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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Volunteers are the Backbone of the Mini

If you’ve ever participated in the Mini or any race for that matter you know that volunteers are 
key.  Without volunteers there would be no race.  How wonderful it is to see hundreds of 
people giving their time to help others achieve their goals. As runners and athletes it’s our 
choice and determination to drag ourselves out of bed before dawn so we can get a run in 
before the heat of the day.  But it’s even more amazing to see those supporting us gathering 
before dawn to prep the course.

To make the Mini a reality it takes more than 600 volunteers!  From the smiling faces 
distributing shirts and race bibs at the expo to volunteers greeting you with medals, water 
and post race food at the finish line and everyone in between.  Each volunteer contributes to 
making the event a huge success. 

There are 10 aid stations on the course of the Mini.  That alone equals more than 250 volunteers handing out water and Gatorade to you.  We have so many wonderful groups and organizations return to help year after year.  Memorial Girls Cross-Country team can be seen around mile 10. When asked why the girls return each year to help, Coach Paul Chellevold responded, “Our group appreciates the event that the mini-marathon puts on.  The race organizational team always makes our job easy!  The girls understand and appreciate what each athlete is going through in completing 13.1 miles and love to provide a smiling face and loud cheers to lift each runners spirit at a point in the race they need it the most!  We understand the importance of being outstanding volunteers and contributing members of the community.”

Alissa Oleck has been volunteering with the Mini since it’s Inaugural year.  Alissa recognizes it’s a lot of work for one person to coordinate an event of this size “but when you have lots of hands helping, it's not hard at all.  I love Madison so I enjoy helping to promote our wonderful city and the great opportunities, like the Mini, that we have here.”

Jennifer Stevens also returns to volunteer every year.  Jennifer, a runner herself; is with our charity partner Healthy Women, Healthy Babies and has been a big recruiter of volunteers. “I am always amazed at the different types of people that participate in running events and often think, as I watch them cross the finish line what motivates them to get through 13 miles on a hot Saturday morning.  I can easily get choked up thinking about what they’ve gone through to accomplish that feat.”

We would love to personally thank and mention each volunteer by name, but the list is endless.  From the volunteers collecting your gear check bags prior to the race to the ER doctors and nurses assisting in the medical tent.  Everyone plays an important role. 

To see the community come together on race day is a beautiful sight!  So remember to look around.  Take it all in.  And thank the volunteers as you pass by.  Without them, you wouldn’t be here and neither would we.

Finish line preparations

Volunteers even wait out the storm and the rain
Red Arrow Families Water Station

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

History of the Mini-Marathon: Our Initial Community Partners

After the City of Madison and the Union were on board to back the Mini-Marathon, we still needed additional support for the event The Mini also wanted to find a great charity partner and to find the top running store to tie into the local running community. 

One of the first calls and stops made was with Fleet Feet of Madison.  Matt and Jessica Anderson graciously took our call and made time to meet with our staff.  After what was some initial skepticism, they soon realized the Mini had a goal and wanted to create a top notch running event in the Madison Area.   The Mini wanted the half marathon not only to be recognized on a local level, but a national level.  This goal was quickly achieved. This past spring the Mini was recognized as the #14 best Half Marathon by Runner’s World magazine, out of more than 1500 half marathons in the country. 

Partnering with Fleet Feet turned out to be a great relationship for the Mini as things were getting off the ground.  Fleet Feet helped bring legitimacy to the Mini-Marathon, but it also helped yield one of our greatest assets.  When Fleet Feet sent out an announcement about the new race in town, they also asked their customers who may be interested in helping produce the new event.  While a handful of people responded to the inquiry and helped in some form or fashion the first year, one person has become a vital part of the Mini Team.  Kat Hawkins has remained a fundamental part of the Mini, whether it’s getting the over 700 volunteers each year, being the voice of the Mini on social media or the face of the Mini at the many local events, Kat would not have been a key part of our team had it not been for a great relationship with Fleet Feet. 

Searching for a charity partner wasn’t quite as easy as identifying a great running store partner.  There were so many amazing charities  in the Madison area.  It was difficult for the Mini to determine which fit our mission the best.  After lots of discussion, the University of Wisconsin OBGYN’s “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” program was tabbed as the charity partner.  Jennifer Stevens and her team have been great cohorts over the five years of the Mini.  Not only does the Mini offer financial support to the program, but it’s a key component to the “Blanket and Diaper Drive” every August.  The OBGYN Department is a true partner in the Mini.  Over the 5 years, they’ve brought hundreds of volunteers, new sponsors and new partners, such as the Dane County YMCA to the Mini. 

The first 5 years of the Mini have been exceptional, due in part to the great community allies.  The Mini owes a great deal to our contributing partners such as the UW OBGYN Department and Fleet Feet of Madison.  In our next “History of the Mini” blog, read about the real backbone of the Mini, VOLUNTEERS!   

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How The Mini Route and Date Came To Be

The Early Stages

The beginning stages of the Mini had some interesting twists, turns and hiccups.  Prior to landing the race site at the Memorial Union, the Mini Team had the job of selling the event to the different entities in Madison who oversaw events, garnering support and achieving approval for the Inaugural event. 

When first exploring dates, it quickly became apparent there would be some limitations.  Late summer or early fall was targeted for the time of the year.  As everyone in Wisconsin knows, Badger football rules the roost, so we had to coordinate around the Badgers schedule.  We wanted a consistent date, one that wouldn’t fluctuate year to year based on their schedule, so we landed in August.  Well, anyone who lives in Madison or has gone to UW knows August also brings student move-in.  Being na├»ve and not fully understanding the impact of move-in, the inaugural event was dropped right on move-in weekend.  Those that participated the first year can probably remember the craziness getting to and from the Memorial Union for Packet Pick-Up.  After that first year, the date is now coordinated with UW and student move-in.  Lessons learned!!!

The priority with the Mini was to come up with a unique route that showed off the City of Madison, ran by the landmarks of Madison and provided something different from the other events in the city.  The initial meetings with the city and UW regarding the route were interesting.  We heard several things:
-        *The route shouldn’t cross Gorham
-        *The route shouldn’t cross Johnson
-        *You can’t run on the Capitol Square because of the Farmer’s Market
-        *You can’t run through the Arboretum from East to West
-        *You aren’t going to get the cooperation from UW
-        *You can’t close off the UW Vet Hospital
To the Mini team, challenge accepted.  After several meetings, lots of discussion, maps, timelines, explanation, and more meetings, we were thrilled to make all of these things happen.  We can’t thank the people enough who were willing to discuss these items and help us make them happen.  Without their support and willingness to listen, the Mini would not have such a great route!

There was one more challenge the Mini faced in year one.  After many of the discussions listed above, the inaugural Mini was set for Sunday, August 30, 2009.  Marketing materials were printed, T-shirts were printed for the marketing team, signage was created, registration was open and full-out marketing was happening.  After 2-3 weeks of being “out there” and accepting registrations, a striking statement was made during a meeting with Madison Police, “You know you have to change your date, don’t you?”  During the moment of disbelief, the initial thought was they were joking.  Unfortunately, this was not a joke.  2009 was also the first year of “Ride the Drive” and it was placed on August 30th as well.  It was quickly discovered the two events could not coexist on the same date and since Ride the Drive was a city event, it took precedence.  After meeting with the city, the Mini was moved to Saturday, August 29th.  New marketing materials were created and off we went…again!  In the end, Saturday was the ideal date for the Mini and one we initially wanted.  Funny how things work out and now five years later, Saturday has been a hit. 

The ups and downs of the beginning stages were challenging, but all great things don’t come without a struggle. The Mini can’t thank all the individuals from the City of Madison, University of Wisconsin, and Dane County Farmer’s Market enough for their willingness to listen and work with us to make the Mini a reality.  It goes to show the great community spirit of Madison.
Post race party at the 14th mile - Memorial Union Terrace

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How It All Began

Beginnings of the Mini-Marathon
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. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Athletes Rejoice in Lowfat Chocolate Milk!!

Good News for Chocolate Milk Fans: 
Sassy Cow Creamery Introduces Lowfat Chocolate Milk

Sun kissed summer days brings kids and adults outdoors for fun-filled family vacations, sports or simply playing games in the backyard. To keep the family fueled this summer and every day with a natural nutritious choice, Sassy Cow Creamery introduces Lowfat Chocolate Milk.

Starting June 22, Sassy Cow Creamery Lowfat Chocolate Milk will be available in pint, quart and half gallon sizes at select local grocery, natural foods stores and the Farmstead Creamery, located just 7 miles north of Sun Prairie.

Sassy Cow Creamery makes it easy for adults and kids to get essential nutrition with local, flavorful and nutritious lowfat chocolate milk. With fewer calories, less sugar and fat than traditional chocolate milk this local product comes direct to consumers straight from the Baerwolf family farm.
With today's emphasis on healthy lifestyles and wholesome, essential nutrition for kids and adults we are pleased to offer consumers a local choice of lowfat chocolate milk, says James Baerwolf along with his brother Robert Baerwolf. Combining our farm fresh milk with pure cocoa and a dash of cane sugar creates Sassy Cow Creamery Lowfat Chocolate Milk.

A taste kids and grown-ups will crave, Sassy Cow Creamery Lowfat Chocolate Milk starts with a key ingredient high-quality milk from the cows at the Baerwolf family farm and within hours of milking is made into lowfat chocolate milk at the Farmstead Creamery, making truly a fresh, local product. 
Nutrition and public health experts agree that milk is an important part of a healthy diet. In every glass of Sassy Cow Creamery Lowfat Chocolate Milk, there are eight essential nutrients, including protein, calcium and vitamins A and D, fuel your mind and body. Together, these essential nutrients help build strong bones, lean healthy muscle and keep a family full and satisfied.

Athletes too enjoy the nutritional and performance benefits of chocolate milk to rebuild muscle tissue after a strenuous workout. A body needs high-quality proteins to recover.  Chocolate milk provides the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein needed to replenish energy.

Sassy Cow Creamery is owned and operated by third-generation dairy producers├│brothers James and Robert Baerwolf and their families. Visitors at the farmstead can follow the milk from cow to creamery as they watch traditional and organic milk bottling and premium ice cream making through a viewing window.

One can sample the all new low-fat chocolate milk at Sassy Cow Creamery summer events hosted on the farm, including: June Dairy Month Celebration on June 23, Summer Farm Celebration on July 21 and Ice Cream Social on August 25 where a new ice cream flavor will be unveiled.    

Friday, June 22, 2012

Who doesn't love Chocolate Milk?

The Mini is proud to partner with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Sassy Cow Creamery again this year!  You can look forward to a refreshing chocolate milk as part of your post race recovery!

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), a nonprofit organization funded by the state’s dairy farmers, promotes the consumption of Wisconsin Cheese and other dairy products nationally as well as locally in Wisconsin. The dairy industry contributes more than $26.5 billion a year to Wisconsin’s economy, helping to support local businesses and communities throughout the state.  Through sponsorships, partnerships and educational programs, WMMB strives to influence consumers, foodservice professionals and retailers in Wisconsin to source dairy products locally.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Slowing down in the heat

Did you know it takes approximately two weeks of consistent running in the heat and humidity to acclimate to warmer conditions?  With the sudden onset of summer like temperatures it’s no wonder this past weekend was a difficult one for runners and race organizers!

Today’s FB quote was selfishly meant for me.  I had a horrible training run on Saturday and was really feeling down about it.  It stuck with me for a couple hours before I realized I should practice what I preach.  It’s true everyone has bad days.  Especially with the change of season, and our first real taste of Summer temperatures.  Slowing down and running smart is not a bad thing.  It’s you as a runner taking responsibility for yourself and listening to your body.  Be kind to yourself!  There will be other races and there will be other days to train.  Don’t beat yourself up!  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! 

For those of you running the Madison Marathon Memorial weekend prepare mentally and physically this week.  Take in extra fluids, really use your rest days like you should (resting) and enjoy next weekend.  Every race doesn’t have to be a PR.  I know we’re all runners and think like runners pushing with everything we have.  But don’t forget to be kind to the body that works so hard for you when you put your training miles in.  Take care of it now, and it will reward you for many more races to come!

Here are some other tips for running in the heat:
1) Remember that thirst is not an indicator of dehydration. Once you are thirsty, you are already low on fluids.
2) During your run, drink about 4 to 8 ounces of water and/or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes.
3) Weigh yourself before and after your run. Drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost. *Important note here... do not use this as a method of weight loss!
4) Apply a sunscreen of at least SPF #15. Make sure that it is a non-drip formula that won't drip into your eyes.
5) Wear sunglasses that filter UVA and UVB rays and/or wear a cap with a visor.
6) Wear light-colored micro-fiber clothing.
7) If you run in the morning, you'll avoid the heat, but may encounter a higher humidity. The air quality is also better in the morning, since ozone levels increase soon after dawn, peak at midday, and then again in the early evening. Times to avoid running are noon till 3pm.
8) Eat salty foods and drinks such as pretzels and tomato juice.
9) Check the Heat Index Chart for apparent temperature. This is the number that calculates the air temperature with the relative humidity to determine what the temperature feels like and if there is a risk of a heat-related illness.