Laurie – the leading man behind the race
A running joke around the Manitoba Marathon office when people meet Operations Manager Laurie Penton is figuring out how they already know him. Whether it is through the Marathon, his connection to the cross country (or other sport) community or his hometown of Brandon, Laurie’s smile and personality have made him friends in all places. A fixture in amateur sports events scene since the early 80s, Laurie has his roots in Athletic Therapy. He joined the Manitoba Marathon team in 1990 and has been the glue that holds the race together ever since. Read on to learn more about the man behind the race.
Can you tell us how you got started with the Marathon?
I was friends with Dave Cageorge (the Race Director in the early 80s) and I was in university. The organization needed someone to help with the event so I signed up for a four week contract doing course set up and equipment depot lift and carry. The marathon schedule worked well with the university schedule, so why not? Little did I know…
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the Marathon that have worked to make race week easier or better?
The internet. And cell phones (a while ago I thought it was fax machines). Chip timing is huge. More recently, moving to IG Field saves a lot of work and allows more time for set up.
How has your work at Manitoba Marathon changed your personal life?
The Manitoba Marathon and my personal life are pretty intertwined. Our whole family has been involved in various roles as things have evolved over the years. For good or bad, many of my friends and neighbours are or were part of the ‘marathon family’ at some point in time.
So it’s race week and the craziness has begun – where can we find you in the days leading up to the big event?
I’m at one of the 3 main locations of the operation: Equipment depot, IG Field, or out on the course.
Where can you be found on race day?
My main job on race day is to trouble shoot all of our systems to ensure everything goes as planned. I sit in the Communications Center and try to support the volunteers as they do a great job of putting on the event for the runners. After that it’s back to work cleaning and packing up.
Do you have a particular race day memory that sticks out in your mind as significant?
Lots and none at all at the same time, but probably the first year we had a cardiac incident on the course. At about 7:22AM, I radioed the Command Centre to say that in three minutes the Super Run could start. As I was finishing the call I noticed the sound of sirens and saw several emergency vehicles racing down University Crescent. In disbelief I sprinted after them on my bicycle and one block away on Thatcher Drive there were 11 medical people, feverishly working on a person in the MIDDLE of the roadway where the waves of Super Runners were about to flood through. In panic, I yelled for someone to give me a phone. Not knowing if it was too late, I frantically called the Comm Centre to STOP THE RUNNERS!! Fortunately the Super Run had not started; I can’t imagine what would’ve happened otherwise. The Super Run Start was delayed until the person was taken to hospital. Happily that runner is still with us today and I understand still regularly participates. A little later when I was in the finish area and was catching my breath reviewing the circumstances with the Race Director I heard the yell, “Code Blue at the finish line!” I looked over and our Medical Director was performing CPR on the track about two metres before the finish line. Our jaws dropped and I ran to deal with the fire trucks and ambulance that was were onto campus. The Manitoba Marathon had never had any sort of cardiac event prior to that, so having two on the same day was astounding! Our medical team was stellar in its response and we were able to improve the dispatch and communications protocols with the FPFS and City of Winnipeg as a result.
What advice would you give a volunteer joining us on race week for the first time?
It’s a great way to feel connected to the community in a super positive environment: the energy will guarantee a memorable experience. The event is 100% volunteer driven so you are an important part of helping make something BIG happen.