Our words here have been scarce over the last two months. I don’t have a credible excuse, but I can at least share with you what we’ve been busy with. As many of you know, there are two big seasons in the marathon world: Fall and Spring. Our event, along with London, Boston, Big Sur, and others falls into the Spring category. That means that Fall is prime time for us to be out at other marathons speaking to runners, sponsors, charities, and elite athletes. So we take our show on the road and set up a booth at all kinds of events. Over a 9-week period between October and December, I was at seven different events: Chicago Marathon, Long Beach Marathon, Rock n Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon, Hirshberg Foundation LA Cancer Challenge 5K, New York City Marathon, Gobble Wobble Turkey Trot, and Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon.
It was an exhausting stretch, but productive on so many fronts. We ran some of these events, had an Expo booth at others, or did both in some cases. Most of us in the office run other events year round as a way to keep in touch with our customer’s point of view. If we don’t understand that, then how can we expect to put on a great event?
Stacy Embretson, our resident ultramarathoner, even went up to Marin County to run her first 50-miler. Impressive! Furthermore, while I manned the Expo booth at the Chicago Marathon, she was up at 1:30 am on race day to work with their starting line crew. How better to learn one’s craft than to spend time with folks like Chicago Race Director Cary Pinkowski who really have logistics figured out?
In November Director of Partnerships Dave Klewan and I both ran the New York City Marathon. It was an unforgettable experience, and our first time participating in that event. What struck us both was the international nature of the race. You see the 25,000 foreign runners walking around New York for days before the race. It’s extraordinary. The non-running New Yorker might not notice all the track-suited runners from Russia, Thailand, France, Italy, Holland, Mexico, Chile and other countries (111 of them!) walking around the city, but as a runner you are aware of them. I felt like a Wizard in Harry Potter who could see the other Wizards that were invisible to the Muggles. This event made me understand that, as runners, we’re part of a global tribe with shared interests and passions. How great is that?
I also spent a lot of time working our Expo booth. This duty goes beyond recruiting runners for the Honda LA Marathon. While that is one of the goals, I also see our Expo presence as a chance to hold open office hours right out in public. And you never know who’s going to swing by and say hi. I had interesting and meaningful conversation with an amazing number of people. Some highlights of the Expo trips include:
• Marathon legend Frank Shorter stopped by to say hi at one event. I loved hearing his stories of racing in Europe against our own Rod Dixon and Steve Prefontaine.
• At the Long Beach Marathon Expo I met a nine year old boy who first ran our race when he was six. Yes, I said six years old! (His time that year was 9 hours)
• In Las Vegas I spent time with K-Swiss athlete Josh Cox, who went on to win the race, and Meb Keflezighi, who signed his inspiring book for me. Both of these guys are gracious, smart, and interesting people who are marvelous representatives of the sport.
• Our own two-time champion Wesley Korir graciously signed autographs in our booth at Chicago, then went out the next day and ran to a gutsy 4th place against a stacked field in oppressive heat.
• I watched the Chicago race from the side of the road, having never spectated at a marathon before. I always wondered what a 4:50 pace feels like, so on an empty stretch of road at Mile 15, I got out and ran alongside Wesley and eventual winner Sammy Wanjiru. Let’s just say that 50 yards was about as far as I got with them!
The learnings from our Fall Field Trips are many, and we hope to use these to improve the quality of the Honda LA Marathon for all of you.