Experiencing IRONMAN® World Championship Magic

barb-and-diana-kona

IRONMAN World Championship Race Director, Diana Bertsch and Barb McKeever, Owner, McKeever Event Management, LLC

Last month, we were delighted to award Barb McKeever, a customer of ACTIVE Network since 2005, our first-ever sweepstakes prize of a VIP pass and travel expenses to the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Barb told us it was ‘truly an amazing experience!” To learn why it meant so much to her, read on to understand Barb’s role in endurance sports, the unique opportunities offered to her at the IRONMAN World Championship, and the impact this experience will have on her career.

Barb has been involved in the sport of triathlon for 13 years as a participant, Operations Director and Race Director. She is certified with USA Triathlon as a Level ll Race Director. Barb currently serves as the Race Director for the Via Marathon, a top 3rd Boston Qualifier, The Parkway Run & Walk for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, TriROCK Philadelphia, WXPN Musicians on Call 5K, Hustle 4 Muscle 5K, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Run Into Spring 5K and In 24, an urban ultra-endurance race, and coaches Special Olympic’s Swimming, among others.

Her illustrious event history includes:

  • Directing events with 1000 participants up to her largest, The Color Run®Philadelphia 5K, with 32,000.
  • One of the original Partners of Philadelphia Triathlon LLC, owners and operators of the Philadelphia Triathlon and the SheROX Triathlon Series.
  • Year 1 (2005) the Philadelphia Triathlon sold out with 1000 participants, then grew into a Family Triathlon Festival Weekend which includes a Sports Exposition, Sprint Triathlon, Kids Race and Olympic Triathlon with over 3800 athletes. The race, now called TriROCK Philly, was sold to Competitor Group, Inc. in 2013. Barb continues to serve as the race director.
  • In 2007 Barb created the SheROX Women’s Triathlon Series in Philadelphia which grew to 6 races across the U.S. in a few years. It was then combined with the Danskin Triathlon Series. They had 13 events across the U.S. and finished internationally in Bermuda. SheROX was also sold to Competitor Group, Inc.
  • Barb also served as the Race Director of IRONMAN 70.3 Pocono Mountains for two years.

In 2013, Barb started her own events production company, McKeever Event Management, LLC. (MEMRACING), currently managing 12-15 events annually. They specialize in event development, operations and production, having produced hundreds of sporting events in the United States and internationally.

Barb’s focus is of special interest: She is dedicated to the development and support of first time athletes in participatory sports, especially women. With a dream of developing & growth in the sport of triathlon, she supports those just starting out by offering swim clinics, group swims, rides, runs, general information sessions and mentoring throughout each race season.  

What makes MEMRACING events different from others is the focus on the participants’ experience and running well-organized events. Athlete communications and logistical information is key to running a successful event. MEMRACING also tries to reply to athlete questions within 24-48 hours. Barb personally handles most of the athlete meetings and questions. Post-race nutrition is another key focus. They hire and work with chefs who produce a fresh and healthy post-race breakfast /lunch, complete with nice touches such as linens and fresh flowers. Barb says, “Our athletes train hard and deserve the royal treatment at our events.”

Here’s what Barb had to say about her trip to the islands and the legendary race:

What was the most surprising insight or element from your trip to Kona?

First, the energy, the vibe, being around these athletes who are so motivated and have been working years and years to get to compete at Kona IM. There truly is power and strength on the island and in Kona. The venue itself is such a special place, it gives participants the strength to compete and finish. It was truly the experience of a lifetime.

Second, the people! There were more than 5,000 volunteers, locals, visitors, family and friends of participants. Everyone in Kona gets involved around this race, supporting you whether you’re there to watch, participate, work, or just happen to be visiting Hawaii during the event. “In 20 years, I’ve attended a lot of events – including the luxury of attending a Formula 1 Championship race, internationally – I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s NOTHING like the pure excitement of this event on the finish line at Ali’i Drive,” Barb says.

As part of the VIP package, you met with IRONMAN World Championship Race Director Diana Bertsch. What one thing did you learn from your discussion with her that you will carry forward in the work you do for MEMRACING?

It was so nice of ACTIVE and IRONMAN to partner together to set this up! There aren’t many female race directors in our business so it’s always good to hear thoughts and share our experiences. From a Race Director perspective, I know how busy you can be during race week and I couldn’t imagine how she could have time to meet for 30 minutes during her busiest and largest event. I was truly honored that she took the time, found that we have a lot in common and think she enjoyed our time talking.

She’s an amazing woman, very kind and caring, a great mom, very loyal, very spiritual about the island—its power, the environment, taking care of this great state. She’s so detailed and thorough; she has a vision and knows what she wants the event to be and what she wants to accomplish. Diana really appreciates her staff and can’t say enough nice things about them. I also realized that she is very demanding of herself and that she has high expectations for those around her.  She’s been not only the race director since 2007, she also directs the IRONMAN 70.3 Championship Series and serves as Vice President for World Championship Events for IRONMAN at the same time.

What I’ll carry with me is the encouragement to keep on working hard in and around our sport of triathlon. To be a triathlon Race Director takes a lot of dedication, persistence and hard work. After all, it’s like planning three races, swim, bike & run all in one event and there are many more logistics that come along with that responsibility. Triathlons take a year or more to plan, they’re expensive to produce, and you work long hours. To make a race successful, you also need a very dedicated, hard-working staff,  who are experts in their areas of the event and hundreds of volunteers. I work with a great group of people and we’re very lucky in those regards.

Sometimes I get discouraged when I have troubles with permits and course planning, high costs for city services, or not having enough sponsors, but going to Kona and speaking with Diana and meeting her staff makes me realize that as Race Directors, we need to continue to produce well-organized local triathlons to give the participants a good race experience that will entice them to keep living healthy lifestyles. We have the ability to change lives through introducing folks to our sport and getting them started. After all, there’s nothing like seeing happy, shiny triathletes cross the finish line.

 

Eric Koenigs, Global Account Manager at ACTIVE, with Barb and her guest Elyse Becker at the e Komo Mai (welcome banquet)

 

 

 

 

Gina Calvert

Gina Calvert is the Senior Marketing Writer for ACTIVE Network, providing marketing and business resources for active lifestyle organizations across a range of markets, including government, nonprofits, camps, schools and endurance events, for more than six years.

More Posts