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Meet Susan Briggs of San Diego Half Marathon in Pt. Loma

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Briggs.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2010, a friend of mine had just found out her nephew had Leukemia, a type of blood cancer. So, I convinced her to train with me for a half marathon with a running club called “Team in Training” since they help raise money and awareness for Leukemia.  It was an awesome experience and I met a lot of runners who were desperate for answers to their sick friends or family members.  I had always loved running and I loved this dedicated group of runners so much!   Around that same time, the pastor at our church was challenging us do something with our God-given talents and passions, and to do something that would not just be successful, but significant.  I read his book, (“Do Something” by Pastor Mile McPherson) and spent a long time thinking and praying about how God could use my resources.

I decided to start a running club and, within a few years of training together, we decided to host a 1-mile race. The “Superhero Mile”, as it was named, was created to raise money for our church mission trip. Our club prepared for many months for Superhero Mile and we were very excited to see what would happen. Finally, race day came on November 20, 2010.  Even though our church had over 12,000 people, we only had 300 runners sign up. But then there was THE WEATHER. It was so windy that all our pop-up tents were blowing all across NTC Park!  Not only that, it started raining – first softly, then really hard – and then it poured & poured & poured buckets of rain! It lasted the entire morning.  Everyone – both racers and volunteers – were soaked and chilled to the bone. It was probably the worst weather I’d experienced since moving to San Diego over 25 years ago.  And through it all – even with the dismal attendance and horrifically ridiculous weather – I had the TIME OF MY LIFE.

After the Superhero Mile race event, I couldn’t wait to do something similar, but now envisioned an even larger event with even more significance. I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

The vision was becoming “go big” and “give big” – help more people, especially those who are hurting in the San Diego community.   We decided that 100% of all net proceeds would go to charities and community service projects and we would catalyze volunteerism as a way to give back to our hurting communities.   From the training runs each week from Pt Loma to downtown, I had a unique 13.1-mile running route in my mind and I thought it perfectly showcased the beauty of San Diego. We named the race the “San Diego Half Marathon” and, incredibly, the name was not already taken.   We also marketed the “epic finish” because it would end at home plate inside Petco Park (something that had never been done there before). There were many people who told us that this could not be done, that it would be too difficult.

Have you ever had some say to you “what part of the word ’no’ do you not understand?” We ran into many people like that, the naysayers, the “you can’t” choir, all chiming in, saying our event would not happen or that we would fail. Have you ever seen the Monty Python movie, where, during a sword fight, the Black Knight gets his limbs severed off one-by-one, but the whole time he keeps repeating the phrase “it’s merely a flesh wound!”? We felt a lot like that Black Knight during that time. So many negative people with their negative voices, but a staunch refusal to give up won the day. Our team motto when anything was not going well was that it was “merely a flesh wound” – and we would keep going!

Overall, we spent almost 1-1/2 years planning the San Diego Half Marathon event, with so many discouragements, disappointments and setbacks. In the process, we “uncovered every possible land mine” along the way, an industry expert would later say to me.

During that same time, we assembled the most amazing team, with hearts that matched our vision. Race day came to fruition on March 11, 2012, when we hosted our first half marathon.  We became 1 of only 4 inaugural half marathons in the US that year to exceed 5,000 finishers.  We were successful on so many levels and by every measure, but even better than that was the feeling that we achieved significance.   We Celebrated San Diego – but we also celebrated each charity, and every runner, even the blind old man who finished last.

Afterward, as our staff read through the overwhelmingly positive feedback, we shed many tears of joy – through the exhaustion – and our team shared some amazing stories that I should probably write a book about someday. It’s a tradition that we all look forward to after each race.

Now, after 6 years, it has been an incredible journey marked by perseverance and joy, as I serve alongside our amazing team of leads. We, with the help of runners, have given our community hundreds of thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of volunteer hours.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No – struggles and setbacks happened at literally every turn! Managing the risks, costs, marketing, sales, permitting, not to mention finding the right vendors and leads were all issues we dealt with at one time or another.

San Diego Half Marathon – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am most proud of our team leaders’ hearts for our mission (created in 2012, but remains our focus today in 2017):

“Founded in 2012, the San Diego Half Marathon is a premier race that celebrates the beauty and uniqueness of San Diego while raising money to help its communities. As a nonprofit 501(c) (3), all net proceeds are donated to community service projects and local charitable causes. In addition, we hope to catalyze volunteerism as a way to help communities throughout our city.”

For me, this event sums ups the 3 passions I have: Running, San Diego, and Giving to Charity! I believe that each of these passions have been placed in me for a reason and, each day, I am so grateful to be able to work at doing what I love.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
During our inaugural event, I remember hearing over the radio that the roads were taking quite a bit longer to re-open than we originally had planned. Thinking that the City police might not support our event in future years, I became concerned: I was also thinking “How much longer are they going to allow our runners to close the streets? If the runners are taking too long, why weren’t the police diverting runners to the sidewalks like we had planned? Did I not do a good enough job publishing the time limit to participants? Did I not coordinate the timing effectively with all the course officials?”

Several minutes later I got my answer:
I saw, coming through the tunnel of Petco Park, a blind man, stick and all, with many guiding him forward with each step. Yes, this blind man briskly walked the entire 13.1-miles and the amazing part was that all the water station volunteers and even the police traffic controllers kept everything open for him as they heard he was coming. A crowd gathered behind him, following him as support for his epic finish inside Petco Park. When everyone realized what was happening in Petco, we gave him a standing ovation, most of us with tears in our eyes as he crossed the finish at home plate. (See pic)

I was proud. Proud of this man for attempting this, proud or our team for supporting him all the way to the finish, and proud to be part of this amazing City that allowed it to happened. This is what it’s all about.

Pricing:

  • Pricing depends on when you register. Currently, the Half Marathon, $99
  • 2-Person Half Marathon Relay , $79/person
  • 5K, $45
  • Kids Race, $20

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. James

    November 20, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    That’s no old man, thats my dad. He’s currently in the hospital recovering from quintuple bypass surgery and will hopefully be getting a kidney transplant soon. I wasn’t there to see him complete the race that day and never knew the backstory of all that went into race day, but reading this nearly brought me to tears and has inspired me to train with my dad after his transplant so we can complete this race together.

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