I could write many wonderful things about the Bass Pro Outdoor Fitness Festival! I look forward to reading all of the articles about the triumphs, the PRs, the first marathon experiences, the awesome aid stations, the wonderful crowd support, the well-marked course, the nice swag, and the support for the fastest runners and the final finishers (and everyone between). I thought I could offer a bit of a different perspective, as I got a behind the scenes look at the race this year.
One of the many things I enjoy about Bass Pro is that they have a lead female cyclist. Many races have a lead cyclist, who typically ends up leading the overall male in, but it’s more the exception than the norm to offer an additional cyclist with the top female.
|The lead cyclists lined up in front of the start|
2015 was reminiscent of my last Bass Pro full marathon in 2010, as when I turned right and split off from the half runners, a cyclist joined me. Both years the rider informed me that I was the female leader and that she (2010)/he (2015) would stick with me as long as that was the case. This year when I replied something like, “Well, it doesn’t matter much who’s leading now, only who is leading 25 miles from now”, the cyclist joked that he was fickle and would leave me if another woman took the lead. In 2010, I was terrified of being in the lead so early, but in 2015 I was comfortable with it because I was looking at the marathon as a long run and not a race, so it was easy to relax.
|With and small pack & the lead cyclist, probably around the 15K mark|
I quickly realized that having a cyclist escort would have bonus entertainment benefits. He was carrying a walkie-talkie 2-way radio that was connected to the 2-way radios of many other people who were instrumental to the success of this race, and I could hear most of the conversation!
Initially, the exchanges focused on starting line logistics: all marathoners and half marathoners had cleared the starting area, the 5K was lining up and then their starting gun went off, all cyclists were in the correct places with the leaders and the back of the group, etc. So many people were working together to make sure all of this happened as scheduled, and from the sounds of it, it all ran like a well-oiled machine.
After the logistics of the start were coordinated, the event organizers were on to ensuring the race experience was ideal for all participants. I heard conversations about getting course marshals to certain corners, and talk about getting traffic control to potentially problematic areas. The frequent conversation and quick responses were amazing. “We need someone on the corner of Sunset and Battlefield” – done. “I need police assistance on Sunshine” – done. “Additional support is needed at the first relay exchange” – done. Someone would ask and someone else would answer and take care of it, smooth as could be.
An aid station is running low on supplies? No problem, someone’s got it – far before it became noticeable to any runners I’m sure. The volunteers and race organizers were all rocking it, and it took a huge team to coordinate all the logistics and meet the needs of all the runners.
It wasn’t only the runners who the event organizers were eager to please. I heard about a problem with spectators trying to exit the Bass Pro parking lot, causing congestion. Bam, traffic control was on it.
A few things I did not hear were arguing, blaming, or passing the buck. I guarantee this isn’t the case with most large teams working together under stress and time pressure. What an amazing behind the scenes group!
All of the lead cyclists communicated about the positions of the athletes who they were accompanying. This gave me a fun play-by-play of the half marathon race. I looked at my watch when both the lead male and female cyclists for that race announced that their runners were passing mile 12, and marveled at their speedy times! I heard where the lead male marathoner was, and also heard reports on the pace groups.
Around 2.5 hours, I heard the announcement that the lead male marathoner was in. Then when I was passing 25 miles, I heard that the second male marathoner was behind the Bass Pro building. This made me eager to get in myself, and I will selfishly admit that I liked hearing “my” lead cyclist call in my position during the race – especially the “lead female is coming around to 26!”
It was due to injury issues and not choice that I didn’t run this marathon from 2011-2014. I certainly don’t plan to wait 5 years to do it again this time! Kudos to all of the Bass Pro behind the scenes team, and to all of you who organize races. Hearing commentary of pro-active actions and quick problem solving for 25 miles sure makes me admire you, even more than I already did!
|A lovely porta-pottie backdrop at the finish|