Inside Events: The Glow Run
12 Aug, 2015By: Hollie Smith
An Interview with Hollie Smith, Event Director
The Glow Run is an untimed 5K run/walk put on by the KC Running Company in Kansas City, Missouri. The event, which starts at sundown, supplies participants with T-shirts and glow sticks that can be used as bracelets, necklaces and more. The course includes black lights at the start and finish, as well as black light glow stations situated along the way, and a black light tent for the post-event party is held. Finisher medals are glow-in-the-dark and the post-event party includes music and dancing.
Sports Destination Management: How long has the Glow Run been around?
Hollie Smith: We started in 2012.
SDM: How many participants are you getting per event? Do they tend to fall into a certain demographic?
Smith: We’re getting probably about 2,000 people at each event, and I would say about 75 percent of our participants are female. We also get a lot of post-event e-mails and contacts from people telling us it was their first run and they really enjoyed it. The fact that it was untimed and had so many fun things to do took the pressure off them; they didn’t have to worry about having to compete with everyone. For us, the focus has always been about the fun you can have on the course, not the time you put into running it.
SDM: Many runs benefit one particular charity. Is that how the Glow Run operates?
Smith: No, the Glow Run has a different charity partner for each event. For example, in Omaha, we worked with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training.
SDM: Is it a national event?
Smith: We’ve seen a lot of people requesting information on hosting the event. We’ve even had requests from outside the country, including South America, so we know there’s quite a following. Right now, a lot of our events are based in the Midwest, but we have had them in states around the U.S. We do about 10 to 15 events each year.
SDM: What do you look for in a site?
Smith: We want to go to a place that will bring a really good turnout, and that will provide a fun, safe and really unique experience. Because our race starts after sundown, we need to be in an area where people aren’t going to feel uncomfortable. We don’t want it to be too dark, so we will take it upon ourselves to get light towers to help people get around if we need to.
SDM: Does the Glow Run generally work with sports commissions and CVBs when it comes to making arrangements for an event?
Smith: It’s been a mix. For our event in Tuscaloosa, we worked with the convention and visitors bureau. In Emporia, we were working with the school district. In general, we need to have a partner who is committed to making things happen.
If people are interested in hosting the event or being a charity partner, we can make sure they get our Event Expansion Guide, which includes information about what we look for in a city to host or in a charity partner.
SDM: What type of space are you looking for when you are seeking a venue? What sort of activities go on, apart from the 5K itself?
Smith: We have a pre-event party where people can pick up their packet and where we offer things like a Zumba warm-up and face-painting with glow paint. The after-party has a costume contest, music and dancing. We tend to work with stadiums quite a bit for our events, and often, they will provide a beer garden for participants.
In every city, our partnership is a little bit different and that makes the event different. We have held our pre- and post-event parties in public parks in some places. In Lincoln, Nebraska, we have a really, really cool partnership with the Salt Dogs, which is a local minor league baseball team. People can get a ticket for the baseball game in addition to participating in the run. It’s a really amazing family-friendly experience. Our venues for the event are different from city to city as well. In Columbus, Ohio, our participants were able to run through the concourse of the local stadium as part of the run.
The thing I’m most proud of with the Glow Run is the experience we’re able to provide people. They really have a fun time and they go home with memories they’re not going to get anywhere else. They can come out with the goal of running, but they’ll also enjoy an evening unwinding and dancing. And we have a reputation as a fun event that families can enjoy. One story we had was that a man was coming home from the military on the night the Glow Run was taking place, and he came to the race to surprise his family, who were going to be participating. Those are the kind of stories I love.