Archive for the 'Race Director update' Category

From the Race Director’s Desk: Change, Change, Change

There is only one constant in life: CHANGE.

After my first few years as the race director of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, I wrote a goal on a piece of paper.  The goal was four simple words — “Establish a consistent course.”  I threw that piece of paper away a long time ago.  With a 26.2 mile marathon course, a 13.1 mile half marathon course, and a 3.1 mile 5K course, there are 42.4 miles that the staff and I are responsible for planning around.  The odds of finding 42.4 miles of urban pavement where there is no road construction, no road realignment, no temporary closures, is a pipe dream.  Each year we face new challenges and 2014 is no exception.

At the outset of the year, we learned that the Miller Lite Gate at Lambeau Field, the main entrance and exit to the Atrium, would be closed during marathon weekend due to construction.  Shortly after that, we learned that we would need to move the finish line from our traditional location along Oneida Street to the west side of the stadium due to  due to a mandatory event for rookie Packers players.  Not even a week later, we found out that Oneida Street on the east side of the facility would be shut down in May for reconstruction, totally eliminating our ability to even enter the premises on foot or by car from Oneida Street on race weekend.  Yikes!

Faced with course design challenges, we opted to break from tradition and run our marathon and half marathon participants on almost entirely separate courses.  The half marathon course, which has always been popular, remains largely unchanged.  With the marathon course, however, we essentially started with a blank sheet of paper.  This allowed us to do some really creative things like spend more mileage in the quaint residential areas of De Pere and take the runners on a loop through historic City Stadium, the Packers original home.  The relocation of the finish line also offered up some great efficiencies and ultimately more space.  It is now easier for runners to get food and beverage before the race, get dropped off and picked up by bus from local hotels, and drop off and pick up gear bags.  For the first time, spectators may be able to realistically watch their friend or family member run through Lambeau Field and still have enough time to get back outside and watch them cross the finish line.

I’ve always like the saying, “When life deals you lemons, make lemonade!”  I think we’ve lived up to that slogan this year and I’m anxious to see if the runners, volunteers and spectators agree.  See you all soon!

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From the Race Director’s Desk: Crunch Time!

Race day for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon is less than three weeks away. Whether you’re on the participant side or the organizing side, you can feel the intensity of the approaching date.

This time of year always reminds me of the weeks in college leading up to final exams. Students feel a tense mixture of anticipation and apprehension. You’re excited for the day to arrive but you’re filled with all kinds of doubts and uncertainty. Your mind is constantly racing to remember final things that need to be done. I can recall being a freshman in college and pulling all-nighter’s, trying to “cram” ten weeks of lessons into a 8 hour window at the eleventh hour. This sometimes yielded disastrous results. I remember oversleeping for the first half of a History exam and ending up with a “C” in the class.

Part of becoming a better student, a better runner or a better event organizer involves planning ahead. If you’re trying to cram a bunch of reading, a bunch of mileage or a bunch of site planning and materials ordering into the final two weeks, you can expect disastrous results. Better to stay loyal to a reasonable schedule and arrive at the classroom or the starting line well rested and fully prepared for what lies ahead.

The best piece of advice I–and probably most veteran runners–would offer to you first time distance runners out there at this point in the season is this: TRUST YOUR PREPARATION. As a student, you probably knew before going into the exam room how you would do on the test. The same holds true in distance running. Don’t try to cram at the eleventh hour. Rather, go into race day well rested and confident in your ability to make it to the finish line.

From the Race Director’s Desk: Boston 2014

Later this week, I’ll be working in a variety of capacities at the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. I’ve been fortunate to serve on the Operations Committee out there since 2008. That’s sort of like being a high school football coach who’s given a role helping out at the Super Bowl. Part of my role is helping out with presentations and talks, particularly those for my good friend, Race Director Dave McGillivray. I wrote the following speech with him and B.A.A. President Tom Grilk in mind, thinking of what I would say to the crowd of 36,000 runners in Hopkinton on race morning if I were in their shoes…

IT IS TIME
by Sean Ryan

It is time.

It is time to reject the notion that the cowardly attack on April 15th of last year was an attack against us, the running community. Indeed, the attack was against ALL of us – runners, spectators, Bostonians, New Englanders, and all Americans. It was an attack against Patriotism and all things we hold dear.

But Americans are known for their spirit of defiance and their ability to persevere. When we are attacked, we do not back down. When our monuments and buildings are toppled, we rebuild them. But how are we to respond when the very spirit of our great nation is attacked?

This is where we, the running community, will play an important role. Your actions today will show the defiance of all Americans. We will show our defiance by continuing the tradition of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon for the 118th year. We will show our defiance by lining up at the starting line in Hopkinton on the third Monday in April as we always do. And we will show our defiance by running 26.2 miles to the heart of Boston.

Today is Patriot’s Day. The entire world is watching, waiting to see how we, the running community, respond. And respond we will.

On this day, may the footfalls of 30,000 plus runners serve as a symbol of defiance and perseverance for all Americans. On this day, may the pounding of pavement echo throughout the land, sending a clear message to those who would try and take away our freedom.

It is time. It is time to show that we are not afraid. It is time to show that we will not back down. It is time…to run.

From the Race Director’s Desk: In Praise of Youth Coaches

In 2008, the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, with help from the Boys & Girls Club, launched the Luv2Run program. The focus was to encourage an active lifestyle for the children in greater Green Bay. In return for completing a six-week training program, children earn the opportunity to participate in the Cellcom 5K at a significant discount and run through Lambeau Field during the final mile. I think we had 40-50 children that first year.

Prevea became the title sponsor of the Luv2Run program last year. With the assistance of Prevea Sports Medicine, and the hard work of program director Tanya Sharp, the Prevea Luv2Run program has seen exponential growth the past two years. Last year, more than 50 schools hosted the program and roughly 1,500 children completed it and ran the 5K. This year, we have over 70 schools participating.

While the involvement of my staff and Prevea help get Luv2Run off the ground each year, the real backbone of the program is the coaches. The people that train the kids are parents, teachers, PE instructors and administrative staff. My own wife is actually a coach at St. Matthew’s grade school. These folks donate their time over the course of six weeks to prepare kids to run 3.1 miles. Without their generous efforts, many of these kids would never be able to take on this challenge and cross the finish line.

In my opinion, the impact these coaches have will reach far beyond the 5K finish line on May 17th. By raising the self-esteem and athletic potential of these kids, they’re improving the trajectory of their lives. These kids will growth up into healthier adults, in body, mind and spirit. That’s the magic of running. God bless each of you this season, Prevea Luv2Run coaches!

From the Race Director’s Desk: Run to Live

Recent health issues a friend of mine had has caused me to rethink my commitment to both diet and exercise.

This friend has always been physically active, has competed in numerous endurance events, has always had a solid diet, has never drank alcohol and his lips have never touched a cigarette. He recently had a heart attack and underwent a seven valve bypass. I didn’t even know my heart has that many valves!

Situations like this can make a runner cynical. I’d like to believe that there is a positive health benefit to all my miles. I’d like to believe that it’s about more than staying thin and fitting into the same size jeans I wore in my 30’s. But when something like this happens, it makes me fatalistic. My theological outlook says that God has a pre-ordained day and time for my demise. And maybe all the miles DON’T really change that or affect my lifespan. Maybe the number of double cheeseburgers I eat doesn’t matter either.

A less cynical side of me says that “running to live” is about more than my physical body. It’s about my mental attitude, how I feel about myself and how I treat others. That means that I have a better LIFE, even if my life isn’t necessarily extended by my mileage. In my experience, the majority of runners are considerate, friendly people with a positive outlook on life. What I want to believe is that running has a lot to do with that. Time to go for a run…

From the Race Director’s Desk: Sold Out!

The Cellcom Green Bay Half Marathon sold out this past Sunday to 6,000 participants.

The marathon has over 1,500 participants registered and will hopefully reach 2,000 by May 1st. While distance running in general continues to boom, the half marathon in particular is the growth engine of the sport. According to Running USA, the number of 13.1 mile finishers has grown by 10% or more annually since 2006. No other U.S. road distance comes close to this growth rate during the Second Running Boom.

What’s driving this growth? First of all women. The “daughters of title 9” are reaching the prime age for distance running (35-45) which is fueling a massive surge in female participation. Women account for a stunning two-thirds of our audience in the half marathon each year. I always tell single friends of mine they should show up for the Prevea Training Runs on Saturday given the large number of athletic, goal-oriented women who attend.

The second factor is a more general change in the psychological makeup of the running audience. Thirty years ago, running was a sport for the competitive-minded and was dominated by men. Nowadays, participants are less concerned about their overall ranking and more concerned about just crossing the finish line. As a friend of mine likes to say, “the walls of intimidation have crumbled.” We have shifted from a competitor mindset to a participant mindset. This is a good thing, especially for a society facing health problems including childhood obesity.

Whatever your reason for running — competition, health, wellness, weight loss, stress relief — we’re glad you’re choosing to participate in our event!

From the Race Director’s Desk: The Rocket Science of Course Design

When the throngs of runners arrive on race day, some may assume that the start line, the finish line, and everything in between was preordained, just waiting to be discovered by the event organizers. The reality is that course design involves public safety considerations, politics, science, and aesthetics.

Public safety considerations often involve artificial boundaries. Crossing or running on streets that serve as critical traffic carriers (sometimes called “arterials”) is one limitation. Construction zones are always a challenge, particularly when designing a longer course such as a half marathon or marathon. Even the staff size of a police or public safety department in a particular municipality may influence whether more mileage is in that city or an adjacent one. The local police, public works departments and traffic engineers essentially have veto authority over course designs.

Politics play a role since people in positions of influence, such as owners or board members, may want the course route to go through (or not go through) a particular area of town. At times, these voices can be in conflict with one another or with the wishes of the event staff. The race director is then forced to play the role of mediator as they try to satisfy multiple constituencies.

The science of course design may seem straightforward: go out and design a course of X miles with a defined start location and/or defined finish location. Modern online tools like mapmyrun streamline this part of the process but don’t necessarily make it easy. Achieving an exact distance can be challenging, especially when the start line and finish line are pre-defined and the number of streets or turns available are limited. Courses that overlap take this science to an entirely new level, becoming almost rocket science. In addition to achieving a defined distance, it’s critical to choose routes that facilitate the placement of support services like fluid stations, medical stations and porta-potties along the route.

Finally, the course route itself should be aesthetically appealing to the participants. While they may have less direct influence prior to the event than the constituencies mentioned above, they will vote by choosing to participate or not. This ultimately decides the future success or failure of the event, which in my opinion makes them the most powerful constituency in the long run. This means that the smartest race director is the one who is able to anticipate the wants and likes of the running community, place that objective above all others, and find a way to get it approved by everyone else.

The staff and I have been hard at work planning this year’s courses. We’ve met with public safety officials, politicians, medical personnel, operational staff and board members. We will unveil our 2014 marathon and half marathon courses this week. I can’t wait to see the runners’ reaction!


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