Connect With Partners Who Share Your Passion

By Paul Peavy

One way to build your event is to develop a relationship with a passionate, caring business owner who provides a resource and an inspiration for your athletes and events year round.

One such business is Freedom Sports in Panama City Beach, Fla., owned by Marshal McClanahan. The beautiful beaches of Florida create a natural draw for triathlons—the crown jewel being IronMan Florida held in Panama City Beach every November. But if you look on the triathlon calendar, there are events sprinkled throughout Florida practically the whole year.

Marshal has made sure to seed the triathlon and running community with support and education. He has also created his own fun events such as a winter triathlon that is divided into a pool swim, a bike time trial, and a short run with about an hour-long break in between to give athletes enough time to change clothes and thaw between events.

He has held a “Skirt Chaser” Triathlon where the women start five minutes before the men, and it’s a pretty fun, “Game on!” event from there. He offers free triathlon clinics for newbies.

He also sponsors weekly runs over the big bridge to Panama City Beach that includes a costume run near Halloween. It’s very much a family atmosphere at his store where he even offers an after-hours Christmas party for his customers.

So, what’s the lesson for sports event organizers? If you have someone like Marshal McClanahan in your life, then you will have a wealth of positive publicity. You will have a valuable resource to grow new athletes and offer people encouragement and opportunities to try something new. You will even have sources for volunteers as families and friends of these athletes feel a sense of ownership and community so that they volunteer when they are not participating.

If you do not have a golf shop, a sporting goods store, a tack shop, or a running store in your area that is 1,000 percent behind and in front of your event, make copies of this article and take it to them. Simply say, “We can make sure that each of us thrives for the next 20 years.” Tell the owner that all you need is for him to be your Marshal McCLanahan.