Event Director – Q&A June 2020
Organising a major closed road event can be difficult at the best of times, but 2020 has thrown us the biggest challenges yet.
We caught up with Aimee Baker, Event Director of the Manchester Marathon and Half, to find out how her and the team are coping.
What was it like having to cancel the Manchester Marathon in April?
Postponing the event in April was a tough decision, but the right decision. At first we were waiting for crucial information from the government to help with our decision, but in the end we took the call before the government imposed lockdown. We did this for the health and safety of our runners, crew, marshals, charities and partners. It really was a team effort to get all the communication out quickly to everyone, and the response from our runners for doing this at the time that we did was very positive.
What has been different about having to arrange an event during lockdown?
During lockdown the Human Race team has been operating in a scaled down structure, so we have been adjusting to working with a skeleton team. We are all working from home, and have all become ‘experts’ with Microsoft Teams. We have therefore not been able to visit the event site or route, however we have still been planning using all virtual means possible. When we postponed the Marathon event this year, the only date feasible to stage it was on the same day as our sister event the Manchester Half Marathon. In order that we could stage both events this year we have had to make some slight adjustments to the route. Luckily, our measuring team were able to get out to measure the route once some lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Once further restrictions are lifted, we will be able to start accessing more of our events sites, and route over the coming months.
We have been keeping sprits high with weekly themed team video meetings with everyone in the company furloughed or not. We have dressed up in different eras, musicians, actors, favourite sports, its been really fun, and a great way to boost morale and get everyone talking.
What type of thing have you been investigating for October’s event in a post COVID-19 world?
From an operations perspective I have been working hard looking at social distancing measures in all aspects of our participants journey for our event in October. This includes extra hand sanitising stations, staggering the start process, getting longer road closures approved, relooking at the way our staff, crew and volunteers can work safely plus much more. I have also been speaking with other events organisers, operations personnel and health & safety professionals within the industry to see how they are feeling in this current climate. What has become very apparent and clear is that the events industry has really come together to help one another, whether through advice, contacts or moral support. This compounds the reason why I and many others are in this industry.
When will runners find out if the event will happen? Won’t they have to start training soon?
We are have been in close contact with other mass participation events (London Marathon Events, Great Run Company, Brighton Marathon etc) and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England to provide information on how we can all successfully put our events on in the future, and therefore we would like to make the most informed decision regarding the status of our event by the 17th of July. In the meantime, enjoy being able to exercise outdoors and keep fit. It is now more important than ever to keep our minds and bodies healthy during these uncertain times. At Human Race we have started a little internal 5km time trial which has been fun and engaging to be a part of.
What can runners do in future to help events such as the Manchester Marathon and Half?
Please keep entering our events! We love putting these events on, despite the crazy early morning start on event day, and insane hours working up to the event. No matter how much planning you do, there is always more that can be done within weeks/days/hours to improve the event! Our events not only provide motivation to keep people fit and healthy, but it helps improve mental health and wellbeing. These events are a platform to allow charities to raise millions, and it also injects millions into the local economy through visitors coming to stay over for the weekend.
Post Covid we will ensure to follow all government guidelines to keep everyone safe! However, we ask that all runners, spectators and loved ones also adhere to the guidelines, and help us keep our events going. If we provide any advice to help make our events run smoother post covid please follow that advice as best you can.
Stay safe, and looking forward to our next event together!