It’s one of world’s greatest sports events, hugely popular, watched and loved by millions. The London Marathon takes place this Sunday. Originally the brainchild of former Olympic champion and journalist Chris Brasher and athlete John Disley, the first race of 11,000+ competitors was run in 1981. On Sunday 36,000 thousand participants will run the streets of London. It has various categories of races including an elite men’s and woman’s events and wheelchair races and a 3 mile mini marathon. The winners will be crossing the finish line having completed the 26.2 mile course in a little over 2 hours! The charity runners who make up the largest group will take a little longer but rather fantastically they have to date raised over a staggering £700 million.
A massive event planning exercise of marathon proportions!
Let me say right from the outset that I have not organised a marathon before. But what I do know from my outdoor event experience is that getting it right requires logistical and organisational excellence. It is after all taking place on a street circuit and its major infrastructure pieces housed in public parks. This means the ‘get in’ opportunity will be marked in hours not days. No leisurely builds here. This will be about mobilising huge numbers of people across the course to erect fences, set up drinks stations, mile markers, first aid points, media and televisions points, sponsors banners etc. And once it’s up – checking the specifications and locations to make sure it is exactly what is required.
The organisers The London Marathon Events Ltd will have spent months liaising with a variety of agencies in London to ensure the race goes to plan. These agencies will also be mobilising large numbers of people to complete their part of the deal. For example checking, sweeping and litter picking the run route and pavements and parks where the spectators will congregate in their thousands. There will be a heavy Police presence, hundreds of safety stewards and medical personal, teams of caterers and charity volunteers manning drinks points and looking after their designated runners. Job sheets, family trees, back up plans for staff no shows will have been created and actioned.
This leads me nicely onto the 36,000 runners: who need processing, microchipping, numbering, watering, bagging up (their belongings), guiding to the right start points and generally hand holding: they are nervous and not always the easiest people in the world to deal with. They start, they finish and then whole process starts again. For the event to run smoothly the marathon organisers will be utilising the latest smart technology, ensuring they have plenty of eyes on the ground – watching and of course be reliant on hundreds of people doing their job brilliantly. There can be no mistakes.
It is indeed an awesome event planning feat (I’ve just scratched surface of the vast range organisational factors involved in delivering a major public event) so I say thank you to ALL those involved in making it probably the greatest long distance running event in the world? Please go along and support the runners and note that without the great work of the marathon’s organisers there would be NO event.
Author: Chris Powell
I deliver a range of in-house event management courses and coaching programmes covering all types of public and business events to a wide range of clients. In case you are not sure they are based on 20 practical experiences of designing, planning and delivering events.