Both sides of the race

I’ve been a runner since 2000.  Not very long, but when you have an older sister who has

Me and my sister Michele in 2003 at the Walt Disney Marathon

Me and my sister Michele in 2003 at the Walt Disney Marathon

been a runner since middle school, you eventually catch the bug.  So at 34, I became a runner.  Not a fast runner, but a runner.  Once I experienced how great I felt after running, I decided to be just like my big sister and run a marathon.

Even though my sister lives in Omaha, she became my coach.  She taught me how to increase mileage without getting injured.  She listened when I complained about different aches and pains and when it was hard to get outside in the winter.  Once the temperature goes below 40, you won’t find me running outside.

I’ve been a Disney fan all my life so of course my one and only full marathon had to be the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2003 and of course my sister traveled with me.  It was a wonderful experience running through the parks, high fiving with the characters and coming around the corner towards the finish line seeing my sister crying and cheering.  She’s a lot faster than me and finished almost 2 hours faster.

Part of my training was running the 2002 Humana half marathon on November 2.  This was the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon before the Kansas City Sports Commission took it over.  The finish line was uphill on 12th Street from Main ending at Barney Allis Plaza.  Brutal for any fitness level.  If you don’t know the street, go drive 12th Street from Main to Wyandotte and let me know what you think about the current finish line.

Now I’m on the other side of a marathon, the planning side.  I’ve worked at the Kansas City Sports Commission (KCSC) for the past eight years and have experienced marathon weekend change and grow.  Does anyone remember the finish line ending in the parking lot at Fiorella’s Jack Stack/Lydia’s in the Freight House District?  Does anyone remember the wedding party driving right through the finish line festival for their reception at Lydia’s?

There is a lot that goes into planning marathon weekend.  When I joined KCSC in 2007, there was one full-time events staff member and now we have a department of four.  In 2007 there were a total of 4,558 participants.  Last year 8,780 crossed the finish line.

Separating trash, recycling and compost items at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2011

Separating trash, recycling and compost items at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2011

Working for an event planning organization has really opened my eyes, especially an event this size.  It never crossed my mind the blood, sweat and tears that go into planning a race.  And yes, there are tears from stress, frustration and sometimes tears of joy that the weekend is over.

First you need a steering committee made up of volunteers who bring all kinds of experience to the table.  Some are runners, some are not.  Some like sports and some just like to volunteer.  You also need a lot of volunteers throughout the three-day event.  And I’m talking A LOT.  Over the past eight years we have never needed fewer than 1,200 volunteers and up to 1,800.  These volunteers are very important, especially course monitors.  If there are not enough course monitors along the course, the race cannot happen.

The Events Department works on marathon weekend year-round.  There is designing brochures, logo, medals, email headers, participant T-shirts, volunteer T-shirts, pacer T-shirts, banners, magnets, advertisements and signs.  The staff visits with different businesses to become sponsors.  There are financial sponsors and in-kind sponsors.  You have to make sure water, food, medals all arrive in time and on the correct day.

Then there is securing bands, police, vendors, permits, medical team, security, clean-up team and timing company.  There is securing fencing, port-a-potties, tents, and rental trucks.  Several of our staff sleep very little the week of the marathon and from Friday-Saturday several staff members and volunteers stay up all night setting up the start and finish line.

Our staff at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2014. I'm in the middle in the hat.

Our staff at the WIN for KC Triathlon in 2014. I’m in the middle in the hat.

The Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon with Ivy Funds is also a green event.  There is a lot more than collecting old running shoes and having bins for trash, recycling and compost.  Missouri Organic does a fantastic job collecting the bins and then they have to go through it all and make sure everything was placed in the correct bin.  At our WIN for KC Women’s Triathlon at the end of July, it is our staff, interns and volunteers who go through the bags.  I have been on the green team many years and you have to empty every bag, go through it and separate everything.  There have been years it’s so hot our rubber gloves filled with sweat.  It’s a less desirable task and I admire organizations like Missouri Organic who try to make our planet healthier.

Our entire staff is comprised of athletes.  Some have participated in races and some currently participate.  So know, even though we are exhausted, sleep deprived and a little loopy, we are celebrating your accomplishment when you cross the finish line as well as reaching our own finish line when everything is packed up and in the trucks Saturday afternoon.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat