ST. GEORGE – The 38th annual St. George Marathon is quickly approaching, and soon thousands of runners will board buses bound for Central, Utah, on a quest to complete the 26.2 miles of the beautiful and inspiring race that was voted people’s choice for “most organized event” in Runner’s World Magazine, January 2010.
Earning that accolade is no small feat, considering there are nearly 1,100 marathons in the United States alone. A great deal of the credit for that accomplishment is due to the main woman behind the scenes at the St. George Marathon: Race Operations Manager Kami Ellsworth.
Ellsworth, who graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in recreation management and youth leadership, said she hoped to stay in the Provo area for work, but she ended up moving to St. George to take a job at Southwest Behavioral Health Center.
When the position of race operations manager came open for the St. George Marathon, Ellsworth said she applied on a whim and had nearly forgotten about it when, months later, she was called in for an interview and was ultimately offered the job.
While she has always been very active, Ellsworth said running for fun was never on the agenda unless she had a ball in her hand. Recreational running was, therefore, something she had to learn to appreciate, but she is now in her eighth year at the helm of one of St. George’s most prestigious sporting events.
“I just jumped in with both feet,” she said.
Dawn Albrecht, program coordinator for St. George Leisure Services, said Ellsworth is a great leader who color codes everything and always knows exactly what needs to be done.
“If you don’t know what you are supposed to be doing,” Albrecht said, “it is because you didn’t read the instructions she gave you or you didn’t talk to her.”
For an event of this magnitude, Ellsworth’s precision is exactly what was needed, Albrecht said.
As this year’s marathon draws nearer, Ellsworth and others are hard at work preparing for the annual marathon expo and also organizing supplies, including approximately 1,500 gallons of Gatorade to be distributed to various aid stations during the marathon, goody bags for every runner and shirts for the nearly 2,000 volunteers.
Also on the to-do list is making sure porta-potties are delivered, start and finish lines are set up, posters are rolled, shirts are sorted into sizes and everyone at the expo is set up in the right place, Ellsworth said.
“She doesn’t sleep,” Albrecht said of Ellsworth.
Overseeing the St. George Marathon is a daunting task, to be sure, but one Ellsworth said she considers very worthwhile, especially as she meets with runners, vendors and volunteers and gets to know them on a personal level.
“It is all about the relationships,” Ellsworth said.
“Many of the runners and vendors come back year after year and are now my friends, and I hold them close to my heart,” she added.
That personal attention is one of the elements that makes the St. George Marathon such a coveted race. The race is capped at 7,800 runners for 2014, and those not automatically entered by virtue of being a Washington County resident or member of the 10-, 20- or 30-year club must enter into a lottery system in order to participate.
“I do feel like we are a very personal race,” Ellsworth said. “We want our runners to feel like they are special to us. We want their experience to be the best experience.”
Ellsworth attributed much of the race’s success to the amazing group of volunteers that helps out each year. She recounted an experience she witnessed one year when a woman forgot her shoes at the starting line, and Ellsworth watched a volunteer remove her own shoes and give them to the runner.
“Our volunteers go above and beyond,” Ellsworth said. “They are always one of the top-rated things about our race.”
The 38th running of the St. George Marathon will take place Saturday, and though most of the kinks have been worked out of the organization process, Ellsworth said it can still be very stressful – though she is quick to add that she “always walks away feeling very fulfilled and uplifted.”
“Saturday is just a really good day,” Ellsworth said.
- More information on the St. George Marathon can be found here
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