RBR Interview: Wade Morehead, Executive Director, Chevron Houston Marathon, by Larry Eder



The sport of running continues to grow and evolve. This became very clear, on March 17, 2010, when the Houston Marathon committee announced that Wade Morehead would become the first executive director of the Chevron Marathon Committe in their storied 38-year history.

This announcement came less than three weeks after Houston was designated as the site of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon event for both men and women. It should be noted that the selection of Houston as host to both Trials was a first for the sport!

Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track & Field, and his selection committee surprised many of the sports' insiders with the selection of Houston. Logan, CEO for the past eighteen months, has been quite explicit about his desire to shake up the sport. His selection of Houston woke many out of their late winter slumber.

And the man who will be praised or blamed will be Mr. Wade Morehead. The Houston Marathon committee has two busy years in front of them, with the monumental task of putting on two Olympic Trials events one day and coming back for three major running events the next day!

Wade Morehead is a professional manager, with varied experiences in professional sports and major event management-the type of skills that will come in handy in his new position. His answers show a comfort with dealing with an overly analytical media, and his enthusiasm, at this point, in the opportunity to showcase the city of Houston and his new position, is palpable...

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RBR asked Mr. Morehead for his time and thoughts on his new job, and he quickly responded, quite thoughtfully, I might add. RBR has included the official release on his selection right after the interview for further information.

We thank Wade Morehead for his time and enthusiasm and wish him the very best of luck managing the hopes, needs and aspirations of both the Olympic Trials, the Chevron Houston Marathon, but also, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon!

RBR, 1. Your level of experience shows that running events, such as Houston, are much like running major corporations or municipalities, am I correct?
WM: I agree. The core principals of managing a company are prevalent. Event organizing committees must create a strategic business plan, operate within a fiscally responsible manner, standardized planning,
employ a talented and passionate team, focus all efforts on customer satisfaction, and give back to the community.

However, event organizing committees rely on the support and passion of community volunteers to be successful. The Houston Marathon Committee (HMC) and the Chevron Houston Marathon race weekend exist today because of the volunteers who have dedicated, and continue to dedicate, significant amounts of time throughout each year to plan and execute this 38-year old event.

RBR, 2. Houston now has the task of putting on two Olympic Trials at one time, on one day, have you had time to get your head around that?
WM: This is a great question because I was actually introduced in-person to the staff on the morning of
the press conference at City Hall announcing that we were awarded the bid to host the men's and women's 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials. Over the past three weeks, we have conducted several individual and team meetings, and what is obvious is that we have an amazing Committee comprised of Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers, who do have a collective understanding of what lies ahead. I think that is reflected in the fact that the HMC won the bid for the Trials.

RBR, 3: How does one give both men and women their due, at one event?
WM: We believe that featuring the women and the men on the same day ensures that both will be given
their due by showcasing their skills and athletic ability on the same stage, and the event only enhances the sense that this is a great day for the sport. We believe press coverage will increase because this will be a "can't miss" event for all media outlets and our press operations plan will reflect this belief. Both Olympic Marathon teams will be named after the race, and our hope is to prepare the U.S. to win medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

RBR, 4: Our pubs were guests of the Chevron Houston Marathon this past year and we loved it! Such a combination of elite, new runners, core runners - how will the event change for 2012?

WM: On behalf of the HMC, thank you for the kind words as we are very pleased that you and your staff
enjoyed the event and look forward to you coming back next year.

In 2012, we will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the event and we believe the participant experience on Sunday will only be enhanced by the Olympic Trials on Saturday. Local, national, and international visitors will be able to volunteer and attend the Trials on Saturday, and then participate in one of our three races on Sunday as well. We will meet with both USOC and USATF officials soon to discuss the details for 2012, but we do not anticipate significant changes, other than the fact that every elite U.S. marathon runner in the country will be competing for their Olympic dreams on Saturday. It will be a memorable weekend for the city of Houston and the sport of running.

RBR, 5: Does running a U.S. championships, an elite marathon, and a huge 5k, plus an Olympic Trial put special challenges on an event like Houston?
WM: Our infrastructure will certainly be tested. Our Volunteer Services Coordinator will have to recruit
and train a larger number of volunteers. From a financial standpoint, we will need to create a clear business development plan to fund the additional event, and we will need another full day of support from the public safety agencies in the city. Logistically, creating a course on Saturday, then tearing down and setting up for Sunday's course in 20 hours will also be quite challenging. But we have hosted a trial race in 1992 and many championships over the years so we will be ready.

6. At this time, how can your sponsors be involved or not involved?

WM: The manner in which our partners will be involved in the Chevron Houston Marathon race weekend
will be unchanged, and we are in the process of clarifying and clearly identifying any parameters regarding Trial sponsorships. Interest is high and we will announce our partners over the course of the year.

RBR,7: Doug Logan, CEO of USATF has had nothing but praise for what he called a very aggressive proposal, is the Marathon committee still in shock?
WM: From our initial strategic planning meetings, I have not witnessed any "shock" and each department head has a clear understanding of the task at hand. In the very near future, we will host representatives
from both the USOC and USATF to conduct "transfer of knowledge" meetings and "deep dive" planning meetings into each functional area. We are excited and now focused on rolling up our sleeves to begin preparations.

RBR, 8: What would you like the running community to know about the Chevron Houston Marathon weekend?

WM: I think the running community already knows what I am learning about this event, and it is that this event delivers the highest level of participant experience to each runner. First-time runners become repeat
customers because the event delivers on all levels. The feedback from the elite runners who compete world-wide rank it among their best experiences; members of the "Veterans" who have run the Houston Marathon more than 10 times continues to grow; and participants increased in our "Heroes" and "Run For A Reason" philanthropic programs generating $1.8 million for 46 charities.

But most importantly, this is an event created by the citizens of Houston and after four decades of growth and improvements each year, it will now be the host of the country's best marathon runners in 2012 competing in an event they have dreamed of and trained for their entire lives. It is a tribute to the life-long commitment made by many to the event, and anyone who has played a role in the development of the HMC should take a great deal of pride in their role.

RBR, 9: Any observations, so far about juggling a volunteer organization and a professional organization. In truth, this has been the strength and weakness of our sport? How do you inspire both teams?
WM: I do understand this question because I spent the previous three years working for an event that was successful primarily because of the several thousands of volunteers who dedicated their time to help plan and execute an event that lasted ten days in three cities featuring seven sport venues and dozens of non- competition venues.

The participant experience includes volunteers, and with an event dependent on volunteer support and commitment, you are really working for the volunteers to make their experience positive. We have to be dedicated to being organized on their behalf so they know exactly what their job descriptions are, where to check-in, what to wear, who to communicate with, while also being properly protected, fed and hydrated. They must be recruited, trained and managed in the most professional anse respectful mannerpossible. Finally, they must be recognized for their significant contributions to the success of the event. Volunteers are rewarded when they feel productive and have a positive impact on the event. If their
experience is organized, professional, and respectful, then a positive participant experience is achieved.

I believe you have to be of the mindset that you are working for the participants and the volunteers because without their involvement, an event will not exist.

10. How will the roles of Brant Kotch and Steven Karpas, two of your dynamic event champions, change in this new organization?
WM: Brant Kotch is the Race Director and President of the Board of Directors and that role does not change at all. I report to Brant, the Executive Committee and Board of Directors. They hired me to oversee the organization and manage the staff so each Board member can focus collectively on their roles on the BOD as well as their roles supporting the event and Foundation.

Steven Karpas will continue his essential role as the managing director responsible for business and race development. Carly Caulfield will continue to serve as director of operations. Steven and Carly have been on staff with the HMC for a decade and their contributions to the growth, sustainability, and success of the Houston Marathon are undeniable.

Specifics regarding job descriptions and organizational charts are a work in progress as I continue to evaluate current job descriptions and functional area assignments.

RBR, 11. Any early observations about the process, from your earlier experiences, in building towards the 2012 Olympic Trials?

WM: My first observation is that the HMC is comprised of an amazing group of experienced and talented
individuals who conduct a world-class event annually. My second observation is that city officials, the business community, and the generous, hospitable citizens of Houston are committed to this event. The aforementioned observations put us ahead of the game in the planning process based on my experiences.

Adding an additional event will require the head of each functional area to clearly identify and communicate any additional funding or staffing they will require to execute this event so we can ensure everyone has what is needed to succeed. We need to immediately define the restrictions and deliverables in our agreement with USATF and USOC, and clearly communicate those to each department head. Lastly, it is imperative that we integrate all functional areas to avoid silo planning. From what I have observed to date, these are all achievable.


Offiicial release

Houston Marathon Committee Announces Wade Morehead as Executive Director

HOUSTON, TX (Mar. 17, 2010) - The Houston Marathon Committee's Board of Directors announced the addition of Wade Morehead as the first Executive Director in the nonprofit organization's 38-year history.

"We are delighted to announce the addition of Wade Morehead to our team," said Board President Brant Kotch. "His experience managing both salaried staffers and volunteers will be invaluable to our organization as it continues to innovate and grow. Our Board created this position with the intent of further professionalizing the production of our event and we believe that Wade is the perfect fit."

Morehead brings extensive experience in high-level sports operations and event management. He most recently served as Vice President of Operations and Support Services for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games (SOWWG) held in Boise, Idaho.

In his most recent position, Morehead directed an operational team of 20 employees who were collectively responsible for managing more than 2,000 volunteers and a budget of nearly $10 million dollars. The 2009 SOWWG Organizing Committee hosted 3,000 delegates from 97 countries world-wide, producing the largest multi-sport event ever conducted in the state of Idaho and the largest World Winter Games in the history of Special Olympics International. The event garnered the top prize as "Sports Event of the Year" at the SportsTravel magazine TEAMS 2009 Conference & Expo, the world's largest gathering of event organizers and travel planners from the sports industry.

"It is truly an honor to join this talented team at the Houston Marathon Committee at such a monumental period," stated Morehead. "The recent announcement awarding the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials for the men and women, coupled with the $10.4 million milestone in charity donations surpassed this year by the event, is the direct result of the passion and commitment displayed by the local community, its corporate partners, members of the Committee, staff, and Board of Directors. Our team will continue to strive to make this the most successful nonprofit running event in the world by focusing on the participant experience."

A member of the USA Basketball Board of Directors (1999-2000 and 2002-2005), Morehead served in a variety of positions during his 11 years with the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), including four seasons as Deputy Commissioner. He also served two seasons as Senior Director of Basketball Operations at the WNBA League Office and one season as Vice President, Basketball Operations for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Morehead received his Bachelor's Degree in Communications from the University of Tulsa and earned a Master's Degree in Sports Management from the University of Tennessee. Raised in Littleton, Colorado, he will relocate to Houston with his wife and three sons.

About the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc.

Formed in 1972, the Houston Marathon Committee, Inc. (HMC) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that plans a multi-race running event (marathon, half marathon, 5K and kids' fun run) embodying the spirit and energy of Houston, Texas. A Running USA founding member, the HCM is overseen by a board of directors, eight staff members and approximately 7,500 race day volunteers. In 2010, more than 30,000 runners participated in four race weekend events. In addition to hosting numerous world-renowned road races, including the Men's and Women's USATF Half Marathon Championships since 2005 and the 1992 Women's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, the HMC will host the 2012 Men's and Women's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on January 14, 2012.

For more information, visit www.houstonmarathon.com

For more on USA Track & Field, please click on www.usatf.org.

For more on the varied sport of running, please click on www.runningnetwork.com to visit one or all of our 28 websites!

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