The Tacoma City Marathon might be a spring tradition for the South Sound, but 10 years ago it needed a lucky break just to get to the starting line.
Several weeks before the first race, co-founders Tony Phillippi and Paul Morrison were told they needed to bring 120 volunteers to meet with Tacoma police. They needed to show they had the manpower to safely stage the event in order to get their permit.
They showed up at the meeting with 30 volunteers. “It was stressful,” Phillippi said. Then they got their break. The officer in charge didn’t show, and they were allowed to continue rallying volunteer support.
By race day they had enough support for them to declare the race a success.
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“Every year it became a little easier to get volunteers,” Phillippi said. “For five years, we enticed them with a free jacket. Then eventually we were like, how many jackets do you need?”
Now volunteers get credit for their time that they can use to enter Tacoma City Marathon Association races.
Sunday (May 1) at the 10th running of the race, the Tacoma City Marathon races will have the support of 200 volunteers. The field for the races is expected to exceed 2,200 runners.
Phillippi, who recently finished his 15th consecutive Boston Marathon, still serves as race co-director with Morrison. Last week as he helped put the finishing touches on the event that includes a half marathon, team relay, a 5-kilometer run and a kids race, Phillippi carved out some time to field a few questions.
Q: Are you doing anything special for the anniversary?
A: We aren’t doing much different than any other year. We will mention it on the commemorative medal, and 10-year anniversary will be splashed all over the shirt. It is basically the same setup as every other year, but Paul and I might do a cheer after the race to celebrate 10 years.
Q: Does it get easier 10 years in?
A: It has been getting easier because we have some good people helping us out. I’ve turned over the course setup to Danny Richards. … In years past I’ve been up at midnight setting it up. Now Danny gets up at the crack of 2 a.m. to set it up.
We have Claudia (Hansen) taking care of all the administrative stuff and Marylee (Martucci) doing a great job with volunteer coordinating. It’s a huge relief. I can sleep a little better now.
Q: You changed the course from the loop to a point-to-point race over the Narrows Bridge, through Point Defiance and along the waterfront a few years ago. Do you think this is the way the course will stay in the future?
A: I think people do like it. It is a little more expense busing people over there (From Tacoma to the Narrows Airport starting area) but it’s worth it. … Incorporating the bridge is a huge bonus. Getting to run over that thing is pretty spectacular.
Q: Which of the races was most memorable for you?
A: That one (2013) was pretty special because it was the biggest turnout ever. It was memorable having all those yellow (Marathon Maniacs) shirts out there on the course. (The race was part of the 10th anniversary celebration festivities for the Maniacs.) Having Dick Beardsley in town telling stories about the Duel in the Sun (the 1982 Boston Marathon) was pretty cool too.
Q: What would you like to change in the future?
A: I would just like to see it grow.
Q: What needs to happen to take the event to the next level?
A: I think, maybe market it a little better. Because it is a beautiful course. But I think a lot of marathoners are looking for that flat, fast course. Ours isn’t too bad, but it has a lot of rollers. For Tacoma people it’s not bad because we run them all the time. But for flatlanders and those looking for PRs (personal records), it’s a hard sell.
Q: You’ve run 269 marathons, but never a Tacoma City Marathon because you’re working. Is it on your to-do list to get somebody to cover for you so you can run your race?
A: I think we are getting close. Race directing is a big responsibility. You have to be there and ready to answer any question. I’m not quite comfortable pulling away, but I’m thinking we’re getting there.
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