Stacy Embretson, senior director of operations at TheMcCourt Foundation (formerly Conqur Endurance Group, and Greg Sack, sr. director of timing at Spectrum Timing Services, have been working in the race industry for more than 20 years combined.
Their companies work together to put on and time the prestigious Los Angeles Marathon, and they rely on ACTIVE’s suite of solutions plus IPICO hardware to help the event go flawlessly.
After another successful marathon on March 8, ACTIVE sat down with Embretson and Sack to talk about their lives, careers and experience working with ACTIVE.
Can you share a little about yourself and your experience in this industry?
SE: I was definitely not a runner growing up, but somehow fell into it after college. I had intended to do a one and done marathon but ended up falling in love with the sport the minute I crossed the finish line of that first race. I felt invincible and like there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish. A number of marathons and a few triathlons later I knew I needed to find a way to work in the running industry. Since I didn’t have the business background, I went back to school to get my master’s degree in Sport Management. An internship with the Long Beach Marathon led to a full-time position and I have now been working in the industry for almost 15 years.
My favorite part of this job is that I get to recreate life changing race experiences for so many other runners now. One of the other things I love about this job is that there is no typical “day today”. Every day is something completely different. It can range from updating operations manuals and supply lists to driving all around Los Angeles fulfilling permit requirements to attending various city planning meetings. The best part is probably race week when I get to put all of the planning into action. We have events that start at Dodger Stadium and the Rose Bowl. I really can’t complain that I get to spend time setting up events at these iconic venues.
GS: I began working for Spectrum Sports part-time back in 2011 on event management projects before we had the timing side of the business. This meant that I got to be a part of building it from the very beginning and I found that it came fairly easy to me. I knew what the client expected and trained in our management business to handle the details of finish line, registration and customer service.
Tell us a bit about Conqur and Spectrum.
SE: As of January 1, 2020, Conqur Endurance Group became a non-profit and we’re transitioning over to become known as The McCourt Foundation. The company itself has been in existence since 2008, but our signature event, the Los Angeles Marathon is inits 35th year and recently sold out with over 27,000 runners—which is the largest field ever. We also have the Santa Monica Classic 5K/10K which has 6,000 participants, the LA Big 5K which has 5,000 participants and the Pasadena Half Marathon at the Rose Bowl which has 11,000 participants. In addition to this we support Students Run LA by providing marathon entries to 3,500 middle and high school students inn the LA area, and the LAUSD Beyond the Bell program which trains 10,000+ kids to run 26.2 miles over the course of 10 weeks. At the end of the program 6,500 of these students will run their final mile at the 26th Mile event at Dodger Stadium.
GS: Spectrum Timing Services started in 2014 and partnered with Timberline Timing Systems out of Fort Collins, CO. The owners of both companies are friends and working associates, and both believed that there was a wide gap of quality timing companies in Southern California. In 2015, we took over ownership of 100 percent of the company and I joined the team. I was promoted to senior director the following year.
Our growth has been incredible. In the first three years while learning the business, we still grew by nearly 20 percent each year. Last year, when we took on the LA Marathon in addition to the other Conqur Endurance Group races we were already timing, our business had its largest year ever and we continue to grow today. In 2019, we timed just over 50 races (many we owned or managed) and just over 125,000 runners and cyclist.
What drives the success of your business?
SE: Happy runners is always what we are striving for. We work very hard to offer extraordinary race experiences to encourage the runners to come back year after year.
GS: I believe what sets us apart as a timing company is our sister-company, Spectrum Sports Management, and its track record and recognizable name in the industry. It has also hindered us at times as race directors who feel we are “competitors” look for other resources. Spectrum Timing’s real point of difference is our customer service and extensive event management experience. We understand exactly what the race directors and runners want—because we ARE Race Directors.
What made you choose ACTIVE / IPICO?
SE: We have been with ACTIVE for a little over 2 years now. It was the combination of the technology we needed and excellent customer service that led us to sign with ACTIVE.
GS: When we started our company, we were actually using a competitive product. We then switched over to ACTIVE and IPICO Timing three years ago. What led us to ACTIVE and IPICO was the quality of the equipment. We see where the industry is going with marketing tools, digital assets and CRM systems, and ACTIVE/IPICO supports that. As timers, we value a product that can live in one environment and build value. ACTIVE can take the registrations then push to dynamic bib check-in, and we will soon use ACTIVE Scoring for the scoring platform. This will create a total and complete seamless experience for the athlete.
What ACTIVE products do you use and what are your favorite features?
SE: We use ACTIVEWorks Endurance, ACTIVEOn-Site Mobile App, ACTIVE Experience App and the Virtual Goodie Bag. We love working with ACTIVE On-Site. The ability to do dynamic bib assignment has been a game changer for us. Bib pick up is so much more efficient for us now, and we also like that we have the ability to check in participants at our training runs.
GS: We utilize both ACTIVEWorks Endurance for registrations and IPICO timing hardware. We really like the ease of learning IPICO and how it allows us to quickly on-board new staff.
How is your experience working with ACTIVE and the account management team?
SE: Trey and David have been amazing! We definitely feel important and like we are a priority to them. They are always responsive when we need things from them and they go above and beyond to try to find ways to help make our processes more efficient and streamlined.
GS: While we’re currently transitioning from one rep to another, we’re hoping for the same great support and relationship we had developed with our previous rep. As for our working relationship with ACTIVE, it is good!
How has ACTIVE played a role in your business’ growth?
SE: The ability to create an event series has been huge for us. With runners able to register for our three-race series with ease, we have definitely seen an increase in registration numbers and sold out all of our events this year.
GS: ACTIVE has played a role in advancing our business by providing the newest technology. The dynamic bib assignment was a game changer for us and one that benefits everyone across the board, from the race organizer to the timer and the athlete.
What advice would you give to others working in a similar role?
SE: Good organization skills are a must for this job. There are so many moving parts, that you must find a way to keep everything organized and on schedule. Also, surround yourself with good people.You will never be able to do it all on race day, so get the support of others who are as committed as you are to putting on great events. These are the folks who truly contribute to the success of your races.
GS: It’s important to build a good working relationship with your representative. Don’t overlook the assets and tools that some consider “toys,” such as dynamic bib and the Experience app, learn these and implement them. The more we within the industry, and timers in particular, bring in new assets and embrace new experiences, the larger we will grow the collective running pie and all benefit.