Sun Devil Stadium will look like utopia to the expected 34,000 participants in P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon races Sunday.
They will know reaching the stadium means their grueling task is done.
But as they watch runners joyously cross the finish line, the people responsible for making this massive event happen will have a much different feeling.
For them, the end of the race is just the beginning.
"It’s kind of a tough day for me in a lot of ways," said Dawn Reichert, one of two Rock ’n’ Roll event managers. "We work all year. Our main job is to get 33,000 runners out there each year for a safe run.
"When it is over, our job begins. It’s a 12-month process."
The event, run from downtown Phoenix through Scottsdale and Tempe before finishing outside Sun Devil Stadium, is put on by professionals.
Elite Racing organizes everything from the course to how many bananas will be needed to supply the water/ food stations. The San Diegobased company runs several prestigious races throughout the country.
"We have six or seven megaevents and a staff of more than 50," said operations director Peter Douglass.
Recruitment of runners for next year’s race actually will hit full stride Friday at the event’s Health and Fitness Expo from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at
Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center. Shortly after the event concludes Sunday, brainstorming sessions will begin to evaluate this year’s effort and commence planning for 2007.
"We’ve already started promoting next year’s event," Reichert said.
What it takes to organize the event — two years ago the largest inaugural race ever — is mind-boggling.
"Twelve months is barely enough time," Douglass said.
Since the event traverses three cities, each must sign off on route plans, agreeing to close roads and provide security and traffic personnel. That process got a bit complicated for this year’s event. Light-rail construction forced organizers to change their courses a bit.
"Each city really shares the work," Douglass said. "They are great."
There is the ordeal of planning and constructing the starting line and finish areas, keeping in mind that each participant has an average of nearly two well-wishers at the finish line. Then there is coordinating parking at the finish line for nearly 100,000 people.
Organizers also have to be hip to the beat. This is the Rock ’n’ Roll, meaning bands line the courses to encourage participants and entertain spectators.
"We have 67 bands and 38 stages," Douglass said. "The stages aren’t little backyard setups. It takes a lot to get them all up."
There is more, much more. Some of the other tasks organizers have faced include:
• Recruiting the some 5,000 volunteers needed to staff the event.
• Rounding up physicians, physical therapists and masseuses to work aid stations and the medical tents.
• Getting food and drink to supply the numerous aid stations that dot the courses.
• Securing elite runners to make it a world-class event.
• Picking a band to headline the postrace concert.
Supplies needed for participants
• 30,000 bananas
• 35,000 energy gels
• 85,000 bottles of water
• 5,500 bandages
• 100 1-pound jars of Vaseline
• 136,000 safety pins
Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & 1 /2 Marathon
What: Marathon, half marathon and accompanying races. When: Sunday: 7:30 a.m. — marathon wheelchair start; 7:40 a.m. — marathon start; 8:25 a.m. — half marathon wheelchair start; 8:30 a.m. — half marathon start Where: Start line — Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in downtown Phoenix; finish lines — just east of Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Who: About 34,000 participants expected.