Marathoners Turned Managers

by Gabrielle Balzell

Adam White and Brad Henz know how to put on first-class events, from the starting mark to the finish line and beyond.

“An event director wants an experience—something that resonates,” declares Adam White, owner of Running Central in Peoria Heights. “Something that their participant, their customer, their end user is taking with them beyond the finish line.”

Creating that experience is something that White and his business partner, FAST (Fun and Smart Training) head coach Brad Henz, have practically perfected as co-owners of RC Race Management LLC. Although they just celebrated one year in business this past January, White and Henz say their multifaceted event management company is the culmination of nearly eight years of planning and effort.

Finding Their Stride
As rivals turned partners—White and Henz competed against one another throughout their high school and college running careers—the pair came together as friends while on “similar re-journeys of running and life,” shortly before White purchased Running Central in December of 2007. Using the store as a leverage point, the two envisioned a joint venture that would combine their professional experience and shared passion. In the summer of 2009, they jumped—or rather ran—in with both feet by co-piloting the Main Street Mile, a fast-paced race through Peoria’s downtown, and unveiling the Peoria Area Track and Field Club. Later that fall, they launched the Screaming Pumpkin, a nighttime marathon/relay looping through Peoria’s historic Springdale Cemetery, and in 2011, premiered the glowstick-illuminated cross country race, Detweiller at Dark.

While reinvigorating the local running scene, White and Henz made sure that with each new endeavor undertaken, they also partnered to give back. “We thought that if this is going to work, the event management company needed to intimately link back to the community,” White explains. “Not just one sector of the community, but all sectors of the community. So, as we added races, we sought to partner with different not-for-profits… to be able to create resonance across the board.”

After several years of putting on successful races and training programs while keying in on community causes, such as E.L.I.T.E. Youth Outreach, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Children’s Hospital of Illinois, what started as more of a hobby became a full-fledged business. “Brad and I knew when we came to January of 2012 that the events… had grown to a point where they could stand on their own two feet,” White recalls. “That we had a sustainable business model and that we were rolling down a road that we really could create something special with a new business.” Thus, RC Race Management (RCRM) came to fruition.

From Timing to Tiaras
Offering more than just timing services, RCRM encompasses everything needed to coordinate and execute a racing event—from overall creative consulting to the nitty-gritty aspects like course setup, tent and restroom facility rental, food and water supply, and more. And it’s not just for running events; the company offers its services to organizations putting on any timed event—from cycling to canoeing to multisport and beyond.

But what makes the business a true standout is the owners’ scrupulous attention to detail and dedicated customer focus. “All of our choices have been very thought out,” Henz notes, “even down to the timing company we work with.” The industry standard, used to time some of the largest races in the U.S. and all of RCRM’s events, ChronoTrack technology not only gives some of the most accurate results available, it helps ensure a smooth experience from registration to the finish line and beyond—even allowing racers to share real-time results, photos and video via the Web, social media and smartphone.

Equally important as digitally preserving a racer’s experience is offering enticing and “cool” souvenirs. “The bell curve of participants don’t sign up for races nowadays until they see what that shirt looks like, or what that medal looks like,” says Henz, so he and White have strived to set their races apart with creative concepts and unique awards. For instance, top runners of RCRM’s Super Bowl Shuffler won trophies that looked like football helmets, and all participants received a sports jersey and themed pint glass. And not only did all Screaming Pumpkin marathoners receive medals that doubled as bottle openers, those runners who crossed the finish line before midnight were crowned with a tiara, while those who finished later walked away with a pumpkin.

» On Your Mark!
Get set for the second annual Heights Half Marathon, an RC Race Management event! At 8am on Saturday, April 13th, runners will take to the streets of Peoria Heights, experiencing magnificent views of the Illinois River Valley as they loop along Prospect Road and Grand View Drive during the 13.1-mile course. And for those not ready to go the distance on their own quite yet, the two-person relay splits the length into two more manageable legs. After participants cross the finish line, TNT’s Sports Bar & Grill will serve up post-race snacks. Proceeds benefit the Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association. Register online at heightshalfmarathon.com.

“People want an experience,” White explains, “and everything lends itself to the experience.” Remaining cognizant of that sentiment is what he considers one of RCRM’s greatest strengths, noting that he and Henz continually ask, “What are the components of an event that we can influence—that can heighten that experience?”

“It comes down to customer service,” Henz adds. “We want to make sure they’re getting the best experience.” That means ensuring that the person who comes in 50th, 200th or even 500th has just as good a time as the one who wins the race—and promising the same to everyone who helped along the way. “We want everybody to walk away feeling good,” White says. “Not just the participants, [but] everybody who supported the event—public works, the police department, the neighborhoods we ran through…”

Building a Business, Growing the Community
With nine scheduled RCRM races and more than 25 client events on the books so far, 2013 is shaping up to be a great year for the new managers. On May 19th, the pair plan to debut the River City Marathon—Peoria’s first true marathon/relay and the largest coordinated effort among city police, IDOT, emergency services and public works in the history of the region. “This is going to be, potentially in its inaugural year, the largest race in Peoria,” White proclaims. “The River City Marathon is going to become the crown jewel of athletic events for central Illinois because of how far it’s going to draw people and the sheer magnitude of the event. It’s going to be huge.”

In addition to benefiting St. Jude Runs, White and Henz anticipate that the event will offer a hefty boost to the local economy, as hundreds, potentially thousands of runners and their families will utilize area hotels, restaurants, shopping and entertainment. If they can pull it off without a hitch—which their track record suggests—it could help put central Illinois on the map as a destination for future races and events. “If we can take an athletic event around health and wellness and good causes, and showcase and promote the finest parts of this community, that’s a win-win across the board,” White asserts. “We really believe what we have the potential to do with event management is something that the city can grab onto—and the surrounding communities—and really help us all grow to be the best community we can be.” iBi

Visit rcracemanagement.com for more information on RC Race Management. Learn more about the River City Marathon at runrivercity.com.



Source URL: https://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2013/apr/marathoners-turned-managers