The race is on!
Huntsville’s popular Band on the Run road race will be back in 2019 for its eighth year—but it might not have if not for the passion and dedication of organizers Justine Brown and Rob Horton.
The pair, along with Melissa Key who has also organized the event for the past seven years, had planned to step away after the 2018 race.
“We were considering not holding it (in 2019). We are super passionate about it, but it’s exhausting,” said Brown. “We thought seven years was the perfect amount of time—and it was wonderful—and we were prepared to move on.”
But even before they went public with that decision, they kept encountering people who would spontaneously talk about their plans to enter Band on the Run next year.
“The town has really embraced it,” said Brown. “It has really become part of the fabric of the community. It really broke our hearts.”
After trying to find an organization to take over, and assessing whether it would stay true to what the race had become, Brown and Horton decided they would run the race for at least one more year. Key has decided it’s a natural time to move on to other things, but will be there in full force on the day of the race, said Brown.
So then they asked themselves, “What makes it so fun for people and what can we do to make it a stand-out experience for people?” said Brown. “So many come out and it’s their first race ever. We want to make it an awesome experience for them.”
That meant making everyone feel like a “VIP rockstar,” said Brown. Perks that in the past required an extra fee or early-bird registration—bag check, participant medals, and the ability to pick up a race packet on race day—are now available for everyone. They are also putting tools in place to ensure that, when life happens, people can transfer their race entry to someone else or get a refund if needed.
Community Living Huntsville will once again be a community partner, with funds raised at the event supporting the organization that provides support to people with developmental disabilities.
“We love partnering with them,” said Brown. “It is a true partnership in that it is so beneficial for both of us. We raised $12,000 for them last year, and we also recognize how much they give back to the event with both participants and volunteers. They bring such joy and enthusiasm (to the event).”
And they are also looking for other community partnerships, particularly for the afternoon music festival where runners relax and celebrate after the race. In the past, race participants have been able to attend the festival for free as part of their race entry fee, and family members could purchase a separate ticket.
“It was such a great fit when there was grant money available,” said Brown. “The reality is it’s difficult to put on that portion of the event and make it financially feasible. We’ve always thought, too, that the music festival has so much room for growth—it could go into the evening, or it could have food vendors or craft breweries—but we haven’t been able to put the time and attention into it. We are trying to find a way to bring balance to our lives and still provide an amazing experience.”
They’d like to find a partner in the community who wants to host the festival independently but still tied to Band on the Run. “Part of reason that registration is opening late this year (registration opens on Sunday, December 8) is we really wanted to have that nailed down. We don’t want to rush through that partnership search,” said Brown. They’ll continue to work on that while focusing on making the run better than ever. Groups who are interested in partnering can contact Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now that the decision to continue has been made, Brown and Horton are excited to welcome back past participants, a handful of whom have been there from the start and many more who have run in multiple years. They are also grateful for the ongoing support of the sponsors who have been there from the beginning, too, like Fowler Construction, Centre Street Dental, BDO and Algonquin Outfitters.
For more information about Band on the Run, visit bandontherun.ca.
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