Andy Caine, Elite Project Manager, Nova International, the RBR Interview, by Larry Eder

Andy Caine and Wallace Spearmon, September 2012, Great North CityGames, photo courtesy of Nova International

I met Andy Caine about three years ago at an event in the UK. During that time, he was telling me about what he did. I had heard about the events, the CityGames, and the Great Runs.

But, until I actually visited Newcastle to see the Great City Games and the BUPA Great North Run this past September, I had no clue as to how amazing these events are. Nova International, the company that puts on these amazing events across Great Britain, are pushing the envelope in terms of making track & field and road racing a  huge participatory and sports entertainment event. 

This interview was done in early November 2012. I have waited, on purpose, to give you, our readers, the time to really appreciate the interview and the events. 

There is nothing even close to BUPA Great Runs nor CityGames in the US. They could be a huge way to draw fans and media to the sport. These type of events could take place in NYC, Boston, Las Vegas, LA. ASICS is the footwear sponsor in the UK for the Nova events. 

Andy Caine has a great sense of humor, and is a glutton for detail. Nova events are pretty amazing, I hope to see a few more and tell you about the story. 

  • Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah, Will Claye, Jenny Simpson, 
  • CityGames, photo by Dan Vernon

  • RBR, # 1. How did you get involved in running? 
  • Andy Caine: It was at school when I was 16. I spent quite a few years racing Mountain Bikes so had a pretty good base fitness and won my first race. Liked the feeling of winning as I hadn't won any MTB biking was expensive... running was pretty cheap.

  • RBR, # 2. Your father ran international, how much did his running have on you?

  • Andy Caine: Interestingly, dad never pressed me into running and I never appreciated how good he was until I got into it, started reading his training diaries and seeing his scrap book. As my running improved he and his friends at the time started to become great influencers. The likes of Mike Mcleod, Brendan Foster, etc., etc.,.
  • RBR, # 3. You worked at Nike for some time, tell us about that? 

  • Andy Caine: I spent nearly 5 years at the Swoosh. I loved every minute of it. It is an unbelievable company to work for , sport at the core of any industry is a good thing. I worked my way up to Strategic Exec on the UK's #1 account, so we got involved in some pretty cool things. 

  • I was responsible for Footwear only, its all about the shoes ! Nike's innovation teams keep pumping out incredible concepts. I got to meet (and run with on the Hood to Coast relay team), some of the guys in the Innovation Kitchen at Beaverton. They are all complete running nuts, just how it should be. Great fun.
  • RBR, # 4. How did you come to Nova? 

  • Andy Caine: Dad has been good friends and business partner with Brendan Foster since the late 70's, interestingly they both worked at Nike for some years before setting up Nova back in the late 80's. With mass running events at the heart of the business they've gone from strength to strength with some the best events in the world (Bupa Great North Run). The position for elite project manager came up in 2007 and they asked me to join.

  • RBR, # 5. What is Nova? 

  • Andy Caine: An Event Management and Marketing company here in the UK. We are now involved in mass participation events across running, cycling, swimming, schools and of course, the Great City Games concept. We also have our own in-house TV production division. All of our events are televised, to some extent, with the majority going out Live on the BBC followed by international distribution.

  • RBR, # 6. Tell us about your events? 

  • Andy Caine: BIG ! We have around 180,000 take part annually in our road events alone, 22,000 in our swims. In addition to our UK based events we assisted Haile setup the Great Ethiopian Run in Addis Ababa.

  • RBR, # 7. What do you do differently that others do not pay attention to? 

  • Andy Caine: We have an incredible operations team here at Nova. It's amazing when you go to other events and you see simple mistakes: crowd flow control, not enough drink stations, meet and greets, bag logistics. All of this takes an incredible amount of planning and logistics and yet people still get it wrong. This can be the difference between a new "customer" embracing the sport or being turned off for life.
  • RBR, # 8. I was impressed with your cultural events, tell us about that?

  • Andy Caine: Great North Run Culture is an annual series of arts projects, events and exhibitions which celebrate and explore sport and art. Featuring film, photography, dance, drama, writing, participation projects and much more, we use the world's largest half-marathon as the starting point for commissioning exciting, innovative and accessible art. I can't even start to pretend I know much about it but I did spend a great deal of time with Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger this year, he's an athletics nut. I introduced him to Jenny Simpson and the two of them got on like a house on fire.
  • RBR, # 9. On Saturday, the day of the CityGames, you had kids runs, tell us about those, how many athletes? 

  • Andy Caine: We run outreach programmes with all of our events but the Great School Sprint was designed to find the fastest kids in the North East with over 2,000 kids taking part. Towards the end, we get the fastest ones to come together and meet the elites who then take them through their paces before they race for the title of Newcastle's fastest kid!
  • Wilson Kipsang over Micah Kogo, this was a race! 
  • photo by Dan Vernon
  • RBR, # 10. Tell us about the concept of the City Games?

  • Andy Caine: We build a straight 200 meter track in city centres in addition to L J , PV and road mile arenas. It's now 4 years old with us , Usain was the big one, back in 2009. We had the agreement that if he didn't like the look of the track then he wouldn't race! (That) takes us back to our top operations guy! Not much pressure to get it right.

  • The whole event is a huge promotional tool for the sport. It's free to come and watch with the hope that we can excite more people to get into athletics and start filling the stadiums and their kids joining athletics clubs. TV loves the concept as the city back drops add to the innovative flavour. 

  • More importantly the athletes seem to love it too. Christian Taylor's words to me after this year's great North City Games were "Andy, I have never had so much fun competing".
  • RBR, # 11. What does it take to put on? 

  • Andy Caine: An accommodating City Council, relatively flat and straight streets plus 87 tonnes of structure and a chunk of Mondo. Easy.
  •  Will Claye, Jenny Simpson, Sept 14, 2012, Great City games, 
  • photo by Dan Vernon

  •  RBR, 12. Can it be moved to the US? 

  • Andy Caine: The beauty is that it can go anywhere. IAAF have accepted results from our track over the traditional distances as of last November, so athletes are starting to see the event now as part of their preparation for outdoors and not just a bit of fun so it's nice to see them wanting to travel to come to us.
  • The crowd get into the Great CityGames! 
  • photo by Dan Vernon 
  • RBR, # 13. Tell us about the Great Run? 

  • Andy Caine: As above Larry. Its our brand name we apply to our Running events. owned by Nova.
  • RBR, # 14. Your starts are highly organized and the finish was superb, tell us about the team?

  • Andy Caine: Huge, and again it's back to our highly experienced operations team. I used to assist on the team years ago as a poor student so I know all about the early starts, zip ties and nasty weather while everyone else are tucked up in bed (mainly the elites)
  • RBR, # 15. How do you assemble a field for the City games?

  • Andy Caine: It's like when you go shopping, you know how much you have to spend and you know what you really need, anything else can stay on the shelf...unless the price is right.
  • RBR, # 16. How do you assemble a field for the Great North Run? 

  • Andy Caine: Again as above.
  • RBR, # 17. How does the press in UK relate to your events?

  • Andy Caine: It's always hard unless you have the very top names, but a lot of it is how good you are at selling and romancing a story. There's some great media guys out there who work for the big events and some lazy ones.
  • RBR, # 18. What is the story that you want to get out? 

  • Andy Caine: We always go for head to head stories ..there's nothing worse on TV if there's one guy who has broken away from the pack and has the next 50 minutes on his own. We never focus on super-fast times as most members of the public don't understand splits etc. we were very happy with this year's Great North Run , both races had tight finishes.  

Two happy participants from Bupa Great North, September 15, 2012, 
photo by Dan Vernon

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