Celebrating Women’s History Month: Meet Our Race Director
For Women’s History Month we are celebrating the leading ladies of road races… in particular our leading lady behind the scenes here at iDaph!
If you do a quick internet search for “female marathon race directors” you will come upon a few articles reading, “first-ever female race directors in over X-amount of years!”
We may all know by now that women were not allowed to officially participate in road races like the Boston Marathon until 1972 (which isn’t that long ago) but trailblazers like Switzer in 1967 and others have paved the road for us. Since then there have been plenty of women who go on to run and race at a very high-level performances like Felix making history with gold in 2020 at Tokyo even after having a baby. So clearly the uterus falling out when running was a fallacy. Women are fiercely capable of running and so much more!
While the history of women running in road races has made much progress it’s fairly fresh and still full of hurdles in many ways. So what about our leading ladies behind the scenes? Not surprisingly enough it’s mostly been dominated by men. But, today we are shining the spotlight on one of our most beloved and inspirational females locally.
Since 2002 she’s been dreaming up incredible races for athletes to enjoy. From persevering through cancer to directing in-person and virtual races through COVID-19 she’s no stranger to struggles. But, one of her many highlights is the strength she demonstrates by leading with courage, pursuing greatness in all things, and serving others above herself well.
Interview for Women’s History Month with iDaph’s Race Director: Daphne
Have you always been an athlete or runner?
DK: I have always been very active and a lover of movement! My childhood memories are all of being outdoors, playing, creating and moving. I have very few memories of being inside and/or not moving. I swam on a summer league when I was 11-12 and played basketball in high school for a couple years. Other than that, I didn’t do sports in college and running wasn’t something that I knew anything about until I started running in 2001 after the birth of my first child.
When did you first dream about directing road races?
DK: I am from a family of Entrepreneurs so I knew that someday I would own my own business. It was always modeled to me at home through hard work, determination and dedication that you could have your own business. I went to school and got my Bachelors Degree in Business. I just didn’t know at the time what that business would be. I just trusted that someday I would figure that part out. And I did… a few years later.
When I completed my first 5k in the fall of 2001, I immediately fell in love with the sport of running and events. It wasn’t long after that starting in 2002 that I began integrating myself into different running clubs, boards and volunteering to help behind the scenes with different aspects of races. I started running groups in Asheville and led those during this time too. I was fascinated with the events and also intrigued at why races did some of the things that they did. I wanted to learn more about it and figure it out. My business brain was in overdrive!
What year did you host your first race and which race was that?
DK: I worked behind the scenes on several events starting in 2002 or 2003, the Hot August Night Race in Montford and the Biltmore/Kiwanis 15k/5k races.
The first race that I helped support a non-profit to build from scratch was the Dig the Du (run/bike/run) event and the first event I was hired to be the Race Director was the Biltmore/Kiwanis 15k/5k races. Dig the Du happened for just a couple years and the Biltmore/Kiwanis races I helped for a few years as their RD.
I hustled events on the side while I was working a full-time job for years… then in 2011, I knew it was time to “Take the leap and build my wings on the way down!” So I officially came up with a business name, formed an LLC and started full-force into the world of entrepreneurship.
What are the top 4 stressors when directing a race?
DK: 1. Things happening that as a RD you don’t have control of such as weather, sign thefts,
volunteers not showing up, pedestrian and vehicular traffic volume, COVID, permits
being pulled that were originally signed and agreed upon by host locations.
3. People pleasing (participants, host locations, cities, officials, volunteers, sponsors, the list goes on and on.).
4. Criticisms and Complaints that may come in that I am not able to respond to without looking defensive or without putting a host location, sponsor, vendor, staff person, etc reputation on the line. Keeping my mouth shut, putting a smile on my face and getting “punched around” through comments, feedback, unsolicited emails, race surveys and social media can be tough and stressful. I love to be happy and to make people happy!
Top 4 joys of directing a race?
DK: 1. Creating life-changing and memorable experiences for participants
2. Being part of giving back to the community - this encompasses a LOT of what I get to do…
- helping athletes (or novices just trying it out) in our community to achieve and accomplish dreams
- supporting local non-profits with funds and awareness about their cause
- boosting local and regional economies by bringing in folks to the area and booking hotel rooms, restaurant visits and other fun activities.
- Showcasing to locals the amazing small businesses that care about the community too and support athletes too!
3. I am passionate about what I do, and am all in. I love to be organized, to check things off my to-do list and to get to be creative! It is very fulfilling to give every single ounce of yourself in your work, and I do that with every single event.
4. I am an athlete too, so I get both sides of the event - the participant side and the event planner side… that has been super valuable for me as I have made my decisions along the way. I put on both hats ALL the time. It is important to be a Race Director but also to be an athlete that does events so you know how it feels on both sides.
What has been your biggest hurdle specifically as a female director? Or do you feel expectations are now more equal as a female leader?
DK: I look young (good genes) and am a female. When I started this business it was very much a man’s world and typically it was an ‘older man’s’ world… I have seen this shift with time, thank goodness!
It has taken years and years to be taken seriously and for people to realize that this is a legit business with someone working behind the scenes on it full-time and more, every single day. Plus there is a team involved in the planning and on race day too… it is not just a hobby!
Great events don’t just ‘happen’… Over the years people have just assumed that I (and my team) only work on weekends (when there is an event) and that during the week I am free to do whatever I want and probably just hang out with my kids and have endless hours to exercise. That is so far removed from the truth. But now participants (thru social media especially) are seeing more and more what it takes for an event to happen. So I don’t get it as much as I used to… but the comments are still funny when people ask me - ‘Is this what you do full-time?’ And - “What is your job at iDaph?” Oh and my favorite is ‘What does iDaph mean, where do you get that from?” 🙂
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date both personally as an athlete and professionally as a race director?
DK: Raising two kids as a single mom from the time they were 5 and 3 (they are 18 and 20 now) and launching, creating and running this business simultaneously. Being able to support me and my two kiddos on my own without any outside family or investor financial support. I started this business by putting all the money I earned from it back into it, minus what I needed to eat, pay the rent, gas and expenses.
- Continuing to keep the event business happening through cancer and 2 1⁄2 years of treatments.
- Finding a way to keep in person events happening safely during COVID19. It was so important for our community to have these during such unprecedented times.
- I personally have had some great races in my life… too many to count really. My most success was in triathlons where I raced on an elite triathlon team for several years in my late 20s and early 30s. Conquering the fear of open water swimming during big triathlon races was an awesome one for me for sure!
- Creating races from scratch and seeing the entire planning process through from start to finish.
Which race are you most excited about for 2022?
DK: I am really excited about the Appalachian Trilogy this year. That is the series of 4 half marathon events and runners can pick three to participate in. They are all going to be unique, fun and full of energy and love from the communities, I can’t wait to see them take shape and take place this year!
What’s your favorite race distance ro run?
DK: I love the weekday 6-7 mile runs… Racing - I love 10 milers and half marathons. But I love the variety of swimming, running, biking… so triathlons were my go-to sport before I got cancer.
Favorite go-to playlist for running?
DK: I make my own… when I hear a great song I will add it to my Apple Playlist. I love music with a good beat, hip-hop, electronic/techno music to run and workout.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about iDaph’s incredible race director, all that goes on behind the scenes, and that you’re inspired to pursue your dreams and passions in life with all your heart as well.
As Daphne says:
Take the leap and build my wings on the way down!