RBR Interview: Peter Abraham, LA Marathon, by Larry Eder

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Video Map of LA Marathon course 2010, courtesy of www.lamarathon.com.

The LA Marathon was purchased just over a year ago. In the past year, under the management of Russ Pillar, Peter Abraham and the help of many others, Pillar has lived up to the promises he made a year ago: a new course, a new date.

We interviewed Peter Abraham back in July of 2009. and then, I had a senior moment. I am presenting his interview now, as some of his answers were quite prophetic: the new course is amazing, and the new date, March 21, 2010, has runners excited!

I met Russ and Peter working their expo booth in the Chicago marathon Expo last October 2009. They were very upbeat about the new date, and were finishing the race course. What these guys have done is amazing. To reach out to the City of Los Angeles and get support for change so quickly is pretty amazing. Their pace is not the way normal American big cities work--speed is not in a normal city offices vernacular. A tip of the hat to the City of LA for supporting all of these exciting changes!

Your blogger ran the first two LA marathons while working for RW, and found it a fascinating race. My last visit to LA Marathon had to be about 1998-1999, so I am very curious to see how Peter Abraham and his team will manage the 2010 race! Enjoy the interview!

RBR,1. Congrats on the success of the LA Marathon in 2009. What were the biggest lessons that you
learnt from this race?

Peter Abraham: We set out early on to create a mission statement, and we ended up with “We inspire athletes and connect communities.” This proved to be an important moral compass that we could pull out when making decisions.

We learned how important community is. From our community of runners, to the greater city at large, we have a tremendous responsibility to reach out to all of these different constituent groups. The marathon won’t be fully embraced by Los Angeles until we also embrace the city. What this means is that we spend a huge amount of time on the road with our constituents—at training runs, with corporate partners, with business improvement districts and chambers of commerce, churches, etc. All of these groups matter, and we use the full array of tools to communicate with everyone: interactive, social media, email, in-person meetings, phone calls, town hall-type gatherings as well as traditional media.

RBR, 2. To move the race to a more desirable date requires the support of the LA City council, any progress
there?

Peter Abraham: The LA City Council is voting tomorrow on moving the race back to a Sunday in March. (Editor's Note: The race was moved to March 21, 2009)c

RBR, 3. What changes did you implement in 2009? How were they received?

Peter Abraham: -Green strategy and certification by the Council for Responsible Sport. First major city marathon in the US to achieve certification.
-Extensive multi-media outreach plan, including blog, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube channel, Flickr, etc.
-Live radio broadcast for the first time ever.
-Live global webcast on Universal Sports, as well as delayed cable telecast in 45 million homes.

All of these things were enthusiastically embraced by our participants, and we see this kind of evolution as critical to keeping the LA Marathon vital and relevant.

RBR, 4. You have been involved in the business world, how has managing the LA Marathon challenged your business experiences?

Peter Abraham: To be honest, it’s taken every ounce of the collective experience from Russ, Race Director Nick Curl and myself. We need to draw on so many different skill sets to pull off this event. We have a small staff that is passionately involved in this event, and we all wear a number of hats.

RBR, 5. There has been a need on the West Coast for a marathon the stature of ING New York, B of A Chicago or BAA Boston,
can LA Marathon be that race?

Peter Abraham: Absolutely, and we believe the two critiacal first steps are moving the race back to a Sunday in March and also building a world-class course that draws runners from all over. Once these hurdles are behind us, then we can continue to build a spectacular and exciting event.

RBR,6. How have sponsors received the 2009 race?

Peter Abraham:They were excited about the event, and we’re in a number of good conversations with sponsors for 2010 and beyond.

RBR, 7. Can you give us the official starters and finishers?

Peter Abraham: 17,300 registered in the marathon. 14,217 finishers.

RBR, 8. We heard good things about the Expo, any thoughts on how to make that better?

Peter Abraham: We feel that the Expo should reflect the unique nature of Los Angeles. For next year, you can expect some very fun and different activations that go along with all of the other great elements of this race—the course, the participants and the energy. We want to make sure the Expo doesn’t feel like every other Expo in the country. There’s a lot of potential here to give people an experience, not just a glorified trade show. We’re focused on making the Expo a destination in and of itself.

RBR, 9. From the interviews and colleagues, you seem to be enjoying the new adventure of the LA Marathon, so tell us about how you are enjoying this new challenge?

Peter Abraham: I tell people that I’ve never worked harder and never had more fun in a work situation. I’m challenged every day to raise my game to a new level every day. But I’m rewarded by the prospects of building the LA Marathon into the world-class event that it should be. Ultimately, my job is about helping people change their lives through running, and what could be better than that?

RBR, 10. How do potential runners learn about 2010 LA Marathon? Is there a date for potential runners to learn about 2010 changes?

Peter Abraham: We hope to have the date and course locked down by August 1st.

( Editor's Note: Date has been changed to March 21, 2009, and a great new course, with a tour below!)

Tour of LA Marathon Course for the March 21, 2010 course.

For more on the LA Marathon, please go to www.lamarathon.com

For more on our sport, please click on http://www.runningnetwork.com

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