Roland Schmidt: The Bellin Run (held in Green Bay, WI) was initially planned to be a one-time event in celebration of the Heart Center. It’s now in its 39th year and we have over 20,000 participants, ranging from some of the world’s top runners to families and individuals with challenges. I began my involvement while acting as the Medical Coordinator and started participating behind the scenes in planning. We only have one full-time employee associated with the event and the rest is handled by members of Bellin Health’s staff in addition to their full-time jobs. We can do it because everyone is so passionate about it and it is such a community involved event.
Marc T. Riker: We’re a non-profit national association with a mission to promote wellness for active aging adults through education, fitness, and sports. Every other year we host the National Senior Games, this year it will be July 3-16 in Bloomington/Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. We expect to have over 11,000 participants ages 50 and over from across the country and from every state. Competitions include everything from archery to bowling, golf, track and field, swimming, and more. Before joining the association I was involved more on the youth side, including a past career coaching with the YMCA and eventually having this opportunity with the National Senior Games Association. I started as the Director of Events and am now the CEO.
RS: One specific area is handling the medical needs. With the large volume of runners in a very tight location, it can be a challenge to see or find an injured runner. We may get a call with a location, but it can still be hard to find them because of the large crowds of runners. To assist with this, we have walkers, runners, bikers, and first aid station attendants positioned throughout the run. The weather is also a big factor.
With the varied temperatures in June, it can be 50 and raining or 95 and sunny, so we have to be prepared for both and do our best to plan and accommodate illnesses and injuries based on weather. From an event standpoint there is a lot of coordination involved with the entire city of Green Bay. We meet year-round and work closely with all of the area fire departments, public works, and police department. Over the years we’ve created a 188-page operations manual with another 40-plus page medical addendum.
MR: Since our events are so varied, there is massive coordination involved. This is a factor in finding the right city to accommodate our group since there are a number of venues needed, from swimming pools to tracks, all available simultaneously. There is a lot of work that goes into coordinating among the venues and arranging for medical, security, and transportation. We also need a host city that has a good volunteer base.
We have to make sure there isn’t another big event happening at the same time, and we work closely with the leadership of the community since a big part of our event being successful involves their active participation in promoting the event. We want people from the community to come out to watch and be inspired. It’s a phenomenal experience. We have a gentleman in his 90s who pole vaults!
RS: There are so many neat things! It’s great to see the number of families that come out to take the next step in their health and wellness. Friday night preceding the run, we hold some special events including the Children’s Run, Back to the Road Crew (people who have recovered from challenges with hips, knees, cancer, cardiovascular, etc.), and the TRIUMP Mile, which is for challenged individuals who can’t finish the 10k. They run/walk with the support and encouragement of “Angels” (volunteers). It’s amazing to see their joy when completing the event! It’s overall an incredible event for our community and really energizing to see!
MR: It’s [most rewarding] to see the opportunity that is being provided for folks to just be active and do it at the level they want to do it at. We have everyone from beginners to people who are so committed they go to camps to work with specialists to help them train and be in peak performance shape. Or for others, it provides a social outlet and gives them the chance to be around people that want to be active and enjoy life. Being active helps them in so many areas, not just physically but mentally and socially too. It’s amazing to be there and see people from 50 to 100 years old, from all walks of life coming together to celebrate and have this opportunity. It’s very inspiring!
For more information on these events visit www.bellinrun.com and www.nsga.com