Supporting those who go the distance
It’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m standing on a dark street in downtown Akron waiting for three FedEx Custom Critical trucks to arrive. In just over an hour the street I am standing on will be buzzing with excitement and crowded with people talking and stretching. It’s race day. The Akron Marathon will be starting soon and FedEx Custom Critical plays a large role in ensuring a positive race experience for the nearly 13,000 runners expected.
For the past nine years FedEx Custom Critical has provided a gear bag service for the runners of the Akron Marathon. This service includes all marathon, half marathon and relay runners. The distance that each person runs varies from a 2.8 mile relay to the whole marathon topping off at 26.2 miles. No matter what distance each person has run, they are always happy to see a smiling FedEx Custom Critical face when they are done.
The service that we provide seems simple. For each person that runs we provide a weather proof label with their bib number and plastic bag for their gear. The runner’s gear may be sweatshirts, jackets or other warm attire they don’t want to run in but want before or after they run. From the surface this looks like a simple service to provide but actually several months of planning goes into making sure that we execute flawlessly and that we don’t lose any of the thousands of bags we receive.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the service we provide. The day before the race the Akron Marathon holds a Health and Wellness Expo where the runners pick up their race day information, bibs and shirts. The last stop on their way out of the Expo is the FedEx Custom Critical Gear Bag table. Here we give each runner who would like to participate in the service a bag that has their bib number on it and the color of the bag corresponds with their bib color as each division of the race has a different color bib.
On race day the runners bring their bag along with any gear they may have and they drop it off to the FedEx Custom Critical truck at the start line or at their starting point if they are running a relay. The Custom Critical volunteers direct the runners to the proper truck to drop off their bags (depending on what they run) and then they are off. Once the runner has dropped his or her bag off they know it will be waiting for them at the finish line.
About 30 minutes before the race starts things start to get hectic at the start line. We have thousands of runners dropping off bags and then rushing back to the starting line. It’s the chaos of this time of day that gets all of the volunteers out of bed on race day. There is nothing like seeing thousands of runners take off from the start line, something we see well from our vantage point at the start line.
Back at the finish line we unload the trucks and get the bags sorted first by color (based on the race) and then numerically. Nearly 20 volunteers pitch in to complete this task before the runners start arriving at the finish line. It is a team effort to say the least. Throughout the morning we continue to get gear bags from the different relay points so we continue to sort and organize as they come in. It is quite a sight to see all of those bags lined up and sorted, just waiting for their owners.
Once the runners finish they come to the gear bag tent to pick up their bags of belongings. Here they will find a smiling FedEx Custom Critical volunteer congratulating them on finishing the race.
Each year the race continues to grow. The Akron Marathon has been quoted in top running publications as one of the fastest growing and top races in the country. Runners from all over the country come to Akron, Ohio to participate, many hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon while here. The long standing partnership between Custom Critical and the Akron Marathon is a strong one and grows stronger every year. Each year we hear from runners about how great out gear bag service is and how the other marathons out there just don’t execute as well as we do. We have even heard from a few runners that because of their experience with our gear bag service that they now only ship with FedEx.
With each happy runner we smile and thank them for their kind words, pointing out that what we do is nothing compared to the 26.2 miles they just ran. But with each bag we hand back we know that we have delivered the Purple Promise once again.