Rocket City Marathon Committee/HTC Board Meeting

17 February 2005

Board Members Present:  David Purinton (President), Harold Tinsley (VP-Communications), Anne Park (Secretary), Jim Oaks (Appointed Member—Cotton Row Director), Dick Franklin (VP-Races & Equipment), Malcolm Gillis (Appointed Member—Past Rocket City Marathon Director), Suzanne Taylor, (Appointed Member—Rocket City Marathon Director), Craig Armstrong (Appointed Member—Past Officer)   


Board Members Absent: Kathy Youngren (Treasurer), Ashley Cain (VP-Programs)


Also present were approximately 30 Rocket City Marathon Committee Members.


The Rocket City Marathon Planning and Information meeting was held at Logan's Roadhouse on Balmoral Drive in Huntsville, Alabama, with the meeting beginning at 6:15 p.m.  The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the marathon past and present, examine its future direction, and to create a stronger link between the Marathon and the HTC Board.


Malcolm Gillis, outgoing race director, briefly highlighted the 2004 race.  Malcolm provided eight years of commitment to directing the marathon and his efforts are greatly appreciated by the marathon committee and the club’s executive board.  Giving smaller amounts of prize money worked out well with very little effect on runner numbers.  There were no foreign runners and there were many local prize winners.  The biggest problem was that the shirts had the wrong date and the word "marathon" omitted, but that error was resolved with corrected shirts ordered and mailed out to all participants.


Suzanne Taylor, incoming race director, then took the floor and presented the artwork for the 2005 race shirt which was passed around the room.  She also provided handouts containing an outline and highlights of the information she would be presenting and proceeded to give an excellent presentation of her vision for the future of the marathon.  She then cited marathon statistics from 2003 as background information for our discussion and asked for input as to the characteristics of a successful marathon.  Harold pointed out that we need to remember that our marathon used to be highly competitive but this aspect has changed as the years went by.  Some indications of "success" that were mentioned were that runners went home happy, it was "fun", there were lots of spectators, booster sign contests, community involvement and new runners came to volunteer.


Suzanne also quoted marathon statistics pertaining to area marathons and pointed out that we need something to compete with these marathons to draw runners to our race.  One suggestion was that we change the date, but that was not considered feasible at the present time, and another was that we include a half marathon.  It was questioned whether we want large numbers of runners and what number we would consider ideal.  The logistics involving an added half-marathon were also pointed out to be daunting.  It was agreed that our name used to be "out there" but has not been so in recent years, and we need to recapture the recognition that we used to have.


The next item of discussion was sponsorship, and each member present received a sample letter of sponsorship and was encouraged to think about whom they know and email Suzanne the names of prospects and she will put together a proposal.  Several companies have already been given sponsorship proposals and we are awaiting responses from those we have not yet heard from.  We can work with sponsor companies regarding extra sponsorship benefits such as company fitness classes.


The entry fee was discussed.  Surrounding event fees are much higher than ours; what fee structure would most benefit our race objectives?  How much would runners be willing to spend for a race of our type?  We need to watch Knoxville's first marathon in April to see what kind of numbers they get.  We need to determine how much our marathon costs per runner.


We need to determine how many runners we want and then have a number, such as 1500, become a good number to shoot for.  Numbers will increase if you have good perceived value.  Instead of trying to add another race to increase numbers, maybe we need to add more goodies such as quality finisher shirts, blankets, good food, etc. 


Chip timing was discussed and it was pointed out that Chip timing is not essential because in this race the runners are well spread out by the time they finish, and because the finish time, not the chip time, would still be the official time for each runner.  The best benefit resulting from chip timing seems to be perception.   


We need to better publicize the marathon by enlisting media partners.  It remains a question whether we should try to get many different media groups involved or stay with only one.  The 2004 marathon went largely unnoticed by the media with not much coverage from some news stations, and one station had no coverage at all.  One idea would be to bring back Harold's training program for first-time runners and work something out with the newspaper to print a schedule each week.  And perhaps it would help to have runner interviews and instruction information published from week to week in the local newspaper.  We also need to advertise in running club calendars and running stores around the area.  Suzanne also mentioned sending letters to houses and business along the route requesting that they come out and support the marathon and maybe include sponsor advertising, coupons, etc.


Other suggestions for future consideration included the need to improve the bib race numbers so they are easier to see from a distance, e.g. black on white, and have male and female bibs easily distinguishable from each other.  We also need to have some kind of definite cut-off when the 6-hour time limit expires, and it was suggested to have a "balloon lady" who walks the marathon at the 6-hour pace and anyone behind her is no longer a part of the race and must step to the side.  It is planned to have extra room for vendors in 2005, plus having a prominent guest speaker during the pre-race dinner. 


The cotton Row and Marathon are renting a shed together which will be of great help in storing race equipment.


It was also agreed that having more marathon meetings would help to improve communication resulting in a better quality marathon.


The meeting adjourned at 8:15.