Training for The Big Event

Training for The Big Event

I told the story last week; my career and life as a runner developed together. Almost immediately after completing my first race, I had my eyes set on the Marathon (and a new job). As far as training for a marathon, I had no idea where to begin (I had days at my new job like this too). A friend gave me a copy of The New York Road Runners Club Complete Book of Running by Fred Lebow and Gloria Averbuch.   It contained training plans for a variety of race distances for runners at different levels. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, all I could do was follow the instructions (my father always said if you could read instructions, you could do anything).   I chose the beginner marathon training plan. If it said to run 5 miles on a Thursday in week 1 and 10 miles on a Sunday in week 8, I did exactly that. It was spring 1997 and I was planning to be ready to run the New York City Marathon the following November. As a fairly new runner, I was giving myself a lot of time to train!

At the same time, I also began a major task at the new job – planning the “Big Event” – an annual black-tie ball, the biggest fundraiser of the year! Although I held a certificate in event marketing, had planned lots of office parties and my own wedding, and was the organization’s newly hired “Special Events Director”, this was going to be the first event for which I was actually earning a salary. I was a little nervous. Expectations were high!

Step one: make lists of every detail surrounding the event, what tasks need to be completed, and by what date. When I finished making the list, I realized what I had before me didn’t look all that different than my marathon training plan. And so it began. Each night, I checked the book and then set my alarm to get up at the time needed to complete that day’s mileage. The next morning I rose without thinking too much and set off for my run. Then a few hours later I’d arrive at work full of endorphins and feeling very awake, ready to tackle my “Big Event List.” If it told me today was the day to book the entertainment or mail the invitations, I did exactly that!

Step two: stay disciplined and focused. Together in running and working I found the way to do that. I successfully organized my first “Big Event” and I finished my first marathon! In the last eighteen years I’ve successfully managed a lot more fundraising events and have run many, many races using the same timeline/task list approach to stay focused on my goals. I have also found that running offers a unique problem-solving opportunity. It is the only time of the day that I am completely alone with my thoughts and totally unplugged. The first conversation of the work day often starts, “remember that challenge we were discussing yesterday? Well, on my run this morning…”

Last summer I was training for the Chicago Marathon which I ran in October raising funds for The American Association for Suicide Prevention. The fundraising event I simultaneously organized was the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative’s Anniversary Gala, which took place two weeks before the marathon on September 27. For this event, I had the benefit of working with a fabulous committee, including the organization’s executive director, Amanda Missey. I put all the tasks into my timeline format and it kept us all focused. At the same time I mapped out my training schedule for the Marathon. I consulted both plans every day.

The BVMI Sixth Anniversary Gala took place at the Shops at Riverside. There were over 300 people in attendance. Most importantly it netted over $213,000 for the people they serve. BVMI provides free primary medical care for working, low-income, uninsured Bergen County residents. To learn more and to support this great community resource, please visit the BVMI website.

I have a framed poster handing in my den showing the spectacular start of the New York City Marathon. It reads, “Alone its 26.2 miles – together it’s a marathon!” Similarly, donors and volunteers are what make fundraisers “The Big Event.” Make sure they have a spectacular experience! Make sure to create a plan for success and follow that plan to the last detail. I have learned that in training and event planning success is inevitable when corners aren’t cut.

IMG_2278The BVMI 6th Anniversary Gala, The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack, NJ. September 2015.

Generally, I’m trying to share photos of what I see on my run. I did not run through the event site after it was set up as shown above; but I did take a break from set-up the morning of the event to get in a 10-mile run. All it takes is proper planning.