Rachel Munday has had quite a lasting impact on the running community over the past decade, and now she will get the chance to shine as executive director of Manitoba’s biggest running event, the Manitoba Marathon, taking place on June 21.
Originally starting as a part time worker at the Running Room in 2005, Munday rose quickly, moving on to the events co-ordinator position, and then area and regional manager. In that time, she has made her name known and gained valuable opportunities as both a leader and race director.
While she grew up as a dancer, Munday made the transition to the road later in life, and has now completed over 20 half marathons and four full marathons, her first of which was Manitoba.
When now-former executive director Shirley Lumb stepped down back in December, Munday was among those who applied for the position, and ultimately got it in March.
The Manitoban had the chance to sit down with Munday recently to discuss her thoughts on the race, as well as how things have progressed since she was appointed.
THE MANITOBAN: What was the interview process like for you? How long did it take, and when did you ultimately find out you were the one who was being appointed?
RACHEL MUNDAY: As far as the interview process goes, there was a call out to the public for applications. I don’t know specifically how many people responded, but I know there were quite a few.
I had an initial interview in January with select members of the board. That interview probably was just over an hour. Then, I was called back a few weeks later for a second interview, again with select members of the board.
My final interview actually was quite comprehensive, in February. That one actually was pretty fun, because it was with the full board, so there was 16 people present at my final interview, and I actually had to do a 10-minute PowerPoint and then [a second] five-minute PowerPoint presentation to the full board. It was really interesting because as a board they’re very engaged and they’re very capable people, and yet they’ve never had to hire for this position. Their expectations of who they had here were very high.
I got the word in mid-March, shortly after that final interview, and I just felt like it was the right opportunity at the right time.
M: Since you’ve been given the position, what other opportunities have you had to go to other places, and check out other major races, and how they do things?
MUNDAY: For me, over the years as a runner, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to races abroad. Your perspective is very different when you’re there as a runner, as opposed to a race director, who’s looking at the small details that most people don’t see.
I have had the opportunity historically to go to [Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon] and be a part of that event, and see their course, and amazing community involvement, and that kind of thing, and of course, I’ve run the Marine Corps Marathon, which was spectacular. Toronto Waterfront I’ve run as well.
As far as a race director, I did have the opportunity to go down to Fargo on Mother’s Day weekend, specifically to do recon of their event, and their course and expo, and kind of just participate in their activities and see them.
Then, this past week I went to Calgary, which was the National Race Directors’ Summit. That was really amazing, to have the opportunity to listen to panels, everything from marketing, to sustainability, as far as giving back to the community and running a green race, which we have been doing for years.
To connect with race directors who have events the same size as ours, and then even bigger, and what they did to take their race to the next level, and to see the elite programs, and their operations, it was really good.
M: What are a couple of the things that you’re hoping to do this year that may be exciting for people who are registering?
MUNDAY: We’re excited about lots of things. We’ve moved the start lines this year to Chancellor Matheson Dr., just in front of Investors Group Field. We feel like when you arrive on race day, it’s really going to be like that festival atmosphere, instead of having it spread over the entire footprint of University Crescent, it’s going to be condensed.
We’ve actually closed Chancellor Matheson entirely to road traffic, including race vehicles, so it’s only pedestrian traffic all day long, and diverted our parking lot program, so that no buses will be letting people off on Chancellor Matheson or anything like that.
In that starting area, we’ve added full marathon-specific toilets that will be fenced off, and we’ve really worked hard to improve our clothing drop off program.
Then, we’ve added 10km medals. It’s still not a competitive race yet, and going forward the course will be certified, but not yet, but we are giving medals to all the participants, so they’ll get medals and shirts.
We’ve added food tents in the relay zones for participants when they finish their leg of the race. That way they can have a small snack while they’re waiting for the bus to take them back to university. For the ones that aren’t, they’ll have the opportunity to have some post-race refreshment before they head back to their car.
We’ve added the full marathon in-field recovery, so when the full marathoners finish, they’ll be directed to the in-field of the track, and we have some electrolyte replacement by Popeyes. Pita Pit has come on board, and they’ve donated what’s called a snowball, which is a chocolate covered frozen protein treat.
We’re going to have dry clothes pick up in the in-field for all the full marathoners, and massage is being provided by Massage Athletica. Full marathoners won’t be limited to what’s in that area, it’s more of a post-race relax area.
At the finish line, we’ve added selfie and photo walls. We’ve got some fun signs, and wipe-off boards, and that kind of thing, so you can take pictures with your friends, or that random guy who helped you get to the finish line who you’ve never met before, but ran 26 miles with.
We’ve added more pace bunnies, and complimentary registration for them, and we’ve added bands.
We have like 30 bands on the course, and really working hard to enhance the cheer zones with our charity partners, so we have 15 charity partners on the course that have cheer zones.
Nothing major as far as route changes or time changes or anything like that this year, but more focused on runner experience.
M: Ultimately, what is your long-term vision for the Manitoba Marathon?
MUNDAY: I would say that the long-term vision is to make this a destination race. We want people to come to Winnipeg and travel here just like they’re travelling to other places. Like I’ve travelled to the Twin Cities, or Washington, or Toronto for an event, I want people to travel here, and I want them to know that we put on a world class event, which we do.
I want them to know that Winnipeg has so much to offer. We have so many beautiful landmarks on our route, and going forward we’ll likely capture some of the newer landmarks of the city.
It’s such a great place to run. Our elevation is a maximum of 10 feet, which is ridiculous. We just have so much to offer, so I think that my vision is to create that destination event, where people are getting the full experience, and where they’re just going to want to come back.