RBR Interview: Steven Karpas, Managing Director of Chevron Houston Marathon, by Larry Eder



Teshome Gelana, Chevron Houston Marathon winner, with Steven Karpas, managing director, Chevron Houston Marathon, photo courtesy of Chevron Houston Marathon.

Steven Karpas is the managing director of the Chevron Houston Marathon and the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. When asked, Karpas will give credit due to Brant Kotch, the events' race director, as well as the team behind the Chevron Houston Marathon, the Aramco Half Marathon, the El Paso 5k and the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute Expo. And Karpas is right, the success and quality of any major venture is all about the human capital.

However, don't let Mr. Karpas off so easily. Steven Karpas has that, to put it in the vernacular, "that vision thing." As RBR followed Mr. Karpas around much of the marathon weekend, Steven was tending the event, making sure that the little things that make an event unforgettable are done well.

That nearly 30,000 runners and walkers had a great experience was an understatement. Three course records in one day. Three races sold out. The 2010 Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon and El Paso 5k were all a success!

RBR gave Steven Karpas a few days, then we sent him our eleven questions. We think that you will find his answers illuminating..

RBR, 1. How did you get involved in running?

Steven Karpas: Always been active but not until late mid 20’s did I get into distance running. I’m pretty sure a girl, some beers and a bet had something to do with it.

RBR, 2. How did you become involved in the Chevron Houston Marathon?

Steven Karpas:In 2001, the dot.com bubble had burst and I was looking for a career change. Fortunately, an opportunity with the Houston Marathon came up.

RBR, 3. In 2010, you had three course records, which is most important to you?

Steven Karpas:Our elite athlete coordinators did a fantastic job this year…actually…have done so for a number of years now. We don’t rank which race is more important to get a course record in, we’re thrilled regardless.

RBR, 4. In 2010, you sold out all three events, the marathon, half and 5k, tell us about that?

Steven Karpas:We always new we’d sell out as we’ve done so for 5 years straight now. What surprised us is how quickly we sold out. We raised our cap to 22,000 this year and sold out in 3 days! Took us 3 months with 4,000 fewer spots last year.

RBR, 5. You have an amazing team, can you tell us about your a) timing group?, b)Expo team, c) Media team?

Steven Karpas:a)We’ve had Mike Burns coordinate our timers for a number of years now. He assembles a world class team from around the country to time our race…even brought in Harold Mika from Germany this year. Burns interacts with two staff members year round to ensure we are ready on race day.

B & c) Expo and Media are run from in house. I and 2 staff members are tasked with direct management of both.

RBR, 6. Your event has bid for the Olympic Trials marathons, can you tell us about your philosophy on the bids?

Steven Karpas:Brant Kotch, Race Director, and I pitched our proposal to USATF in December. We put an aggressive bid in front of them, hoping to land both races, but happy if we only get one. Men or women, doesn’t matter…we’re just want to be a part of it. Our bid was delivered with no strings attached, no demands and no conditions.

RBR,7. Why do you want to host the Olympic Trials?

Steven Karpas:We just want to put on a great event for the athletes, our committee and our City. 2012 is also our 40th anniversary and in true Texas fashion we want to throw a big party!

RBR, 8. Shalane Flanagan comes to town, breaks the course record, how important was that?

Steven Karpas:Always nice to break a course record but “important” it was not. We were thrilled Shalane decided to debut with us…the course record was just icing on the cake.

9. Brett Gotcher ran one of the fastest debuts ever, putting him in our top five (Ryan Hall, Alberto Salazar, Adam Culpepper) debut marathoners, how important is that?


Brett Gotcher, debuted in 2:10:32 in Houston, with his Greg McMillman, half of Gotcher's training program team (with wife Tracy), photo by PhotoRun.net.

Steven Karpas:Again, having Brett debut his marathon with us was special to our committee. Keep in mind, he did finish 3rd in our half marathon championships last year so we know him well. And we’re big supporters of Greg and Tracy McMillan, they’re obviously doing great things with their training program.

10. I liked the 5k finish with the half marathon and marathon, you have something for everyone, tell us about that?

Steven Karpas:Yes, 5k, half and full all finish on the same line. Our phenomenal growth has definitely made it challenging to our finish line team, no doubt. However, they’re pros and manage the line as good as anyone in the country.

11. What was your most recent race?

Steven Karpas: Dallas Half Marathon this past December. Ran 1:25:07…not bad for a 43 year old!

For more on the Chevron Houston Marathon/Aramco Houston Half Marathon, please check out http://www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com

For 24 windows into our sport, please click on http://www.runningnetwork.com

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