When I asked my runner friend Lesley if she’d be willing to answer a few questions about her company I had no idea how much I’d learn, not only about her, but about what goes on behind the scenes of a large event.
I first met Lesley about twelve years ago when I worked as a personal trainer for Worldgate Sport & Health where Lesley was one of our members. It wasn’t until a few years later when I started seeing her regularly on Saturday mornings on the W&OD Trail that I realized that she, too, had a passion for running. I gradually got to know her better and was intrigued to learn a little more about her company after I started seeing her calling the shots at local races!
I would have loved to interview Lesley during a run, but knew that I wouldn’t be able to remember everything she had to say, so I chose instead to send questions her way via email. Lesley’s answers were informative and left me in tears when I saw to what lengths she’s gone to make the experience positive for everyone participating in her events. Please read on to see just what I’m talking about…
Deb – How did you get interested in running?
Lesley – Like most females, I was on a weight loss journey when I was introduced to running. I had gained weight by eating anything I wanted and not exercising. I ran track in high school, but was a sprinter and let that go as soon as I got out of school.
When I discovered fitness, I started with step aerobics and LOVED it. A friend of mine was a runner and promised if I ran three miles a few times a week I’d lose that last ten pounds. That was enough to hook me on the sport!
Deb – What was your first race?
Lesley – In 1998 I ran a 5K called the Rabbit Run or Bunny Hop, I think – the things you think you will remember forever… I do remember it hurt, a lot!
Deb – Are you a member of any running groups?
Lesley – I have been a member of the Ashburn Area Running Club since around 2004. I am also a member of MRTT, in that I enjoy reading Facebook posts and helping out when I can. (Deb’s note: It’s great having Lesley in our MRTT chapter. She’s a wealth of knowledge when we have questions about the local racing scene!)
Deb – What races do you personally plan to run in 2017?
Lesley – To date, I am signed up for the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in March. I’m that runner who plans to run, but signs up last minute. I’ve not yet registered for, but I’m thinking of running the North Face Half, Frederick Half, and Diva Half. I’m trying to wrap my head around a 50 miler; however, I’ve been working on this mental game for a few years now.
Deb – What is your favorite racing distance?
Lesley – I enjoy the half and the 10-miler. I feel like I’m at a point in my running “career” where I can recover from this distance fairly quickly and still enjoy the destination where the race is located. I also like to keep a 12-14 mile base in training. I like to think I can get up and run a half marathon whenever I feel like it.
Deb – What is the name of your company and what is your title?
Lesley – m.b. LoGistics & events, llc. The “m” and “b” allows the name of my company to capture the family partners involved and keep me focused and inspired. The “L” and the “G”… you guessed it, stand for me.
My title varies. For my company it is managing partner. For various events it is either race or event director (or manager).
Deb – What made you decide to start your company?
Lesley – I was consulting for a few nonprofits on the side while also working full time for a nonprofit, and I went to work one day not knowing that it would be my last day as a full time employee (I was laid off). My family and close friends encouraged me to “kick off” what I had already started and go full time with my company. It’s hard to believe that was eight years ago.
Deb – What exactly does your company do – race directing, timing, etc?
Lesley – m.b. LoGistics & events is a full service event planning company offering companies and organizations the opportunity to shine through the event(s) they wish to offer the community or their members/clients.
Being a runner, I enjoy helping groups put together road races and other athletic events, however m.b. LoGisitcs & events also works with clients on galas, business luncheons, food festivals, art shows, etc. I like to say we do it all with the exception of weddings. m.b LoGistics & events owns two events (Ghost 5K and Loudoun Mini Athletes Tri) and has a goal of offering more community style events with a healthy living focus in the future.
Deb – What races are on your company’s calendar for this year?
Lesley – To date our calendar includes the following races: Girls on the Run of NOVA 5K, Loudoun Lyme 10K/5K, Ghost 5K, Pumpkin 5K, Ashburn Farm Thanksgiving Day 10K/5K, and the Loudoun Mini Athletes Tri. We also volunteer and help with the Ashburn Area Running Club’s Loudoun Half races (all our efforts for this race are on a volunteer basis).
We will also be working on numerous other non-athletic events in 2017 including the Taste of Reston, Greater Reston Arts Festival, Leadership Fairfax Breakfast, and the Best of Reston Gala.
Deb – How far in advance must you start planning a race?
Lesley – For most races planning starts six months out – a few start four months. For new races, planning should start eight months to a year from the target event date.
Deb – What is a day in the life of a race director like?
Lesley – Ha, that depends on the day! Other than event day, my day can be pretty boring working on paperwork for permits, designing courses, hiring vendors for timing, designing/ordering t-shirts, reserving portable toilets, and taking care of other equipment needs. I have to make sure to check all the boxes.
We do all this in advance to get us ready for event day. For me, event day is when the real fun starts. I sometimes arrive as early as 2 AM to receive vendors for setting up barricades, tents, and other equipment. I work with my team to unload production vehicles, set up course signage and water stations, and unload all the other STUFF on the trucks – from food to bottled water to medals. Everything you see at a race came off of a production vehicle.
Once the sun comes up I start to look and see if registration is ready to go, whether or not we have EMS onsite, if the police have checked in, if the cones are set up on the course correctly, etc. If the answer is no to any question, I have to figure out how I am going to fix it before the event starts.
Deb – What are the most critical things you must do before a race?
Lesley – I must maintain communication and flexibility. A detailed timeline is put in place and all key team players have a copy. This timeline is reviewed more times than anyone wants to admit and anytime there is a change it is communicated immediately, especially once event day arrives.
Flexibility is also key, sometimes the timeline is just scrap paper on event day, and we have to be flexible and go with plan X. So long as plan X is communicated, things should work out just fine!
Deb – What is the first thing you do after a race you have directed is over?
Lesley – The first thing I do once a race is over is recap the event. It’s important to me to rate/grade the event based on initial feedback from the attendees, police, client, and overall outcome. After most events I walk away feeling really HYPED! There have been a couple of times, though, where that hyped feeling just wasn’t there.
Deb – What is one particularly memorable story as a race director you’d like to share?
Lesley – My favorite part of being a race director is when I have the opportunity to encourage the attendees at the start and finish line. I enjoy being a part of the energy that beams off of the runners as they are lined up in the starting area, fingers hovering over their watch start buttons and in the “go” stance.
Being there to encourage runners as they cross the finish line, I have the rare opportunity to see the purity of determination, focus, the feeling of accomplishment, and the joy of getting it done on so many faces… it’s priceless for me. It fuels my soul. It’s this energy I tap into when I have to dig deep.
The first year AARC did the Loudoun Half, we had one female runner who was in danger of falling behind the course time limit and being swept. Those of us at the finish line were told her location on the course, and the head police officer looked me in my eyes and said she had thirty minutes to get to the designated cut off point, before he opened up the streets, forcing her to the sidewalk or in a vehicle.
At the pace she was moving, she was right on the line, and we all knew she would most likely slow down and would potentially not make the cut off time. She was alone and I was told by the last water stop she’d passed that she was walking more than she was running.
I sent my best guy, an ex-military field officer with a gentle voice to bring her in. I told him, he had to get her to the cut off street in time, there was no other option. I then camped out with the lead police officer with my “award winning smile” and did my best to buy us some time with friendly conversation about competition and running and the things we love so much about the sport.
The ex-military field officer got her there on time! When I received the text message that they were past the cut off, I informed the officer and headed for the finish line to cheer her in.
I’m not sure this lady knew what we went through to ensure she made it to the finish line while being spared the embarrassment of being swept or put on the sidewalk, and I do not really care. What was most important to me was that she made it. It was important to me that her first half marathon experience was going to be to finish. And finish she did, as we cheered her in like she was the winner of the race!
Deb – Do you have anything additional you’d like for my readers to know that I failed to ask?
Lesley – I would encourage people to take a moment when at a race or special event to think about the how it all happens. I have found that most people do not understand or think about the behind the scenes process, and when you give it some thought, there is a better understanding of how things work and why things may be set up the way they are.
- What additional questions would you like to ask Lesley?
- Have you ever volunteered at a race or large event?
- Local runners: Do you recognize Lesley from any races you’ve run or events you’ve attended?
Happy Running! ~ Deb