On any given Saturday in early Spring, you can find several hundred people running together at the weekly Prevea Training Runs in Green Bay. In late Spring, as things thaw out and the treadmill runners come out of hibernation from the local gyms (sorry, couldn’t resist the jab), we sometimes see attendance in the 400+ range.
Obviously, we’re doing something right. So how did this happen?
The success of the Prevea Training Runs didn’t occur overnight and it’s not the product of any single person’s efforts. Its due to the joint partnership of several organizations and one main ingredient – DEPENDABILITY.
When I started with the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in 2004, a large turnout at a Saturday training run was 40-50 people. We had no printed route maps or instructions to guide the participants. Our water station plan was one volunteer in a Buick with some milk jugs filled with water. If you were really fast or really slow, you probably went thirsty. There was no music or microphone at the start or finish. We had Gatorade at the finish on some weekends but not always.
Over the years, we innovated by adding online maps with accurate routes each week, route reels (route instructions in weatherproof badge holders on retractable reels), email newsletters, monthly Pints & Pointers lectures at Titletown Brewing Company in the evenings, water and Gatorade at every fluid station, coffee at the finish in the winter, free injury consultation courtesy of Prevea Sports Medicine, upbeat music at the start and finish, and staffed water stations every 2-3 miles.
This innovation wouldn’t have come without the hard work of several groups. Beginning in 2005, the marathon’s local charity partners–who benefit financially from the May event–were each assigned responsibility for staffing the water stations with volunteers a certain number of weekends. Prevea added Pints & Pointers in 2006, printed training guides in 2008, licensed athletic trainers at the start and finish in 2009, a weekly email newsletter in 2011 and a low-cost, customizable online training system (RunCoach) this year. The Green Bay Running Club joined the partnership in 2010 by recruiting two members each Saturday to deliver fluids, tables and materials to the water stations in exchange for free registration. Finally, the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon staff (primarily Course Director John Mory and I) have handled the logistical planning of all of the above since 2004, making sure we have consistent, dependable execution of these runs.
The end product of all of these efforts is the opportunity for local runners to gather with kindred spirits each Saturday morning for 18 weeks to prepare for ‘the Cellcom,’ train for another event or just get some outdoor exercise. I’ve had many runners tell me that they look forward to these runs every year. Some say it helps put a bad work week behind them while others say it’s just a great way to start their weekend.
Runners have a variety of motives for attending the Prevea Training Runs rather than simply running at home by themselves. Some are motivated by the social aspects. Despite all the allusions to “the loneliness of the long-distance runner,” I think most runners prefer to complete their 18- or 20-mile training runs with 300+ other people to chat with and inspire them. Some are motivated by a reduced workload since these runs eliminate their need to design a course, stash fluids on it or figure out how far it is between gas stations. If those reasons aren’t enough, it’s also worth noting that the cost of participation is just a couple gallons of gas to drive to the runs each Saturday. The training runs have always been FREE OF CHARGE thanks to the folks at Prevea and the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon!