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In this episode you get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to orchestrate a big marathon.
Nancy Lieberman is the founder and president of Go! St. Louis. Throughout the past decade, she has guided the organization from an upstart marathon weekend event, to an organization that today is a year-round community wellness leader.
Last year over 25,000 people participated in Family Fitness Weekend -which includes a marathon, half marathon, 5k, children’s races, and the mature mile. After listening to this interview you will have a new appreciation for the staff and volunteers who made our races possible. See what it takes
Here are some of the questions we asked Nancy in this interview. You will need to listen to this episode for the complete questions and answers.
Q. Last year there were over 25,000 registered participants at Go! St. Louis Fitness Weekend. How many staff and volunteers does it take to put on an event of this magnitude? How far in advance do you start planning?
A. We start planning the Monday after the last event. Our organization has six full-time staff and we also enlist 2,500 volunteers. The same volunteers come back year after year to help with the Family Fitness Weekend. We truly are a local non-profit built by the citizens of St. Louis.
Q. Many of our listeners have been to a big marathon. While we are enjoying the sights and sounds, what is going on behind the scenes? What do you do during the race?
A. Our day starts at 3:00 am and we don’t get to go home until 8:00 or 9:00 pm. The staff basically troubleshoot and work out the details as they unfold. Three of us are on the course monitoring the flow of runners and the other three of us are around the finish line working with the media, the results company, the medical personnel, the handing out of the Mylar blankets and food. Basically we are the jack of all trades. We make sure that the experience both on the course and in the finishing area is very positive and exciting for the runners.
Q. What does clean up look like after the runners go home? Are there 100,000 Dixie cups to pick up?
A. While the race is finishing we have four trucks on the course picking up 350,000 water cups, 150,000 Gatorade cups, tables and chairs, trash, and discarded clothing. Then there are 425 port-a-potties on the course that need to be picked up.
Q. What is the hardest part of organizing such a big weekend event? Is there anything that gives you a headache each year?
A. The hardest part is coordinating 26 miles through three cities. We notify in advance every business, resident, and church that the marathon is coming through. We need to work with the police and all the street departments. There are 250 intersections to staff or block off. Then we have to place 2,500 no parking signs along the course. We try to put them up early but people take them down.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of being president of Go! St. Louis?
A. Watching the smiles as the runners come across the finish line and witness their success. We revel in their success like it was our own!
Q. You have inspired thousands of people to get fit. What advice would you give to our listeners who would like to help their family and friends build a life of fitness?
A. Pick an activity that the whole family can go out and do together (hiking, walking, biking) so that fitness becomes a core value of the in the family. There is also a lot to be said for meeting up with a peer group during marathon training. If you plan to meet your friends at the top of the street at 6:00 am then that pressure is on you to not let them down! Reward yourself afterwards -go out for coffee and revel in your success. It’s all about being social but yet having fitness as what’s tying everyone together.
The next Go! St. Louis Marathon is April 14-15, 2012. To sign up visit www.gostlouis.org
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Nancy also said they order 30,000 bottles of water, 25,000 granola bars, and 17,000 bananas but runners like to grab extra food for their family members which causes a bit of a problem.
I think Nancy is an organizational wizard.
Great interview! Nancy and her team have done amazing work on many fitness fronts in St. Louis . . . the marathon weekend is just the tip of the iceberg. Glad to hear that they donate all the extra food/clothing to homeless shelters after the race. I’ve run the GO! St. Louis Marathon a few times and it gets better every year. Good course for a first-timer, some rolling hills and an interesting course layout that hits many of the big St. Louis attractions. Highly recommended!
Hi Eric. Thanks for sharing your first-hand experience with the GO! St. Louis Marathon weekend. I’m looking forward to doing this race in 2012.
This was a great podcast! I live about three hours from STL and am seriously considering the event as a family getaway. Thank you for interviewing Nancy!
Thanks Suzanne. It sounds like a great family weekend. Maybe we’ll see you there!
Cool podcast. I would advise anyone that has participated in an event to volunteer for one.
I recently helped out with a swimming event and it was an interesting perspective. There is a lot of prep work for the smallest of events but as my uncle used to say. ‘Many hands make light work.’
My son (and wife) helped out with a run to get in his volunteer service towards his school requirement. May be something to think about for those with teenage kids requiring volunteer hours.
Hi Trevor. It’s great to hear that your family volunteers at various races. It really is a wonderful feeling to help out and would be perfect for teenagers too.
Great podcast… really enjoyed listening to Nancy Leiberman.
Thanks Rusty. She was a fun and informative person to talk with.