RG’s interview with Ted Metellus. His Three P’s for event management: Prepare, Plan and Produce!
by George Banker
Editor’s Note: This month, Ted Metellus was named race director for the TCS New York City Marathon, the first Black race director of an Abbott World Marathon Majors event. He came to this position with 20 years with the New York Road Runners, plus senior positions with Ironman, Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Philadelphia Triathlon, Miami Marathon, Tough Mudder, and a cross-country bicycling event.
RG’s George Banker, who has lately specialized in interviewing special athletes plus movers and shakers in the sport of running, reached out to Ted with a slate of questions. George has known Ted for many years as man who is modest, professional, and polished.
Congratulations and thanks to Ted, and thank you to New York Road Runners for their assistance.
Karen Mitchell, Runner’s Gazette
What was your motivation to get involved in the sport of running?
It was less motivation and more opportunity. In 2001, a good friend and former colleague started working at New York Road Runners. In the fall, she reached out to me to see if I could assist with the New York City Marathon planning. I jumped at the opportunity to work on one of New York’s iconic events. Little did I know, it was going to expose me to the world of large-scale, competitive sporting events. Previously, I was working on a national series of multi-state bike events for AIDS services and multi-day walks and events to support breast cancer.
Have you always been on the event management side or started as an athlete/participant?
Before becoming a participant, I started as a producer of events. It’s like a chef, and they don’t eat until everyone is served. For example, in 2000 I was fortunate enough to raise money for aids-related services and ride my bicycle more than 400 miles from Raleigh, N.C., to Washington D.C. Additionally, I ran the TCS New York City Marathon in 2008 and 2012. I have run and participated in 33 half marathons, festivals and concerts, and attended the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. I love events like a chef loves food.
Where did you attend school and your major?
I went to a small state college in New York called Oswego. It is about 45 minutes North of Syracuse and five and a half hours north of New York City.
Did you participate in any sports?
I was very active in college but was not an athlete. My favorite sport was basketball, and I played on several intramural and tournament teams.
What was your progression to your current position?
It is like the Drake song. I started from the bottom, and now I’m here… I did everything from working as a personal assistant on an ABC television show with Sean “Diddy” Combs to working at a New York City radio station as part of their promotion and marketing department with the likes of Isaac Hayes and Funk Master Flex. I worked my way into events, starting as an operations coordinator on a cross-country bicycling event. I continued in the world of endurance sports, including positions as an event manager, ceremony producer, interim Race Director for the Miami Marathon, Assistant Race Director at the Philadelphia Triathlon, Operation and Logistics consultant on the first Tough Mudder event in the U.S. Also, I was a Course Operations Director for the Rock n Roll Marathon before coming back to NYRR as the Sr. Director of Events three years ago. I did anything and everything I could to grow and learn from every type of event, event producer, and team.
Did you have a plan on areas which you wanted to concentrate?
I wanted to get exposure to all the critical areas of an event – concept, design, planning, partnership, budgeting, marketing, engagement, execution, feedback, and takeaways. There are so many correlations among different types of events. There is so much to be learned from each one, including how to safely engage with an audience and partners to produce an enjoyable experience. Whether it is a music festival, an athletic event, or a food and wine show, they all share similar elements.
What are the skills which are required to be in event management?
The three P’s: Prepare, Plan, and Produce.
- Prepare all key stakeholders on the event with effective communications and data. (The blueprint)
- Plan and set into play the overall flow of the operation. (What is going to happen, when is it going to happen, who is going to do it, what needs to happen to get it done)
- Put the plan and prep work to motion by producing the event. Bring the work and the vision to life.
What changes in your life did you make to remain relevant within the sport?
The biggest change I made was getting off the road and focusing back on one market, product, and event. After almost 15 years of being on the road traveling worldwide for events, I was back home in NYC, focusing on what we do here.
Do you feel that you had to give up anything in your life to reach where you are now?
I have given up a lot, but sacrifice is part of the game when you are working toward the long game.
How do you balance family and work?
In many cases, the people I have surrounded myself with for the last 20+ years have become my family. I’m not married, and I don’t have children, but I have amazing and beautiful people in my life. I try to make time for them as well as make time for my overall health and wellness.
What is your philosophy when it comes to the sport in general?
Running is the only sport in which you compete and participate in the same field as professionals. I will never play on the same basketball court as Michael Jordan in his prime, but I have run in races with Meb Keflezighi. He is just a little faster than me.
What are the changes in the sport which you have seen over the years?
Some of the most significant changes are around safety, security, technology, and inclusivity. We are keeping all of our participants safe, connected, and engaged. We are looking at ways to leverage participation and partnership via technology through virtual racing. We are looking closely at our participant fields and ensuring we engage a diverse community of runners, walkers, and participants. Are we helping nurture the next generation of runners?
What is important that a race organizer should try to provide to the athlete?
Like many other service industry platforms, it’s essential to produce a safe, enjoyable, and logistically sound experience.
What are some of the challenges you see with the COVID environment, and how will the sport have to adapt?
To name a few:
- Education and communication around the safety policies of the event.
- Track a tracing technology.
- Crowd management.
- Course Aid Station Management.
What is essential for a participant to know before coming to an event?
Please read the current policies around the events, because they are not the same as before COVID. Treat it like when you are traveling on a plane. Take the time to make sure you have all the materials you need to board your flight safely. Think of it like an international trip. Do you have all the supporting material to get to your final destination? Be prepared.
What advice can you pass along to those seeking to enter the event management field (running)?
I would tell them to support local running organizations in their community. Connect with the staff and offer your services to them. Learn from as many different people as possible to see what sparks your interest and get a 360° view of the overall experience. Additionally, I would recommend engaging with other types of events and guest experiences. The more you are exposed to, the more valuable you are.
What situation have you faced which tested your knowledge?
The daily test I face is relationship and people management. I find myself continually listening, learning, and applying my knowledge and experience toward finding a mutual solution or result.
What situation to date stands out as a success?
Recently, I have had two successes that stand out to me. Both involved instilling a sense of confidence in a vital city stakeholder regarding an operational event element. These two individuals felt the plan the team and I were putting together addressed their concerns. Any day you can take an “I don’t know” or an “I don’t understand” and turn it around, it’s a win.
What thoughts do you wish to leave with the reader?
While running may be seen as an individual or solo sport, there’s usually a team behind the athlete helping them achieve their goals. Event production is like a team sport. It takes a group of people working together as a unit to accomplish a goal. The tighter the unit, inevitably the better the result. Surround yourself with good people that are focused on finding solutions, getting better, and having FUN!
Categories: Athlete Profiles