Sunday, April 26, 2009

Event Management 101

I have a friend with a problem. Let’s call my friend “Emma” (because that is, in fact, her name).

Some people cope with life’s problems by eating salty snacks (OK, that would be me). Or they take steaming hot baths (again, me). Or they watch the opening credits of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” 27 times in a row, laughing hysterically every time the line “A moose once bit my sister” pops up in the subtitles (that would be Mr. Coach).

“Emma” copes with life’s problems by staging 5K fun-runs.

Not running in them. Putting them on, as in telling some charitable organization, “Hey! I know a great way to raise money!” and then going out, finding a 5K running course, getting sponsors, printing up t-shirts, collecting money and – this part is critical – calling me and asking me what I’m doing at 6 a.m. on (fill in the date).

That’s because, sometime early in our friendship, “Emma” figured out that most coaches’ spouses are born with an event-organization gene in them. Give us a spreadsheet, a Thermos full of coffee and a box of honey-dip glazed doughnuts, and we can herd people into performing feats of physical exertion – and make them thank us for it. I’m not proud to possess this ability, but I almost always use it for good and not evil purposes.

But I thought I was off the hook when “Emma” moved away almost two years ago. Her husband makes a living running universities and he found a new job at a new school (whose school colors, it should be noted, are much more flattering to “Emma” than our school’s, so I couldn’t blame her for letting him take the job).

But, no, “Emma” was not going to let a little something like 822 miles get in the way of 5K event management. She even managed to frame it in terms of her birthday.

“What are you doing on April 26th?” she called and asked me last month.

“No,” I said, “you cannot stage a 5K to raise funds for your own birthday.”

“It’s not for me!” she said chirpily. “It’s for…,” and she went on to detail some truly demented but creative scheme to raise money for a middle-school jazz band that involves people competing in “trios” and “quartets” in award categories named “Woodwind,” “Brass” and “Rhythm.” (Look, I’m only best friends with the woman. I don’t tell her how to seat her jazz bands.)

So, long story short here, today I am going to be somewhere in the New England tundra, relieving the local citizens of $10 a head ($25 per family). But it’s for a good cause: Come fall, when Mr. Coach’s swim team is planning to stage a fundraiser of some sort, “Emma” is going to have to travel here and return the favor. And I don’t care if her new university’s football team is storming the beaches of Normandy that weekend and a $15 million alumni donation hangs in the balance. She will be here if she wants me to keep enabling her little 5K addiction.


  1. LOL! Jane - if I had a dollar for every (school/college) organization that called me, wanting to put on a 5K run...and asking for my help...I'd be able to retire...or at least purchase a (very!) good triathlon bike.

    Most of them, once my business partner & I explain how much money will have to be invested (at least around here!) before they can make dollar number one...start to think twice. We do tell them there are sponsors who may/not lighten the expense. We've had a few brave souls step into the void, with which we've tried to make their step a little less painful. We've had others, once they realized it might take them several months to get the details figured out (more often than not, they call one month before the planned event date - which just happens to conflict with one of the bigger events on the local calendar - oops...), decide to do something a little less physical, like a bake sale.

    (We had the second edition of our Olympic-distance triathlon this weekend, so my own pithy observations should follow within th enxt 48 hours.)

  2. Mrs. Coach, you have, unfortunately, made putting together a 5k seem like fun. Like it's an opportunity to reunion and have laughs and beers. Now, I want to put one on too. Watch out.

  3. Oh, that's right. You actually know how to do this stuff! Consider this, Michael: Less than 24 hours before the race, we had to come up with a new course because one of our so-called volunteers who said she had made sure there were no conflicting events along the route neglected to find out about the all-day dressage competition occurring just after Mile 1.

    But we did it! As Tim Gunn would say, we made it work!! And then we collapsed. Cheers and thanks to everyone who helped out (in a positive and constructive manner)!

  4. Can you two organize like a 100 meter "walk"? Some of us find that getting off the couch is just to much work. I'd pay good money for one of those.
    Scott Hays

  5. Oh, now there's an untapped market! Thanks, Scott! (although the water stop might get a little crowded)

    And Archie -- any time you want help, just say the word! I work for beer, too!


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