Dan Hill is the founder and CEO of Electric Run™, the insanely popular nighttime 5K run/walk that is often called an “electric wonderland.” Each course has 5-10 distinct lighting experiences which are composed of different artistic elements to convey different moods, ranging from energetic to ethereal. Each event is unique and transports participants to a different world. Dan is also the co-founder of the Ragnar Relay Series, which has rapidly expanded nationwide since its inaugural year, but is currently focused full time on Electric Run.
How did you get your start as an event director?
I was at BYU studying economics and planning to go to grad school when one of my mentors recommended that I start a business. I thought it would be really fun to do an event like the Hood to Coast Relay, so I started the Ragnar Relay with my Dad and Tanner Bell. The initial event was in Utah in 2004 with 260 participants. From there, the event kept doubling and tripling in size and we saw the opportunity to expand nationwide. There will be about 20,000 runners at our Utah event this year (our biggest) we had to add an extra day to meet the demand. In total, the Ragnar Relay Series has 15 events nationwide.
How did you first get the idea for Electric Run?
Just last year (2012) I was ready for a new challenge. I was watching what was going on in participant events and what’s happening with pop-culture in the country. People are really hungry for events where they can participate in social and visual ways. This is the “Go Pro” generation—people want to ‘be a hero.’ They don’t want to spectate they want to participate. Spectator events are starting to struggle whereas mass participation events (like Burning Man, Tomorrowland or Electric Daisy Carnival which are art and music festivals with a participation element) are exploding. That’s what people really want right now—to participate with friends, snap a few photos, and post them to Facebook.
I saw all this and knew I had the opportunity to do a really cool, professional, nighttime event. Fun runs are really popular right now, but can be a little gimmicky with a short shelf life. But I think there’s going to be an appetite for really cool event experiences for a long time, so I wanted to create a truly professional and immersive experience that would keep participants coming back for awhile.
How has Electric Run been able to grow so rapidly?
It’s a combination of things. Race directors that I’ve known over the years have supported me and my friends at ACTIVE have introduced me to people around the country as well. That’s a huge component – having logistical experience and connections helps us move fast when expanding to new cities, requesting permits, etc. On top of that, social media really gets the word out about events, much faster that we used to be able to do it. We’ve created something that is very visually engaging and people “like” it and share it with their friends. And ACTIVE gives us the national marketing network. Emails, articles and online advertisements pushed out to ACTIVE’s database allow us to promote through even more channels.
What do you see as the next evolution of this industry?
There are more and more of these fun runs and obstacle events popping up that may not be well managed or have a sophisticated event director behind them. People don’t realize how difficult and expensive it is to produce a high-quality event. So there are a lot of junky events out there that are produced by well-intended people that just don’t know what they’re getting into. I think participants are going to get a lot better at discerning the good from the bad and will only want to do good events. The events that prosper will have smart event producers. A lot of events will shut down and some new high-quality events will emerge. But over the long run, events are going to become much higher quality and there won’t be much room for poorly run events.
I also think people will continue to want to do things that allow them to participate and have awesome experiences. Experience is the new luxury. Having a Ferrari isn’t cool now. Cliff diving and filming it is cool. It’s about doing something really rad and then posting a photo or video online. I think ‘experience’ is going to last a really long time.
We hope we can keep changing it up and making Electric Run a legit experience that people want to come back to year after year.
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