UW Memorial Union
The Mini-Marathon had many goals when it was first introduced to the different entities in the City of Madison. The Mini wanted to be different than the other long-distance running events in town and set a new standard. It wanted to hit all the Madison landmarks, wanted to run a little different route than the other events, provide participants with a unique experience and most of all, provide a unique location for the start and finish areas. When it came to the Post-Race Party Area, one location came up a couple of times, but was followed by “it would never happen”. The UW Memorial Union Terrace was a Madison hot spot that could provide that unique venue, but was not viewed as a place that would be easy to achieve. To the Mini, the mission was clear, “we must make this happen!“
The Mini team started to think through any connections with individuals at the Union to help get a foot in the door. Remember, this was a brand new event in the making in Madison at the time. The link came through a Mini crew - member, Lisa Swiontek. Lisa had a good friend that also happened to be a friend of the Union’s Director, Mark Guthier. So, with a connection, although somewhat loose connection, the Mini reached out to Mark and scheduled a meeting. Eventually that meeting led to Nancy Kujak-Ford, who at the time oversaw their large events. After presenting the concept to Nancy, she had some thoughts, “My initial reaction was one of excitement for the event and the Wisconsin Union organization. I thought it was a great way to introduce the union to more people.”
This would be a new venture for the Union, but thanks to Nancy’s guidance, the race was headed in the right direction. She became a champion of her cause for varying reasons “While new events can be a logistically complicated, I knew that the Wisconsin Union was in a place to take on the challenge. My current (and former) job allows me to work with many facets of the organization. With this base knowledge and relationships, I knew who needed to be involved and in what capacity. Trying new events or working on new projects allow organizations to grow and create new experiences. We are only as good as the last event we helped to host or plan. I was excited for this opportunity to expand our experience with events and to have people think outside the box of what we/they are capable of producing.”
Nancy helped champion the Mini throughout the University. When asked what the reactions were about the Mini, Nancy said “When I first presented this to the campus, most of the University staff was supportive of this event. We have had large run/walks on campus grounds (IronMan, Crazylegs) and have resources/knowledge on how to handle logistics. Both Chad and Jeff were extremely organized and prepared for questions which made it helpful to navigate such a large University and its’ policies/procedures.” “The only major challenge (for the first year) was to navigate the communications of the race party/gathering part at the end of the event. UW-Madison is conscious of any event that involves alcohol to campus patrons, especially students. We had to develop a safe plan of alcohol service and security in order for this event to be approved. Since its inception, alcohol has not been an issue with the success of this event.”
The Mini is entering its 5th year, which is hard for all involved to believe. From Nancy’s perspective, the Mini has changed “One way that I have seen the Mini grow is how the staff involves the city, community, and state. Each year, they have come up with ways to enhance their event with new children filled races, new mascots, and new activities to increase the enjoyment of their participants. Their expo has also grown in size and has given exposure to other parts of campus.”
The Mini would like to thank all the people and entities that have embraced the event along the way and especially championed it during its infancy. Without people like Nancy with her drive and willingness to tackle a new venture, it would not have been possible.
Please check back for more blog updates on the beginnings of the Mini-Marathon as we celebrate our 5th Anniversary. A special thank you to Nancy Kujak-Ford for taking time for the interview.