|Eric and son after the 2012 Mardi Gras Mambo 10k|
If you've ever wondered what it's like to organize a race, this interview is for you.
Eric Engemann is Vice President of Baton Rouge Area Sports Foundation and Race Director of the Amedisys Mardi Gras Mambo 10k. Eric took some time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions so readers can get a sense of what it's like to run a race (pun intended).
Beth: When did the Mardi Gras Mambo 10k get its start?
Eric: The Mardi Gras Mambo 10k started in 1999 after our local newspaper suspended what was once the Great River Road Run 10k here in Baton Rouge. Our organization, with the help of our local running club and race partner, Club South Runners, looked to fill that void with the Mambo.
Beth: What other races/events does BRASF organize during the year?
Eric: We help support about 75 different sports events in Baton Rouge annually but we are solely responsible for the Mambo, the Battlefield Cross Country Festival which is a high school/middle school cross country event and a flag football tournament series that we are just starting this year. We also serve as the volunteer coordinator for the Louisiana Marathon, which is in its second year coming up in January.
2012 Mardi Gras Mambo 10k
Beth: How long have you been working in the athletic event industry?
Eric: My athletic industry career started in college athletics at LSU, University of Kentucky and the University of Wisconsin. I started working on runs when I was at UW with the Crazy Legs Classic (8k run, over 18,000 participants) and loved it. I started here with BRASF in 2007 and got the opportunity to work on and eventually direct the Mambo as well as a number of other Baton Rouge area running events.
Beth: How did you get started?
Eric: Volunteering got me started in running events; I wanted to learn as much as I could so I grabbed a race calendar and just started showing up to learn as much as I could – those early days paid off a ton.
Beth: How far in advance do you start planning an event like a 10k?
Eric: We generally start in June for a February race but that start date is getting pushed back further and further the larger the race gets!
Beth: How many staff and how many volunteers do you need for a 5k or 10k race?
Eric: We will have four staff members and about 40-50 volunteers on site for our 10k of about 2,000 runners. Some advancements have allowed us to use less volunteers and a number of our sponsors now bring large contingents of their employees to help out in different ways as well.
Beth: What is the hardest part of organizing a race?
Eric: Definitely race week – there’s so much that has to be done in such a short time frame that it wears on you mentally more than anything.
Beth: What is your favorite part of organizing a race?
Eric: Everything else! Honestly it is a lot of fun when you can facilitate a race where people can participate for a fair price, get some great stuff, run a fun course at a distance they may not tackle very often, and help them meet a fitness or distance milestone that they have been shooting for. That’s the “good stuff” as they say…
Beth: What is the strangest complaint (or compliment) you've ever received from a participant?
2012 Mardi Gras Mambo 10k
Eric: I'm not sure if this is a complaint or compliment but we traditionally announce the age group winners oldest to youngest – we like everyone to recognize those older ladies and gentlemen who can still go fast! And I think they appreciate the recognition.
Beth: ... after reading this, I know exactly what my "retirement career" will be. Until then, I have a couple of decades of volunteering and daydreaming to do. Thanks, Eric!
What's your "dream job?"
What else would you like to know about being a race director?