I’m regularly asked if I run in the races that I organize. Unfortunately, I can’t because I’m working.
Ensuring thousands of participants are safe and enjoying themselves during race weekend requires me being accessible to the police, medical team, timing company, announcer, photographers, racers, sponsors, spectators, community members and 300 volunteers that might need me. If a problem occurs, it’s my responsibility to quickly make a decision and solve it. From race kit pick-up until the last participant crosses the finish line, it’s game-time. My phone is ringing off the hook, my voicemail fills, texts are coming in constantly and I’m being drilled with all sorts of questions and situations that require my immediate attention.
During the race, my role is to stay calm, remain focused and manage the finish line area. Being in the shoot and getting to high-five some friends as they finish is a perk of my job, but even then I’m watching for potential medical issues, am in regular contact with the police and the volunteer co-ordinator. The adrenaline rush of watching the crowd take off and return is hard to describe but it’s similar to a runner’s high and as exhausting as hill-repeats.
Planning every component of race weekend is essential. Months in advance, a very detailed timeline is created, reviewed, modified, reviewed again and then changed some more. For five days, every hour of every day is planned out, even when to eat meals. Sleep is a luxury. I rarely stand idle during race weekend even with an amazing team of volunteers, there is so much to do.
There are always unexpected things that will change the schedule, though one thing remains constant: race directors need be flexible and when things go wrong (and things will go wrong). How you react to these will make or break an event. If you’re on the ball, no one will even realize there was a problem.
Issues usually put you behind schedule, but I’ve learned that having extra volunteers as floaters and delegating is essential to get everything done. Thanks to a seasoned crew of volunteers and a team that worked well together, last year was our smoothest year yet. I trust my volunteers, believe they are capable and know they are there to help. This race wouldn’t happen without the pirate crew.
Interruptions are inevitable. Embarrassing but true: at some point during race weekend I will hide in a bathroom stall to read the backlog of texts, listen to voicemails, review my schedule and briefly close my eyes to enjoy a moment to myself!
This year, my Friday started earlier than expected at 5 a.m. and ended just after midnight. I managed to get four solid hours of sleep on Friday night before getting up to start the second day of racing. Not bad considering that in prior years I got less than one hour of sleep between Friday and Saturday.
Maritime Race Weekend is five days of non-stop activity and pushes my endurance to the limits. Afterwards, my body is fatigued and I sleep about 12-15 hours a day for a few weeks. This makes up for the sleepless months leading up to race weekend. By the end of the month, I’m starting to plan the next year.