Tracey Russell, the new CEO of the ASICS LA Marathon, is hoping to take the past success of the massive race and run with it.
Just two months into her new position, she is working to increase participation in the race and turn it into an international phenomenon. Russell has also been a part of the group lobbying to bring the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials to Los Angeles.
“We feel that’s one great objective in terms of improving globally,” she said, adding that hosting the trials would raise the profile of the marathon quickly. USA Track & Field officials are slated to choose between Los Angeles, Houston and Cincinnati in December. “I feel like we’ve got a very strong bid.”
Previously, Russell was the executive director of the Atlanta Track Club, which managed the AJC Peachtree Road Race, the Atlanta Half Marathon and the Atlanta Marathon. She was hired on Aug. 12.
A former competitive swimmer, Russell said she has only run a few marathons, but became more intricately involved in managing races while working for a nonprofit in Virginia.
As part of the Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers, she was involved in an effort to revitalize the Richmond Marathon, which was in danger of “going away.” After eight years, the event saw a complete turn-around.
During her time in Georgia, the track club saw its annual sponsorship revenue and organizational budget double in six years, and more than 15 new events were added to the club’s portfolio, according to a press release. The club’s membership also tripled.
Russell, who has almost two decades of race management experience, said the events in Atlanta and Los Angeles have their differences, but they’re both a “huge” contributor to the community.
“It’s just this incredible community asset,” she said, adding that the marathons benefit local businesses and local charities.
Russell said she has “tremendous” respect for the LA Marathon’s leadership team, which has re-energized and enhanced the event with a new course. It travels through Echo Park, Silver Lake, Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills before making its way to the coastline. She also praised the partnership with title sponsor ASICS.
“Both have created just tremendous momentum,” Russell said.
She said she is excited to play a role in taking the marathon to the next level. Like all marathons, it comes with its own challenges, but Russell praised the course and the marathon’s great support in Los Angeles.
One challenge Russell is facing is growing participation after 2013’s sold-out race. Registration just opened for the 2014 installment in March, and the organization is already seeing a large response. However, she feels the event has room to grow.
“I think slowly growing the race over time is going to allow us to really leverage the ASICS LA Marathon as one of the top international races,” Russell said.
She said other markets have made similar moves to accommodate more participants; however, it is important that the organization produces a well-executed and safe experience.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Russell said.
Security may be a more important element to upcoming races than in years past due to the Boston Marathon bombings in April. Russell said the LA Marathon will ensure that it has “great” security for participants and spectators.
“Everybody revisited their security plans, and the same thing is happening here,” she added.
Further, Russell hopes to continue giving back to the community through charity programs. Last year, the LA Marathon raised $3.5 million for such organizations, and organizers are striving for $4 million this year, she said.
Russell said it has been a few years since the LA Marathon had a CEO, and Nick Curl remains as the race director for the event.
“I’ve just added on and joined this team,” she said.
The 2014 ASICS LA Marathon will be held on Sunday, March 9, and will begin at Dodger Stadium. For information, visit www.lamarathon.com.
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