If WE Build It, They Will Come
Back in April, I heard whispers from the woods in the Arb, "If you build it, they will come." As documented in previous blog posts, that spring was filled with fevered 5K dreams that shaped my vision for a resurrected Gallup Gallop. Moving the date to a Friday night, adding a club relay and live bands on the course gave the race a new look and feel. But, something was still missing.
Weeks went by in early summer without a single registration. Was my concept a flop? Had I misjudged the runner's appetite for something new? I had been reluctant to contact sponsors, vendors, or promote the race in earnest until some people started signing up. Then, on the 4th of July, something happened. I was wandering around the Firecracker 5K course, sneakily planting Gallup Gallop lawn signs for runners to see as they ran by. Taking in my surrounds, I started to appreciate the rich layers of involvement and nuance from the event's participants and volunteers. People love the Firecracker because of the goofy costumes, hot dog eating contest, and amazing energy on the street. The race hit critical mass, and has grown every year.
That morning, I realized that I had to change my old ways of thinking. It turns out, I had misheard the spring trees in the Arb. They had actually said, "If WE build it... they will come" because it truly does take a village to put on a good race. That revelation also made me realize that I needed to take control of the things I could, and not worry about the number of registrations in the queue. If I assembled a team to help shape my race vision and turn it into reality, the sign ups would follow.
If a race falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Fast forward one month, and we are on track to sell out (500 runners) by late August! We've booked four bands, secured 11 sponsorship deals, and received endorsements from every running club in Washtenaw County. Trusted race veterans like Hal Wolfe, Ron Olson, Dave Armstrong, and Bruce Geffen have all come forward to help out a rookie race director. All those guys have been in my shoes before, and have given me invaluable advice the past month.
The tally of names I'm obsessing over now is my volunteer list. I'm confident that because we've built an awesome race concept, people will come. Now we need to make sure that we follow through with a race that has character and heart.
If we build it, they just might come back.