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Putting on a professional track meet with Craig Longhurst of JDL Fast Track

Putting on a professional track meet with Craig Longhurst of JDL Fast Track

| On 28, Jan 2015

Once again, the newest TFAA Board member, Craig Longhurst, has put together an incredible field and meet within a meet at the 2015 Hilton Garden Invitational, with the 3rd Annual Camel City Elite event this Saturday, January 31st. This years event will boast a prize purse of $40,000! As a race director myself, I had to ask “how’d you do it?” If you are thinking of putting on a meet, this is a great place to start. This event has become a great road trip worthy day for track fans all over North Carolina! I’ll be looking forward to attending, after a stop by Foothills Brewing for lunch (and the Sexual Chocolate release), for the second year in a row.


Putting on a professional track meet with Craig Longhurst of JDL Fast Track

1. Talent – How did you go about getting fields set up?

The first part was to identify who our “headliners” would be. Last year, we had a lot of success generating interest by virtue of having Nick Symmonds here. I think that really legitimized us this year when we could go back and say that Symmonds was here last year. We made a list of some of our top prospects based on not only their ability and credentials, but marketability, local interest, etc. For instance, Will Leer always seemed like the type of guy that you’d want to enjoy a beer with after the meet. Shannon Rowbury had the local Duke connection. We reached out to agents and started spreading the word. We had some contacts from last year. Then, when all else failed. . . Twitter. We were stalling with the men’s 800 in late November and we started posting on Twitter to guys like Tyler Mulder, Brandon Johnson et al and they responded and showed interest.

2. Funding/Sponsorship – How did you go about paying for talent?

This one is really a short answer, but a long way to get there. We sought out corporate sponsors and crowd fund support. Mellow Mushroom reached out to us in August and said they wanted to sponsor one of the mile races. At the time, we felt the women’s race would be better. Then, Salem Sports heard that Mellow was doing it, and they wanted in on the action. After that, we started calling on business relationships we had from our real estate development connections and basically asked for favors from our contacts. We got our electrician, one of our banks, our insurance agent, vendors we use for generator or HVAC maintenance, etc. The balance of what is not covered by these sponsors will get paid by the owner of JDL Fast Track, David Shannon. Our hope is that we can attract a large sponsor and make this thing even bigger. We’ve talked about matching whatever they put up to make this thing huge.

3. Lodging/Travel – How’d you come to find Hilton Garden? Are you flying people in?

The general manager of the local Hilton Garden Inn is a friend of David’s, and they’ve been a sponsor of our facility from day one. They were the only hotel sponsor to purchase a certain sponsorship package, so we named the meet after them. That was before the Camel City Elite idea was born. We have 5 hotel sponsors and utilize them for a lot of the lodging. Then, we do pay for the flights for most of the elites. We set up a budget and actually used credit card miles for most of the flights last year and this year. Next year, we won’t have any left to do that again. This year, we blew our travel budget out of the water. We had more athletes from further away. We had already killed our budget, and then the hurdles race was presented to us, so we couldn’t pass that up.

4. Logistics – USATF sanctioning, RunnerSpace video deal

We got the USATF sanctioning the first year to make sure we were doing everything by the book for the pros since we were paying out money. We didn’t want to mess up anyone in terms of “eligibility.” The RunnerSpace deal is an entirely different animal and could probably have its own section. They have been great to deal with. They are pretty excited about the field we have assembled and are going to help promote this thing, too.

5. Party – How did this go last year? What’s in store this year? How can people get involved?

Running is such a social sport and we have tried to target athletes who are marketable and people want to hang out with. And the fact that the party is AFTER the race, the athletes are probably a little more likely to let loose a little. The Platinum crowd fund level and the corporate levels all get to come to the party with the elites. We had great turnout last year, and this year is set to be even bigger. It really is a nice relaxing evening. Looking at the photos last year and the feedback from both the athletes and the fans, it was a great time.

6. Evolution: Where do you see the Camel City Elite event going?

I think we are one large sponsor away from really making this event huge. Our budget has grown each year. If we could get that big sponsor and have prize money, like the mile, for each event, or be able to expand into the sprints or field events a little more, that would be incredible. We’ve gotten more buy-in from the college coaches in the area, which was the entire purpose of this to begin with. So it has exceeded our expectations, but again, we are funding this pretty much on the local level that if we could attract a national sponsor and use some of their dollars and marketing savvy, the sky would be the limit.

Read the full press release for the 2015 Camel City Elite event here

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