Yes I'm voiceless. On September 20th I had the honor and privilege to start and finish the MVP Health Care Rochester Half & Full Marathon by being the announcer from 6:45AM until the final finisher at 2:30PM. Now without a voice, I’ve got quite a bit to say. I announce many many of YellowJacket Racing events so this is not new territory for me, but this event was different. Perhaps this is trite, but this year's Rochester Marathon was truly a dream coming to fruition.
I've been involved with the "Rochester" Marathon one way or another since it was Ontario Shore Marathon when I was Bike Patrol Captain. Fleet Feet Sports in Rochester did not exist and YellowJacket Racing was in its infancy, which I wasn't a part of as Boots and I weren't even a couple yet. When the marathon came back to the city that's when Fleet Feet Sports & YellowJacket Racing became involved as we were the timers and announcers for the event under the Arthritis Foundation. Last year we purchased the marathon from the Arthritis Foundation. We had talked about doing this for years and always knew if it were possible that we would change the course to be predominantly in the city as the name "Rochester" Marathon suggests. Please understand the Arthritis Foundation built a wonderful foundation for this event and especially bringing it back, as Rochester deserves a marathon. Boots and I simply wanted to put a new look to it as many "products" change with the times, we wanted a change to the marathon. Last year we started with a new look to the logo, a new branding, full well knowing that in 2015 a new course would happen. So the better half of the last year was spent getting the approvals needed to create what athletes traversed on September 20th.
Boots carefully crafted a course, as he usually does, with attributes of scenery, history and yes character building (a more positive way of saying hills). Just like Flower City Challenge in April has hills, those are over a 2 mile straight square area, but Rochester Marathon spread the wealth of the hills about the entire course. As everyone experienced on the first running of this course, I believe Boots hit every one of those attributes with perfection between the bridges, boardwalks, waterfalls, pathways, neighborhoods and yes, inclines. The two events compliment each other so well by showing off two completely different parts of Rochester and its terrain. Witnessing the new Rochester Half and Full course from the microphone brought an aura of immense energy of triumphs, challenges, neighborhood spirit and natural beauty to name a few.
The months and weeks leading up to the event our Director of Major Events, Nicole Mau, worked tirelessly to help bring Boots and my dream together. She too has been with the event in one form or another since Ontario Shore days. We knew that there was no choice but to deliver an experience athletes would remember in a positive way. There are so many people involved in creating this - The Fleet Feet Sports and YellowJacket Racing staff who constantly work hard to deliver the vision Boots and I put forth. Boots and I will never tout ourselves as easy people to work for and our staff everyday work amazingly to carry out our mission of exceptional experiences. Please know too, that Boots and I also believe we have never carried out the exceptional experience ourselves thus we will keep pushing the envelope to attain that. Thus for staff, that creates a bar that is very high, but from the mic on our first try at this course, it was carried out by them as if they were 100 feet plus tall.
We are also very lucky that the peripheral team understands Boots and I and truly partners with us to help carry the vision. This includes the exceptional services of the Rochester and Irondequoit Police. They have an incredibly hard job on race day because while runners and spectators are in great spirits, the police need to ensure the community at large is happy too. We love working with them as they help keep athletes safe, maintain traffic controls and without them above all this course and event would not at all be possible. To the volunteers of whom many I do not know, but you came out all weekend long, early on race day morning through mid afternoon to ensure a great experience for athletes. We are indebted to our volunteers. To the municipalities including Monroe County departments, Seneca Park Zoo, Town of Irondequoit, US Coast Guard, NYS DOT and City of Rochester - thank you for permitting us literally and figuratively for playing on the streets. To the neighborhoods especially Maplewood, Charlotte and Winona Neighborhoods - WOW your support of this event from the minute we told you was infectious. The buzz you created to bring people out created quite the inspiration and support for the athletes. And of course our sponsors are truly partners - Thank you for believing in us and this event. You make this your event too and it shows. Grateful to G&G Rev, TOPS Friendly Markets, Monroe County Sports Commission, I Heart Media (WHAM1180 and 100.5 The Drive), American Dairy Association, The Hyatt Regency Rochester and most definitely MVP Health Care. MVP Health Care has been with this event since it came back to Rochester and this year was the best partnership yet.
So from the mic at 6:45AM I watched 1000's embark onto the Maplewood Park Tennis Court area in masses, taking selfies, fueling up, stretching, hanging with friends and of course motivating themselves for the journey that awaits them. The scene was a perfect Maplewood Village of athletes, neighbors and spectators. Phew, this part is going as planned and everyone got on a bus by 7AM. Flash forward to 7:15AM when the masses embark onto the start line that reached far down the street. From my vantage point I was on a little rise and could see all the way to the back. The energy was contagious. Pace leader signs oddly placed perfectly down the middle of the crowd in a perfect line. Listening to the perfectly delivered National Anthem thinking, as I got "misty", this is it. Can this be pulled off, then the rush of the countdown to the "boisterous" Ready, Set and GO! Boom they are off. So far things are in place. Knowing you can only control what you can control and you don't know what you don't know. Hoping that the next 7 hours of months of planning is in place.
After the start I drive the timers back to the finish. At this point our team of hundreds from our staff of 50 personnel, to 100 police, to 100s of volunteers, to course contractors each have a job and it simply comes down to trust that each job is complete. You can only control what you can control. The finish line is command central for much of the race items. There is constant communication with the course, fixing issues that can be fixed, learning of developments you can only improve upon next year and getting as much understanding of what is happening out there and informing the spectators of the race progress. Then it begins, the leader of the half approaches, its time to get the finish line roaring. The crowds start smaller as many are on course watching loved ones. Then the 2nd person, 3rd, 10th and beyond. The crowds now thicken all the way down to the Pont de Rennes to the point that near the finish it causes what I call a "tour de France" situation, where spectators crowd into the finish line narrowing the path to it. We call in back up volunteers who manage the crowds. Each of whom I ask to cheer for everyone not just the one they love. Equal Opportunity Cheering environment I call it. Athletes are finishing in huge packs now, there is no way to call everyone's name but I try. I know how important it is to hear your name. I truly try, I promise. The hours go by. All the halfers are in and the fullers remain. The course closes at 2:30PM. Thousands have crossed the line and the last half hour is filled with, will the remaining make it in time. Twenty Six point Two miles with a 7 hour cut off. You want so badly to help everyone. It's now 2:30PM, I sign off the mic. The YellowJacket Racing and Fleet Feet crew who have been there all weekend long through the expo, through set up the day before, since 4AM on race day is now breaking down. We try to get a vibe from staff how it went. From the mic all day it was very positive. Boots delivered scenery, history and people went home with way more character than when they started.
The floods of comments on social media started arriving. We read every one of them. Personally, sometimes I don't know how things go until you read it on facebook or twitter. Was this event flawless - absolutely not! There is already of list of what needs to be improved for 2016. I sit now, drinking hot tea with honey, writing this very long speech truly voiceless because by 2:30PM I too left it all at the finish line. But if I could summarize this long diatribe by saying, being able to see this come to be built, to witness the incredible work of our internal and external teams putting it together, to watch athletes challenge themselves, displays the determination of many to make something great for Rochester to happen. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being part of it! This is Ellen Brenner of Fleet Feet Sports & YellowJacket Racing, signing off until next year.