years, I really hope this Marathon weekend feels like a homecoming for our participants. I want to make it worth the wait. I know we have a top notch reputation and our runners come with high expectations, so it's my priority to execute a race that has the same feel as year's past. Also, as someone who's run 30+ marathons, I hope to bring a lot of those experiences with me to at the very least know what not to do! How does the race plan to honor the memory of Tony Banovich? We have renamed our event weekend 5K the Tony Banovich Missoula 5K to honor Tony’s legacy. We are also in talks with the city to have some kind of memorial in Caras Park where the expo is held (below the finish line Beartracks bridge). Tony’s family is helping us decide what it will be as well. Our Run Wild Missoula Club also held a memorial run in December. We ran 4.35 miles, which was Tony’s daily average. What’s the next race you hope to run yourself? My training has really gone on the back burners with this job, but maybe next fall I'll get the itch to go 26.2 again. //
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Years in the industry: 14 What got you into the running industry? Being a runner and being involved with event planning for most of my career, it only made sense to get involved in the planning and execution of running events. Why do you love your job? When you put together run/walk events, it is rewarding to see all the hard work come together and to see people cross that finish line with a sense of accomplishment, whether it be a long-term goal of theirs or just a goal of enjoying the day.
RACE DIRECTOR BRIAN STENZEL Think producing one race is challenging? Try putting on ten Turkey Trots that take place all at the same time. That’s an annual challenge for the Festival Foods Turkey Trot team in Wisconsin, which hosts races in multiple communities. Let’s meet Brian Stenzel, Executive Race Director for the events, which had over 28,000 participants statewide in 2021.
Any insight into what makes Turkey Trots one of America's favorite types of running event? We have three goals for our events and I think these resonate with the general public as a whole. Our goals are to create healthy lifestyles, become a family tradition and to raise money for our charities (Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs in each community).
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What’s your favorite part of event production? The teamwork. It takes a multitude of people with various skillsets to execute events. When everyone comes to the table and fully leans in for a common goal, that is a great feeling. And conversely, what you dread the most about “day of” the event? Early mornings. Your go-to fuel up snack or meal on race day? Pretty much whatever is available. Pizza is kind of a race event staple and that seems to do the trick. The 3 most essential items in your event kit? Zip ties, safety vest, snips If you weren’t doing this work, what would you be doing instead? Concert promoter. What was your top takeaway from the Festival Foods Turkey Trot in 2021? With 10 Turkey Trots happening simultaneously, having a year off was logistically challenging but we relied heavily on our organizational tools rather than our memories to put on a very successful event. What’s the next race you hope to run yourself? The Chicago Triathlon. //
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USA and a few other countries. Most importantly, it has expanded my knowledge, experience, health and quality of life,” he shares. In 2021, Craig crossed the finish line of his first full marathon, the 50th edition TCS New York City Marathon. It was a goal he had worked towards since 2019 and one he is still relishing. And he credits his industry colleagues with making it possible. “To me this is a community of people who work together as a whole to create opportunities for people to create experiences and memories that last beyond their lifetime,” he shared. “It is beautiful and always inspiring to me. For fun, I travel to run with people or work with people (sometimes both) from my community. I love that.” In 2022, he hopes to attempt the four-part Michelob Ultra Challenge at the Gasparilla Distance Classic, as well as run another marathon in the spring.
VENDOR CRAIG OTTINGER If you’ve joined us at the Industry Conference over the past 15 years, there’s a very good chance you’ve met Craig Ottinger, Director of Operations for longtime Running USA vendor member Hightech Signs. If you haven’t, walk on up and introduce yourself this year. You’ll be sure to get a warm welcome and make a new industry contact and friend. Craig lives and breathes running, both personally and professionally, and he credits the sport with bettering his health and life. “Running has allowed me friendships with some of the best people I have come across in this world. It has allowed me to travel and see most of the
Craig has some great advice for our first-timers to conference and many industry friends to thank, so read on to learn more: How long have you been in the industry? I started working in the running community in 1995 with Marathon Printing and after almost 18 years there I made the switch over to Hightech Signs. I love working with the running community and this transition allowed me to stay in an operations position and continue working with a community that is like a family to me. How did 2021 go for you? This year has been incredible. In June of 2019 I set a personal goal to run my first marathon. A friend connected me to Brendan Cournane, my current running coach. He is well versed in helping people with foot and leg problems like me get to the finish line. We had 3 failed attempts and on the fourth try I finished the 2021 TCS NYC
Marathon. I had 4 goals this year, eat right, get enough sleep, help others be successful at work, and run a marathon. 3 out of 4 isn’t bad. I will sleep someday. How did 2021 go for Hightech Signs? We are still here and we are thriving. Hightech Signs has had a year of opportunity and challenges. We were able to use our equipment to help manufacture face masks and other PPE when it was really needed and with that, we were able to donate one mask for every mask purchased to local non-profit organizations. When the demand for PPE became less important due to available supplies, the event community slowly started back up and our production schedule exploded. What is your perspective on the running industry coming out of a nearly two-year pandemic period? I think the running community is very resilient. I am very inspired by how people across the running and all other walks of life make it work for the last two years. I saw operations people create and manage mass vaccination clinics in baseball fields. I saw people fight for equity and help organize large educational rallies and so much more. We are living through a moment in history that will be remembered for a long time to come. I have seen people learn what they are capable of doing. I think so many of us in the running community have tested our own mettle and I have seen more success stories than failures. What’s one professional goal you have for 2022? My professional goal for 2022 is simple. I want to make life better for the people who work at Hightech Signs and I want to make work easier for people who order from Hightech Signs and we have already started on this goal. We are currently working towards products that help races during their event and also focusing on how we can be a great partner . We have made a few equipment acquisitions that allow some of our production to run smoother and RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE | 25
faster with almost zero errors. Hightech Signs has also invested in training programs for key associates which allow them to give the same high-quality product while working smarter and more efficiently.
hydrate, and do the morning runs even if you walk them. You won’t be alone.
What is your favorite part of attending the Running USA Industry Conference? My favorite part of the Running USA Conference is the ability to have some quality time with friends and customers. Over the years, so many people in running have welcomed me into their lives and I get the opportunity to work with them as well. Running USA allows a space to reconnect if we haven’t seen each other in a while. It allows everyone space to celebrate, network, learn, create new friendships, and share knowledge so we can all be great together.
Anything else you’d like to add? The only other thing I want to include is a big ol’ Texas THANK YOU to everyone I have worked with over the last 26 years. When I started at Marathon Printing there were a few people that I worked with regularly and most of them are like family to me know, Judy Ikenberry, Anne and John Gault, Darcy Locke, Mike Burns and David Simms, Mike Nishi, Susan Harmeling, Jake and Claudia La Sala, Marty Schaivone, Joe O’Brien, Jan Callanan, Martine, Jack Staph, Scott Keenan, George Ridgely and Chris Tatreau. These people and so many more helped educate me on all the different aspects of running and brought me into the fold with open arms.
What’s your best advice for conference newcomers? Take notes as fast as you can, you will want to read them again when you get home. Say hello to that one person you have always wanted to meet. Ask questions, no matter how big or small. You probably won’t be able to do it all, so plan your schedule ahead of time as best you can and be ready to adjust. Eat healthy, get your sleep,
I would also like to thank Don Zirk, CEO of Marathon Printing, Inc for giving me my first job in the running community and Doug Abramowski, President of Hightech Signs for allowing me to do what I do and understanding how important the running community is to me. Also, thank you, Doug, for creating the opportunities for me to run my first 5K, 10K, half-marathon in 2017 and my first marathon in 2021. //
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“When we produced the (Disney) event for the first time in 1994 it not only changed our company forever, but it also changed the landscape of road racing. The Disney Marathon was the first major entertainment marathon. The excitement, anticipation, and the adrenaline rush that first weekend in January is indescribable,” noted Hughes. Here are his insights on the past two tumultuous years for the industry, and a few great tips about how to best enjoy your conference experience – from someone who has attended 16 of 18 events!
RETAILER J O N & B E T SY H U G H E S We couldn’t hold the 2022 Industry Conference in Orlando without taking the time to catch up with one of Running USA’s founding couples: retailers and event producers Jon and Betsy Hughes. Co-owners of Track Shack – a retail store and gathering place for Orlando runners – and Track Shack Events, an event production operation, the Hughes’ have been long celebrated in the industry for their leadership, willingness to share best practices and innovative business approach. As they wind down careers that began in 1977, we were able to catch up with Jon Hughes just after the 2022 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events, which took place in mid-January.
What is your perspective on the running industry coming out of a nearly twoyear pandemic period? I'm optimistic about our store and events. We, like others in our industry, saw a lot of new and returning runners/walkers to the sport. Now it's up to all of us to keep those customers active and engaged. Even if we all keep a percentage of those in the fold, it's a big bump for the industry. Any specific observations about running retailers and how you have been impacted for better or worse by the last two years? Running retailers had to pivot as much as event organizers over the last two years. For example, for the first time in 40+ years, we created an online presence. We offered curbside and delivery options and we also did virtual fittings. In the last year, we've had to deal with staffing challenges and supply chain issues, but we've been creative in both areas and have maintained or increased sales. What’s one professional goal you have for 2022? Maintain or increase our current staff at the store/event company and elevate people into leadership positions. Increase retail
sales and increase participation in our events, ultimately to improve the health of our entire community. What’s one event you’re looking forward to in 2022 and why? I always look forward to our Lady Track Shack 5k. This event holds a special place for us. We created this event in 1978 and it's so special to women, known and unknown to us, who have breast cancer or have been affected by the disease. Betsy and I are also looking forward to our son's wedding. How many Running USA Industry Conferences have you attended? As a co-founder of Running USA, I think I've only missed two conferences. What is your favorite part of attending the Running USA Industry Conference? I look forward to seeing friends from near and far! The experience of collaborating with industry colleagues and peers, sharing best practices is invaluable.
What’s your best advice for conference newcomers? Don't be shy, ask questions at the seminars; don't feel like any of the members, particularly representatives from major events like the Boston or Disney marathons, are unapproachable. It's a welcoming environment; everyone is willing to share. As an Orlando resident, what should visitors know? There's a lot more to see and do beyond the theme parks. We have some beautiful places to run – on road and trails. Central Florida has some unique places to visit! Look for me at the conference and I'll share some of my favorites. Anything else you’d like to add? While the Lady Track Shack 5k is special on the local level, the other most important running event in my career and that I look forward to will always be the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I hope that in 2022 we can all stay healthy and turn the corner away from the pandemic. //
RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE | 29
A World Class Editor
& Mid-Pack Marathoner
Asks Race Directors to Consider
12 THINGS By Patrick Stiegman
Let’s talk toilet paper.
But there was … an issue.
It’s a balmy October morning, I’ve disembarked from the bus in Hopkinton and am excitedly approaching the start line of the 2021 Boston Marathon, my fifth Boston but first in-person marathon since the pandemic gripped the globe and — in various degrees — disrupted the running industry, creating chaos for race directors now facing a moving target just to keep us all moving.
A few hundred yards from the start line was a massive U-shaped phalanx of Porta-potties, and despite hundreds of my fellow mid-packers seeking last-minute pit stops, the queues were relatively short. But I immediately noticed runners ahead of me rapidly opening and closing Porta-let doors, scurrying and stalking the now suddenly elusive toilet paper, stall-bystall, square-by-square. It was like “Let’s Make a Deal” with runners betting who could pick the door with the prized TP.
There is no better organized or more resilient race than Boston, and the 2021 version came with new-normal protocols and enormous logistical challenges: vaccination confirmation, testing and masking requirements, social distancing, etc., and, in a fortuitous turn (focus group of one) a rolling start to the 125th edition of the world’s oldest marathon, all expertly implemented by the B.A.A., Dave McGillivray, and a world-class operations team and platoons of volunteers. 30 | RACE DIRECTOR MAGAZINE
Witnessing the desperation and panicking at the implications of 26.2 miles without, well, having properly taken care of business, one runner (I can neither confirm nor deny it was me) pulled a pair of discarded Strawberry Shortcake leggings out of a nearby donation bin, you know, just as a failsafe. Let’s be clear, here: McGillivray orchestrates a
minor miracle each year in Boston (as do fellow World Major Marathon race directors, and thousands of their event management colleagues), and implemented extensive and vital operational procedures on a long-ass day that goes unnoticed by most runners, without which the safety, security and success of all taking the course could not be ensured. Those big picture elements were flawless, and race directors can’t be in three places at once — what other industry relies so heavily upon volunteers, including critical medical volunteers, and with such a stellar batting average? Rational me knew this. Irrational me just really needed to find a stall with toilet paper. I blame a phenomenon I call Runner’s Brain. Macro shifts to micro, vision narrows, things that should NEVER be taken for granted … well, are taken for granted. I wasn’t proud, but the anxiety of what lay before me, especially battling a recently torn knee meniscus, had me red-lining. Good news? A fellow runner’s Paul Revere-like pronouncement -- “This one has paper!” — signaled success, and crisis averted, I proudly started and finished the Boston Marathon (and did the same in the 50th TCS New York City Marathon just three-plus weeks later). And as we all return to real racing (with a dash of virtual challenges added for flavor), here is some respectfully offered food for thought to race directors, fully cognizant most are superficial asks and inherently less important than the logistics of safety, security, spacing, pricing, runner hesitancy, field size, supply chain issues, etc. -- especially as the pandemic maddeningly endures. But since I love races, here are a dozen things that knock about a mid-packer’s running brain.
Speaking of Porta-potties (sense a theme here?) don’t allow runners to create their own queues. We are like sheep before the race, and will simply follow the person in front of us in line — even if that leads to a S-shaped row of runners stretched across the parking lot all pointed to a single stall. If you can, set up the stalls in logical blocks, or have a volunteer establish properly spaced lines, saving the panic when you are 23rd in the queue just 90 seconds before the gun fires.
If you have a race Web site (and you SHOULD have a race Web site), put the race date, time and location front and center on the homepage. I’ve run marathons quicker than the hours lost on some sites searching out start times.
Oh, and speaking of the Web site: the next most prominent link (other than REGISTER) should be a course map, preferably with elevation chart. Let me know what I’m getting into, especially for first-timers at your race.
Race T-shirts? Optional, but always nice — and if possible, offer a technical shirt option, even if at extra cost. Great promo for your race, signage opportunity for sponsors, and I’m more likely to sport it on a future run if it’s wicking.
As for race bibs, don’t put too many tabs at the bottom (you know, post-race food, swag pickup, etc.). It makes the bib too bulky, and honestly, I’m usually too exhausted to expertly manipulate the tab tearing-off process after the race.
Fully endorsing the aforementioned 2021 rolling start in Boston, I recognize most races will have corrals and waves, especially with the need to distribute runners under pandemic protocols. That said, allow an entry point on both sides of each corral (ideally with volunteers validating numbers), helping minimize late-arriving runners inevitably leaping the barriers (and bruising my toes).
On-course logistics vary by size of race, number of runners, volunteers, community guidelines, permits and, of course, budget. But don’t skimp on water stations for shorter distances. Even one water stop in a 5K can make a difference.
Speaking of water stations, if you have a mix of both water and Gatorade (or other sport drinks), wonderful! But please put them in consistent order from station to station, ideally in different colored cups. Again, Runner’s Brain...
That’s the list (opinions may vary). And while the job of a race director may seem thankless at times, I assure you most runners are TRULY appreciative of your efforts — that’s why so many of us register for races, rather than just log endless training miles. The communal environment you foster, the shared experiences, accomplishments and conviviality of in-person races were undeniably missed over much of the past 2 years -- and we’re grateful to be back. Oh, and did I mention the toilet paper? //
Similarly, if you have mile markers, wonderful! But please ensure accuracy -- I know watch GPS data can vary, but having markers for miles 8 and 9 just a half-mile apart is disorienting. Better still: install clocks at alternating mile markers.
A few post-race asks: If you are going to offer beer, issue wristbands at packet-pickup, so I don’t need to carry ID during the race. If you have post-race food, keep it simple -- bagels and bananas are sufficient (hard pass on chili, chowder, tofu-burgers, etc.) And the No. 1 point of emphasis post-race: water takes precedence in the finish chute. All other amenities can wait.
The Internet has revolutionized post-race result access, yet I still run a number of races with printed times tacked to a tree with sweat-stained runners jockeying for position to spy results. But whatever the method, faster the better, and if you can send alerts or post online, that’s preferred.
Medals: yes, yes, yes, all races, all distances. I’ve earned hundreds of race medals, all shapes and sizes, and they are both motivational and meaningful symbols of achievement and goals reached, even exceeded. It's more than a medal, but the story behind it. And if you offer virtual race options, please ship the medal in advance so I can wear it proudly after crossing that virtual finish line.
About the author: Patrick Stiegman is Vice President / Editorial Director for Global Digital Content at ESPN, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Hartford Marathon Foundation. Since embracing the sport in 2012, he has run 32 marathons, 160+ half marathons, completed 10 IRONMAN 70.3s and, in 2021, his first full IRONMAN 140.6. None fast, all challenging —and all satisfying.
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WE'RE LISTENING Running USA LGBTQ+ Inclusion Survey Now underway for industry event producers Running USA has launched the first phase of its DEI initiative. The LGBTQ+ Inclusion Self Evaluation and Survey has been developed in partnership with the Equality Institute and was made possible by a grant from Brooks Running.
Does the race registration process collect LGBTQ+ status (anonymously)?
Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete the survey by clicking anywhere on this page.
Does the registration process offer any gender options beyond male/female?
It is our hope that the self-evaluation can help you understand a bit more about how to enhance LGBTQ+ inclusion at your event and at the same time, help Running USA develop a framework and best practices for the running industry. All survey responses are anonymous. The deadline to submit survey responses is Friday, March 4.
Does the registration process allow for non-binary registration? Yes No
Does the registration process display t-shirt categories without using gendered terms? Yes No
Do your event(s) have published transgender and non-binary inclusion race policies? Yes No
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