With his pair of running shoes packed, Houston Marathon Committee executive director Wade Morehead spent two weeks living out of a suitcase, traveling across the country and the world to learn more about the event industry and discover new ideas to make race weekend better than ever just in time for its 40th anniversary.
Wade’s first stop was Eugene, Oregon to attend the U.S. National Track & Field Championships. He joined Steven Karpas, managing director; Brant Kotch, president of the Board of Directors and Philllip Schneidau, finish line co-captain to meet with USA Track & Field, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and other industry leaders and sponsors who were also in attendance since the U.S. Olympic Trials in Track & Field will take place at the University of Oregon next year. The Houston Marathon Committee has been working closely with these organizations as Houston prepares to host the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon in January 2012.
Wade also ran into some familiar faces as three female past Houston half-marathon winners placed in the top 5 in the 10,000-meter championships. 2010 Houston Half Marathon winner and course record holder Shalane Flanagan won the event while 2011 USA Half Marathon Champion Jen Rhines came in third and 2009 Houston Half Marathon champion Magdalena Lewy-Boulet placed fifth.
Wade’s next stop was Athens, Greece as part of a 5-person international volunteer Games Evaluation Team for Special Olympics International. The team was given the chance to attend the Special Olympic World Summer Games from June 25 to July 4. While there, he observed event operations, toured facilities and interviewed volunteers, athletes and event organizers in order to compile a report to benefit future organizing committees. The Evaluation Team featured former Special Olympics organizers and athletes from the USA, Australia, Ireland and Greece.
Even in Athens, Wade was able to find reminders of home.
“Makis Asimakopoulos was the Head of Sports & Venues for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games and he is also an advising consultant to the Athens Classic Marathon, who we proudly partner with each year,” Wade said. Each year, two runners who finish the Houston Marathon win an all-expense paid trip to Greece to participate in the historic Athens Classic Marathon. For more information about the Houston-Athens Marathon Exchange, read our blog post about it here!
The program featured many memorable moments, with 7,500 Special Olympic athletes representing 164 countries competing throughout the week and an opening ceremony hosted by Vanessa Williams and featuring a performance from Stevie Wonder in the historic Panathenaiko Stadium, which was built in 329 B.C.
Wade said one of the highlights of the trip for him was “watching my first event at historic Hayward field on the campus of the University of Oregon, and then two days later sitting in Panathenaiko Stadium, which was the site for the first modern Olympic games in 1896.”
In the midst of all the events and competitions taking place, however, Wade found time to take in the historic sites and peaceful scenery of Greece on a morning run, which we shared with you on Twitter.
Wade brought home a perspective of event operations in other countries as well as a reminder of the endless opportunity for achievement and unity that sports can provide.
“Having the opportunity to be around these athletes and their families from around the world is joyful and inspirational,” Wade said.
To see more photos from Wade’s travels, check out the HMC on Flickr!