Walking into the Bayshore Hotel, surrounded by water and breathtaking views of Stanley Park I had made my way up to the Vancouver Marathon’s office where I was warmly introduced to the petite and energetic new face of BMO’s Vancouver International Marathon. Meet executive director Charlene Krepiakevich who I had the pleasure to chat with about her new exciting role and the Vancouver International Marathon’s early beginnings.
A runner herself for 20 years has always been her way of staying fit and healthy, but she won’t be running in this year’s event as she had done in previous years. She will be “Running Behind The Scenes”. This marathon runner’s vision is taking the BMO Vancouver International Marathon to the world stage of recognized marathons.
This will be BMO’s 41st year and last year marked their 40th anniversary with guest speakers: Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson – Running Celebrities.
In her office, I couldn’t help but notice the well maintained marathon trophies collected over the years placed beautifully in a glass case. We first chatted about the Vancouver marathon history. It was 1972 that the marathon was founded by the Lions Gate Road Runners – real pioneers in the development of marathons. Krepiakevich notes, “We were really paving the way in a lot of respects in the world of marathons.” It was in 1987 the Lions Gate Road Runners formed a society- a non-profit organization that could oversee the management of the event and that has been the case since then. It is run by a volunteer board of directors and last year during the Vancouver Marathon’s 40th year, the board decided to re-establish the event and put forward a new vision. Krepiakevich comments, “The world has changed in 40th years. The event world has changed, and the running world has changed. Management practices has changed, lots of things have changed. The city has changed.”
From that strategic planning session the board decided on a new vision, mission, values, and strategic plan. What they needed was professional management in-house. She recalls, “I was approached by the board. I was doing contract work at the time. I said, well, I am a runner and my area of profession is in marketing communications and business development.” She continues, “Oh, I never thought about something like that. I worked in non-profit for two years as I was VP of marketing and communications for the Canadian Cancer Society.” Krepiakevich knew the non-profit world, events and working with boards. Over a few discussions with the board, she decided to take on this exciting opportunity: a perfect fit as being a runner herself – she ran last’s year New York City Marathon and with her knowledge and expertise for events she is excited about her new role. She said, “I am here as she says happily and smiles, It is perfect. It is a dream job. As things are in life, things fall into place. It is one of these jobs that I went, oh my goodness, I guess I was destined for it. I feel very lucky to be here, to be part of the new vision, mission, and looking for a 3-5, 10 year goal of really placing the Vancouver International Marathon Society and the BMO Vancouver Marathon- our Event on the world stage-that is the vision and to make this a world class celebration of running. Ranking among the world’s best.” She was delighted to learn that their event was listed in Forbes Magazine ( January 23, 2012) as one of the top 10 destination runs.
Based on Runners’ feedback over the last few years a new course was suggested. What resulted from that was over the course of 18 months or so a new course was designed. Last fall, the new courses were approved by the City and now are point to point courses. She explains, “Which is really the model for those world class events like New York and Boston are all point to point courses.” She adds, “What we got now are two point to point courses really designed for the world stage and they both showcase some of the best parts of the city, 70% shoreline, between the two events they go through 11 neighborhoods and is really an opportunity to show parts of the city.”
Both routes start at Queen Elizabeth Park and merge back the last 2km to the finish line at the Olympic Cauldron and Vancouver Convention Centre.
The event has drawn 74% Canadian, 23% US and the balance is from international runners. Their Elite Program is targeted for 10-20 runners from around the world. A new course record will be set as it is a fast and downhill course. There will be a wheelchair event for the half. She notes, “A good marathon is having the runners, the volunteers, keeping it safe for the runners, the spectators, and locals. More and More people are running marathons and it is achievable a marathon if you put the effort into the training.”
Since October 2011 in her new position as executive director she has been a role model for many by following her passion for running and sports management. She said, “As a woman it has made an interesting dynamic. Management is made up of a lot of men and in sports management too. Great for young women to get involved in sports management.”
The BMO Vancouver International Marathon will be held on May 6th