Bigger doesn’t always mean better.
That’s been the management motto of the Capital City Marathon since its inception 30 years ago.
And with the emphasis on “satisfied customers” that may best explain why Sunday’s race will be bigger than ever.
For the morning’s three races – marathon, half-marathon and a 5-miler – there were 1,900 entrants, 100 above the previous high. Another 200 last-minute sign-ups are expected on Saturday, possibly pushing entries as high as 2,100 for the first time.
“We’re not about numbers, we’re about quality,” said Lesley Roberts, race director. “We want people to go home and say this was fun.”
With sign-ups for the half-marathon spiking to an all-time high 1,100, mail registration was closed in early April. The concern is meeting the needs of the runners.
Roberts began ordering light hooded coats, take-home bags, water bottles and coasters for runners in November. It’s a calculated guess as to how many to order.
“You don’t want to order too much,” Roberts said. “You order too much and you overspend.”
Order too little and runners go home without their souvenirs.
“It’s like retail,” Roberts said. “You have to put your orders in months in advance.”
There’s also the question of how much water to have ready. With temperatures expected to be in the 70s by noon Sunday, more bottled water was ordered last week.
“One thing you don’t want to run out of is water,” said Jerry Miller, race president. “Runners can go without the things they get for entering. But they can’t go without their water.”
Roberts couldn’t explain why sign-ups are up. But she speculated it could merely be due to runners pleased by their experience and sharing with friends. Word of mouth is the race’s only advertisement.
The objective has never been to be Bloomsday big, copying the Spokane race that draws over 40,000 runners. Yet Capital City is growing nevertheless.
Last month, Roberts announced she was resigning after serving 16 years as race director. She’ll step down after the 2011 race, giving the race board time to find a replacement.
“It’s time for someone else to have fun,” Roberts said.
As race director, Roberts was always eager to try something new. On Sunday, the Capital City Marathon will be the first Northwest race to use a new microchip for timing. Instead of tying the chip to the runner’s shoe, it will be connected to the runner’s racing bib.
Several years ago, Capital City Marathon was one of first races in the Northwest to use the microchip on the shoe.
“I’m always game for trying something new,” Roberts said.
Keeping to that theme, rather than hang medals around runners’ necks, the race will be handing out coasters made by Red Creek Embroidery, a local business.
The challenges of putting on a race aren’t just in preparation. Problems inevitably pop up on race day – traffic snafus, for example, or poor distribution of volunteers – that must be resolved.
“You have to be ready to roll with it and have a crew ready to help,” Roberts said. “You have to always be asking how can we make this work. These guys are geniuses.”
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 firstname.lastname@example.org