Archive for the 'Did You Know' Category

Who was Dick Lytie?

This weekend marks the 31st running of the Dick Lytie Spring Classic.  I’m often asked by new distance runners here in Green Bay, “Who was Dick Lytie?

Dick Lytie was one of the fathers of the running movement here in Green Bay.  He helped design the Bellin Run course and start the first social running club in the area.  He also owned the first true running store in Green Bay in the early 1980’s called the Joggers Joynt.  Dick organized lots of running events in Green Bay during the first running boom of the late 1970’s.  Amongst them was the Joggers Joynt Spring Classic, a half marathon that took place each March in northeast Green Bay.  The event and its hilly course were designed to be a final tune-up for dedicated distance runners preparing for the Boston Marathon.

Lytie claimed a continuous streak of ten years of running at least a mile every day.  In 1996, while running with the club at their weekly gathering at the Ashwaubenon High School track, Lytie fell over dead of a heart attack.  Local runners commented that it was “a tragic yet appropriate ending to a great running career.”

Deb Ernst, owner of local multi-sport store In Competition in Green Bay, had committed to Dick that she would carry on the tradition of producing the Spring Classic each year should he ever be unable to do so.  That is why Deb, her husband Mark and the staff of In Competition now organize the race each March at UWGB.  The course and the entry fees have changed only slightly.  If some elements of the event seem “old school” (low entry fee, open course, no fancy start line or finish line structure, approximated course distance, limited number of water stations and absolutely no musical entertainment on the course unless you bring your own IPOD), well, the Ernst’s will tell that it is very much by design.  Not everything needs to be updated to the latest societal trends.  Certain traditions are meant to be kept.  The Dick Lytie Spring Classic is one of them.

Sean Ryan
Race Director, Cellcom Green Bay Marathon


The Inverted Pyramid

I’m often asked, “How many people does it take to put on a marathon?”  My answer, invariably, is, “I’m not certain but we do print 2,000 volunteer t-shirts each year and we go through most of them.”

The reality is that it takes an army to put on a large-scale endurance event like a marathon or a triathlon.  What’s not so readily apparent is the staffing structure needed to pull it off.  I like to operate from an “inverted pyramid” or “servant leadership” model.  I describe it this way.  As the race director, I am here to lead and serve my staff of 3 people. That’s right, the marathon only employs four people, including myself, and the other three are seasonal!

The staff’s role is to perform functional duties (registration, marketing, expo planning, course planning, permitting, etc.) but also to serve the Operations Team.  The Operations Team is a group of roughly 50 individuals in various functional capacities during race weekend.  Some of them oversee the food tent, the gear check tent, the finish area set up, the merchandise planning, the t-shirt handout, etc.  This group is the backbone of the event from a leadership standpoint.  They are designated by their distinctive blue, white and black jackets with the marathon logo embroidered on them and the phrase “OPERATIONS TEAM” on the back.  These people are the liutenants that lead, inspire and serve our army of volunteers.

And then of course, there are the volunteers.  It’s nearly impossible to know how many people it does take each year but it’s well over 1,500.  They perform a variety of tasks for absolutely no pay.  Often, they work a 3-4 hour shift or more in return for nothing more than a t-shirt, a thank you and the positive feeling that they helped with a valuable community event.  Many of these volunteers are involved on behalf of one of our charity partners while others simply help year in and year out because they like the event and the Operations Team.  In the end, it is most often the volunteers with whom the participants interact.  So they are indeed there to serve the runners.

I always stress to the staff, the Operations Team and the volunteers the impacts they have on the community — the fitness impact, the tourism impact and the positive financial impact to our charities that their involvement creates.  Without all of these folks, events like the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon wouldn’t exist.  Be sure to thank them on race weekend!

Sean Ryan, Race Director of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon

Winter Olympic Runners?

The Winter Olympic Games is all about snow and ice sports, right?  Well, don’t answer too quickly.  All true athletes, no matter the discipline, are RUNNERS!  Runner’s World magazine has an excellent article on Apolo Ohno and his success on the ice after hitting the pavement. The U.S. speed skater tells how running helped him go from being nicknamed “Chunky” at the Olympic Training Center to winning two Olympic gold medals. Click here to read the article on the Runner’s World website.

Did You Know: USATF Certified Course

The Cellcom Green Bay Marathon is a USA Track & Field (USATF) certified course. This means that a runner’s time can be used to qualify for certain events (like the Boston Marathon). Certification must be performed by a USATF licensed course certifier and is typically done using a bicycle with two calibrated cycle computers on it. Certification guarantees that the marathon is exactly 26 miles, 385 yards long measured on an optimum line. The optimum line implies a direct line down the middle of the road on a straightaway or a direct tangent within six inches of each corner curb between two consecutive turns.

In reality, few runners – other than perhaps the elite athletes – are able to run along the optimum line during an entire marathon due to the presence of large crowds of fellow runners on the course. So guess what? When you finish the marathon or half-marathon on May 16, chances are that you will end up running more than 26.2 or 13.1 miles. (Your GPS unit may even tell you that you ran an extra mile.)

How Marathons Came To Be

So why is it called a Marathon?  In 490 B.C., a messenger in ancient Greece ran 24 miles from Marathon to Athens to tell the Athenians not to surrender to the Persian fleet.  Legend has it that at the end of the journey he dropped dead of exhaustion.  (Ed. – probably did not train properly, or at all, for the run.)  A 24-mile race was created in his honor.  History is not sure if the runner was Pheidippides or Eukles.

The length of a marathon was not fixed at first, since the only important factor was that all athletes competed on the same course. The marathon races in the first few Olympic Games were not of a set length, but were approximately 40 kilometers (25 mi) roughly the distance from Marathon to Athens by the longer, flatter route. The exact length of the Olympic marathon varied depending on the route established for each venue.

The standard distance for the marathon race was set by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in May 1921 at a distance of 42.195 kilometres (26 miles 385 yards).

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