Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Magic Show

The MultiSport Canada HQ Trailer at the Kingston Triathlon (one of the longest running triathlons in North America!)

I first heard the term, "The Magic Show" in the context of endurance sports events, from 8-time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser, when Paula was working for Graham Fraser, when Graham was running all of the Ironman races in North America. Paula was referring to the Magic Show that was the travelling road show that was Ironman at the time - moving from race location to race location, arriving in the Ironman race site, in town-x, and transforming the race site, into the amazing thing that the Ironman race site was with all the bells and whistles! But this could describe almost all triathlons, running and cycling events. The Magic Show goes on all over the place at thousands of events every weekend!

Endurance sports races/events, be they triathlons, running or cycling all do this. They transform a city street, a park, a conservation area, where ever the race is, into what the race/event participants see on race day. Almost everything, be it the finish gantry, the porta-potties, the signage and so on, has to be brought in and set up. The transformation for some of the bigger races - say the big city Marathons, or the Ironman triathlons can be extraordinary.

However, the work, and the magic, that goes into even mid-sized races/events, is substantial! I am the official race and event announcer for the ReCharge With Milk triathlon series in Ontario that is run by MultiSport Canada (MSC). These are triathlon events that can have upwards of 1,000 entrants.  The series itself is 11-events stretched out over the course of the summer in Southern Ontario. It's the largest triathlon series in Canada! At each event venue, be it a quiet conservation area, or a busy down-town location in a mid sized city, the Magic Show goes on and they transform the place into an awesome race venue for the athletes.

With a triathlon you are really putting on three races - a swim race, a cycling race and a running race, with a transition area, a space for an Expo and then the finish area infrastructure. It's a lot of work to get this all organized and set up and each race site is unique. The minute details - just keep coming and coming: Heavy rains the week before have made a part of the what was supposed to be the transition area boggy. A change in road permitting, will not allow access to a certain road. Last minute road construction that was not communicated can close roads. And so on!

The MSC crew move all their stuff in and out for each event in the series - it's remarkable to watch the set-up and the tear-down that happens and the work that goes into all this!

Nothing seems to phase the MSC crew - even horrific race-day weather - which is rare, but NEEDS to be planned for with details, is all worked out in advance, so when they face it, there is a plan and you implement it. Nothing is left to chance! That's part of the Magic Show to! Although, that's not really magic, just extraordinarily amazing planning and implementation!

I've often said, if you want to hire a Race/Event Director - hire a Triathlon Race Director, because, they are not putting on one race, they are putting on three races simultaneously!

Race participants know none of this. They just show up and expect that everything will be in place. That there will be no wait at the porta-potties and that the 10K run is . . . measured to be exactly 10K. (With mobile GPS now, even course length accuracy is very important). That everything will be taken care of for them at the race. The expectations for running, triathlon and cycling race/event participants these days are VERY high. An event management company like MultiSport Canada knows this, and they go overhead and above to make it a great experience for each and every participant.

MSC Founder John Salt* even stands just past the finish-line at every race and shakes the hand of every person that crosses the finish line. I've heard John say, "If you want to know if an athlete had a good time at your race, just stand at the finish-line and shake their hand. If they have a good or bad day they will tell you right there. In 14 years, I've only had a few that were unhappy"!  Now that's being in touch with your customers!

And that's the story of the Magic Show!

* Some bonus content: A podcast - Bob Babbitt interviewing MSC's John Salt A great listen!

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