It takes something special to stage the "World's Largest Fun Run"
On Sunday, the largest race in the world takes place. While the TCS New York City Marathon, AJC Peachtree Road Race and others receive plenty of acclaim, it's The Sun-Herald City2Surf presented by Westpac race in Sydney, Australia that brings together more than 80,000 runners year-after-year. Not bad for a race in a country with a population of only 24 million people.
The event takes place this Sunday, August 13, so we thought it'd be perfect timing to catch up with City2Surf's Jack Stewart (Course Supervisor) and Sarah Young (Race Director), get a little backstory on the event, talk big-race logistics and of course hear what they are most excited for this year's event.
City2Surf (C2S): The City2Surf is the world’s largest fun run, and therefore means different things to the more than two million people who have taken part over the years. The City2Surf is Sydney's favorite annual sporting event, bringing together all walks of life. The course takes in some of the best views the city and the iconic Bondi Beach, and the infamous Heart Break Hill factors amongst the most loved and hated elements of the race.
But nothing characterises it more than the 80,000 people that toe the start line in Hyde Park. From Superman who starts with the elites and sprints full pace down William Street to the pram pushers, group costumes and inspiring stories that come to light in August each year, it is the people that make this event truly one of a kind.
RUSA: Being one of the prominent races in the world, what does your staff look like and your volunteer base?
C2S: An event of this magnitude doesn't come together without the hard work of a group of talented individuals, and that's exactly what our team comprises of. Overall, we're a fairly young team with experience in a range of different events from all over the world. Every member of the team brings their own unique ideas and opinions to the table and this is how we can keep the City2Surf in a global spotlight.
Our volunteer base is the core of this event - over 2,500 volunteers comprising of children, parents, grandparents, community groups and everything in between. The groups are proud and passionate about what they bring to the event, so much so that they request to come back into the same role each year (even down to specific sets of tables at drink stations!). That level of ownership really allows them to excel at what they do.
RUSA: City2Surf is known to have more than 80,000 runners. How do you manage so many runners both on race weekend, but all the logistics leading up to the race, too?
C2S: When you mirror it to a sold-out football stadium event (like the Super Bowl), with a huge amount of people converging to an area that isn't supposed to hold them, it takes an incredible amount of collaboration and planning to ensure that the city continues to run as per usual. For the City2Surf, this includes the cooperation as event organisers with Police, Roads and Transport Authorities, traffic management companies and the three different councils whose land is involved. Luckily, we have experience on our side and know exactly what it takes to get 80,000 people out of Bondi on a Sunday afternoon.
The pre-event logistics are just as tricky - transporting thousands of bibs, bags and countless trucks of equipment. This is all made possible by our world class logistics team, and 40 years of constantly refining our processes.
RUSA: With your event right around the corner, what's new this year? What should we keep an eye on?
C2S: We're always searching for creative ways to enhance the event that our participants come back to year after year. This time around, our focus has been on creating a full weekend of activities to stretch out the City2Surf experience as much as possible.
In 2017, the City2Surf will host a festival for the first time on the Saturday before the run, and include yoga (free for kids), food stalls and a range of extra activities throughout the day. The three-day CITYFIT Expo is also back and running in conjunction with Race Bib Collection. Australian surfer and City2Surf event ambassador, Sally Fitzgibbons is bringing her All Australian Beach Body live workout to the expo for any participants who are looking for more than just a challenging run over the weekend.
On top of this, keep an eye out for all the community bands, DJs and exciting new activities along the course. For anyone who can't make it to the City2Surf, look out for a Facebook Live video on race day on our Facebook page!
RUSA: What's been the biggest challenge for your event over the past year or two?
C2S: The world’s largest fun run comes with its own inherent challenges. Even the things that sound simple - like setting up drink stations - takes a fleet of trucks, 800,000 cups, and 2,000 volunteers. 7.5 tonne of discarded clothing is collected from the start line and trucked to charities. But over the past few years one of the biggest challenges has been keeping up with the new security measures in place to ensure participant safety at all times. We scrutinise every aspect of the event with the help of NSW Police and do everything that we can to keep our runners safe.
RUSA: What's one tip you'd give fellow race directors in growing their events?
C2S: Just keep at it and always be looking for ways to enhance the participant experience. City2Surf started in 1971 with just over 1,500 runners and it didn't grow to 80,000 in just a few years. Go above and beyond to surprise your patrons and they'll pay you back with interest.
To learn more about City2Surf and to follow along with their race, visit http://city2surf.com.au/. To watch this weekend's event, you can do so on Facebook, here: https://www.facebook.com/cityrunseries/