By Leah Etling
From runner to race director, Emi Uelmen describes her journey as both a participant and organizer of the Eau Claire Marathon as one that’s driven by passion for a sport she loves.
She began her professional journey in the sport in November 2013, when she took over her hometown race. Since then, she’s increased participation in the race by more than five times and hopes to double it again.
As a runner herself, Emi knows how much on course entertainment makes a difference for participants. “I love working with the local bands, and choirs, DJ’s, adding cheer stations, spectator spots, motivational signs,” she told us.
She also wants runners of all speeds to know their value. “I make sure to be at the finish line for the very last participant. I want them to know that they matter just as much as the first finisher.”
Running USA deeply values hearing from our smaller event members. Get to know Emi and learn about her experience as a race director:
What got you into the running industry?
EU: In May 2013, I ran the Eau Claire Marathon Relay with my husband, father and mother-in-law. We had so much fun that we said we were going to make it a yearly tradition. The owners of the race at that time decided to not continue the race and that is when I stepped in.
Why do you love your job?
EU: THE PEOPLE! I have the two greatest directors that help me daily. The most amazing race committee! The best sponsors, charity partners, city employees and volunteers. And most importantly, an unreal race community that I love to interact with daily.
What’s your favorite part of event production?
EU: Creating the course entertainment. As a runner myself who needs entertainment on the course to get me through a race, I love working with the local bands and choirs, DJ’s, adding cheer stations, spectator spots, motivational signs, getting the university involved and so much more. I make sure to be at the finish line for the very last participant. I want them to know that they matter just as much as the first finisher.
And conversely, what do you dread the most about “day of” the event?
EU: Not being able to be out on the course cheering on all the participants. I tried to step away from the start and finish one year and got a call within about three minutes to get back.
What’s your current greatest challenge as a race director, and how are you tackling it?
EU: My first goal was to take our race from 1,000 participants to 5,000. We have now done that. Now, I need to figure out how to get us from 5,000 to 10,000! It seems like the answer is somewhere in the midst of SEO, keywords, and social media, so I am trying to learn more about that on a daily basis.
Your go-to fuel up snack or meal on race day?
EU: Water, water and more water!
The 3 most essential items in your race day backpack?
EU: 1. My phone to capture race day photos.
2. A notebook and pen to take notes on ways to improve for the following year.
3. Not in my backpack but essential for race day is my super 73 electric bike that allows me to get from place to place as fast as possible!
Do you have a lucky charm or outfit you wear? Maybe a quote you keep in mind?
EU: My 18-year-old daughter and I have the words “make it count” tattooed on our wrists. It is our family slogan. No matter what you are doing, make it count!
If you weren’t doing this work, what would you be doing instead?
EU: Honestly I truly can’t see myself doing anything else. I love what I do!
What’s the next race you hope to run yourself?
EU: I plan to run the Twin Cities Marathon in October in the hope of qualifying for the Boston Marathon 2023!
Anything else you’d like to add?
EU: I am so thankful for the Running USA group. I came to Puerto Rico in 2019 not knowing a soul. Now I am part of the most amazing running community!
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