The brain behind the race - The Explorer: Sports

The brain behind the race

Putting on local run a logistical challenge for former ad exec

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Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:47 am, Wed Nov 28, 2012.

What drives someone to awake before dawn, strap on shoes and race 11 miles is tough to corral. What compels another to spend untold hours directing that event for 300 runners is enigmatic.

Under last Friday’s daybreak rain, Steve Landau, president of race-organizing outfit Everyone Runs, offered his motives.

“When I was in advertising, all I felt like I was doing was promoting free enterprise,” Landau, 45, said. “Doing this, I can give back to people a bit.”

Twenty-four hours before the fleet-footed descended on Saturday’s 11- and 5.5-mile events featuring music, Mexican breakfasts and occasional muscle cramps, Catalina State Park’s Canyon Loop trailhead hosted more gnats than people.

Landau — along with his wife Brenda and volunteer Jeff Balmat — stretched a length of blue snow fence, emblazoned with the company logo, along the starting run.

The former ad exec decided to chase down a dream three years ago, carving a family business from marketing smarts, a love for weekend warriors and a desire to benefit local charities.

As the rain let up and Brenda left for her day job, scrubbing out water coolers rarely seemed so altruistic.

“It’s pretty amazing they can get all this done,” Balmat said. “Everything sorta comes together during the day and night before.”

Still, no matter how many times you pull it off, logistics run deep for organizing a race.

“You see all the mayhem. But if you keep cool, no one notices,” Landau said.

On that morning, Landau’s driveway was stocked with 2,000 pounds of energy drink powder, 500 five-gallon water bottles, boxes of energy gels, cups and 260 bananas.

He’d rounded up generators to run a sound system and a newly purchased $3,200 inflatable arch that served as the start/finish line. Within minutes, portable toilets were set to arrive at the trailhead — relieving pressure on cactuses that lined the course.

Come race day, preparedness defines professionalism for Landau, to whom “safety is everything.”

Ten course monitors would post themselves along the route to prevent lost runners, while a handful of Golder Ranch paramedics would also stand at the ready.

And should odds have conspired for disaster regardless, Landau sealed the gaps with a $2 million insurance policy.

In the past, Landau’s eschewed sleep for 36 hours prior to race time while tying his loose ends, but the errand lists that drove him weren’t pulled from the sky.

Before his first event, Landau attended a race director’s course in Florida, where he picked the field’s best brains, including organizers of the Boston Marathon.

“I figured if you’re going to do something, be a student of what you’re doing,” Landau said.

At 6:30 a.m. the next day, class was in session, under a wispy, rippled sky of light clouds.

Pamela Hoyt, 52, and Michelle Spohn, 47, lined up at the pack’s rear half, dialing in iPods that Landau reluctantly allowed onto his course for the first time.

Hoyt, normally a hiker, wore a hydration pack that distance runners like Spohn wouldn’t dream of sporting. The Tucson pair were eager to run for ”fitness and camaraderie,” without focus on their times.

“I haven’t been training like I’d like to,” Spohn laughed.

“And I’m not as good as her,” Hoyt added.

Soon, both ladies joined runners passing a water station manned by more of Landau’s volunteer army, which elsewhere included his two sons. David Landau, a nephew from Long Island and University of Arizona junior, offered athletes both energy drink and [ITAL]“wata.”[ITAL]

The amiable New Yorker was shot down while offering drinks to two young women, who accepted from a pair of cheeky grade-schoolers working the table instead.

“I like it helping out here,” David Landau said. “It’s fun, and it’s fresh air.”

As the last runners trickled through the course, thanking their race organizer between breaths, Landau admitted he’d repeated his insomniac ritual again the previous night, due to a nervous stomach.

Two hours after the race’s start, Landau’s preparation and anxiety yielded to success and cleanup, like a holiday morning of gifts.

Landau breathed easy before heading toward the awards ceremony.

“This is what I love,” Landau said. “You’re out here cheering people on, people are having a great time. It’s such a positive thing.”

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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