A Day in the Life: Assistant Race Director

A Day in the Life: Assistant Race Director

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell

I first wrote this blog in a way which described the role of the Air Force Marathon Assistant Director (AD), but decided to scrap that and start over. I wanted to write this one from more of the depths of my heart, which is not something I let bleed through often in my professional way of speaking to my role at the Air Force Marathon. So, journey with me for a moment to learn though this story what the AD does, but just as much how that came to be.

I was given the opportunity to join the Air Force Marathon family in 2014, when I was hired on as the “Office Automation Clerk”, or as we came to joke, the OAC. If you knew me then, you would know I was energetic and full of passion for the running world, but a little timid in my voice. The director took a chance on me, you could say. I placed on my computer monitor a little quote that simply said “Dream Big”, which remains on my computer monitor to this day. I put it there because I entered the running industry with goals to grow and learn and move my way up within the Air Force Marathon. I didn’t shout this goal to the sky, I simply laid it deep within me and began doing all I could and was permitted to do in order to soak in knowledge of the running world. I was eager to learn.

I’ve had a couple of great mentors in my years at the AFM, who believed in me enough to push me hard, give me space to experiment and allow my knowledge to expand through it all. The former director taught me much about leadership, about management and about teamwork. He also pushed me when I needed it and encouraged me in the appropriate times. He helped me as a runner to believe in myself, but also just as strongly, he encouraged me in my knowledge of how to run a large-scale event well. Another mentor taught me about the industry in other ways, logistics, decision making, importance of building relationships and how to be okay with saying “I don’t know, can you help me?” He taught me a lot about letting my voice come through at the appropriate times. Through those mentors and the experiences of what I touched in the office as the office admin, I grew to learn about the different parts of the race execution. My desire to do more continued to grow and I continued to “dream big”.

In 2018, our office went through a great shift in staffing. Through that, I was able to move into a new position, the Events Manager. As the events manager, I grew to learn more about other aspects of the event I hadn’t touched as deeply. Meanwhile, through changes of staff and deployed partners, I was able to be hands on in other areas and grow by default through those circumstances. I will not pretend- I shed some tears through the frustrations, laughed a lot through the strengthened relationships, bled a little in hard work, sweat a lot and grew tremendously. Some moments in that role were difficult for me, but I wouldn’t trade them for a moment because those experiences grew me and stretched me to learn how to lead in my own way. Meanwhile, come 2019, the director opened the role for the Assistant Director. And I had not quit dreaming. I stared every day at the tattered paper on my monitor that has weathered desk changes, coffee spills and 5 years of re-taping it together that reminded me to dream big.

Since the role was being re-created after having not been a role for many years, it came with a learning curve as to what would be expected. The process of getting to the place of being chosen for this position was long, it was hard, and again, it pushed me in all new ways. Yet I continued to dream big and I applied for the position. Long story short (kind of), here I am writing this blog. I officially was named the Assistant Director in November 2019. Since then, there have been many moments of all of us adapting to the new role and what it means to our event and what are the every day tasks the AD will perform.

So what do I do as the AD? I’m in the process of taking over all the contracts in our office, as the director walks me through how to do that. Contracts consist of a variety of items and ways to be written. It applies to shirts, medals, fireworks, fencing, flags and many more items that apply to the entities we work with outside the base. Diving into writing/executing these has required patience on the end of the contracting office and the director as I learn a new way of helping our event be the best it can be. Another aspect I am overseeing is the Emergency Management. I will work closely with the Fire Department, Security Forces, local law enforcement and the logistics coordinator, Jordan West, in how to appropriately manage a crisis event, should it arise. In fact, on race day, you won’t see me too often because I can be found inside the Operations Trailer on a radio, managing the calls that come through in regards to traffic issues, lack of supplies, a runner down, and any other event that affects our race. When the calls come through, it falls on me or funnels through me to leadership, to fix it. While the race goes on smoothly for our participants, it is requiring much hard work that goes unknown with the team inside the operations trailer and the logistics crew out on the course. We are a tightly woven team executing behind the scenes.

The role is also one which supports the other team members. In part due to my years inside the office, in part a default aspect of a leadership role, I am able to support the other members of the team when questions arise or help is needed in moving their job forward in a smooth execution. I especially work closely with the logistics coordinator in overseeing the start/finish line (along with a trusty long-time contractor to the event, Adam, who also has taught me a lot about this part of the event). This includes the corral plan, which we are looking forward to doing better in 2021. It also includes the start line, the finish line chutes and medal distribution, the tent set-up and medical set-up.  This again is a team effort with the logistics coordinator.

We are still learning out way through having this new role in the office, but I am honored to have been given the opportunity to be called the Assistant Director. Sharing in this way isn’t natural for me because the reality is, I could not be in this place without those team members who have been around me through my 6  years at the marathon thus far and have helped shaped me. I am excited to see what it brings to helping continue to better our event,  and don’t worry….I’m continuing to dream big, as the small paper reminds me every day. As the quote at the beginning of this states, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

Written by: Rachael McKinney 


Related Pages:

Charity Partners
Air Force Marathon 2021

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