When I created the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon in 2014, it was my goal to make the “perfect race” that included everything that was important to me as a runner and avoided all the things that annoyed me about other events. I’ve enjoyed how the list of what makes something special and what frustrates me has evolved over past 8 years.
One of my favorite additions in 2021 was to include an adapted version of the Boston Scream Tunnel by devising my own version of “Chalk the Walk.” I asked participants and their supporters to submit their favorite running mantra, motivational quotes, or special messages of encouragement. My identical twin sister and I then spent hours chalking those messages on the course.
I want to find more ways to use art as a tool for spreading joy, optimism, and inspiration in my events. I’ve seen success with contests for t-shirt designs (especially kids races!). I’d love to create more swag using unique approaches to make motivational messages visually appealing. I also hope to commission original pieces from local artists, especially those from diverse backgrounds.
I love mascots! When I watch the Olympics or any track and field event on the global stage I’m looking for the mascot. Nothing makes me smile more than a giant mascot cheering on the sidelines or racing in an event. If you have something iconic and cute, people will remember it and might even buy it. I’ve got 4 mini plush Spike the Unicorns from each year I ran the Boston Marathon. Sadly, I never got a photo with the costumed mascot, but I love my stuffies and took plenty of photos of Spike having pre- and post-race fun in Boston. I’ve applied the mascot effect to the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon & Half Marathon with the introduction of “Coney” (inspired by Dumb Runner satirist, Mark Remy). I started by giving out a mini Coney instead of a medal. Then I was able to find an affordable traffic cone costume that became perfect with the addition of googly eyes and a mouth!
I love stories, especially a personal story about someone’s journey into the sport of running and what it means to them. why they choose to run a particular event, or what relationships have emerged from a love of running. People are already sharing these gems on social, we just need to find them and harness that energy and passion!
I know there are a lot of “ambassador” programs out there. That’s not exactly a term I’m comfortable with because it’s become synonymous in my mind with paid relationships and, for me, when money is involved, you lose some authenticity by turning loyalty into a commodity.
My three favorite races (besides my own Rivanna Greenbelt Series!) are the Chicago Marathon, Boston Marathon, and Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. CUCB has an Ambassador program. I've tried to be one, never got it. I think it's a lost opportunity not to use everyone who wants to brag about how much they love your race. I understand that you can only give special perks to so many people, but I also think the people who are saying the best things about your race with no financial benefit or personal gain are the ones you want to tap into... not to take advantage of them, but to appreciate and support them with attention and acknowledgement. It's all about building relationships and brand loyalty. If you treat participants like they matter that will be worth money in the end (if that's your aim). Research and dig for people you want to collaborate with and don't necessarily rely on the right people to apply for a program or fill out a form.
That being said, I always ask my participants to share their stories and photos every chance I get. I have used post-race surveys and online forms to encourage runners to submit photos of their training, details about their race routines, and how they celebrate their accomplishments.
Music is such a huge motivator for me and so many other runners that the thought of running a race without headphones is unheard of :) Curated playlists for both training and race day celebrations is a great way to connect with participants.
A dream of mine is to have a “theme song” for the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon. Although I can’t compose music, I know I can write the lyrics. I’d love to have a funny, catchy song about the quirky aspects of my race. I’d also like to have an ode to running, a song I can sing that describes my love for everything this sport has brought into my life.
Finally, creating a special “Twins Run” podcast about running has been on my to-do list for awhile and I’m hoping to finally start producing it by 2023. If you’re a twin who runs or know any twins who like to race, let me know in the comments.