Marathon Race Directors
- By Doug Kurtis
past twenty five years, eleven people have taken on the key role of
coordinating the Detroit Free Press/ Flagstar Bank Marathon. We have been blessed to have their
talents stamped on the success of this great event. Below, along with comments from one of the originators Neal
Shine, I pass onto you some of their insights and stories.
Neal Shine (78 - 95): After witnessing the Falmouth Road Race in 1978, Shine was
overwhelmed by how much fun runners and spectators were having. He was managing editor of the Free Press and suggested that they
sponsor its own marathon in Detroit. The late Ladd Neuman, then his sports
editor, suggested they run it across the border and make it an international
race. It was very satisfying for them to see the concept become reality.
Shine's fondest memory
was seeing the first runner in that first race cross the finish line on Belle
Isle while the University of Michigan marching band played "The
He would like to forget,
but never will, the scores of complications that emerged during the planning of
the first race. The logistical problems were incredible. He slept with a yellow
legal pad next to his bed and was jolted awake several times a night with
thoughts of more things that had to be done. He remembers during that time
thinking that this was absolutely the worst idea he had ever had.
That first year, Shine's
wife Phyllis along with the help of their children and two neighbors ran the
marathon office. They worked in the Free Press building late every night in the
weeks leading up to the race processing applications, collating material,
stuffing envelopes and mailing the packets to the runners while the phone rang
incessantly with people who had problems or needed information.
According to Shine, the
toughest thing to accomplish in the first race was getting the tunnel people to
agree to close it for the race. It had never been closed in its entire history
and they were not easily convinced. He really believed they thought they were
dealing with crazy people. Who would even suggest such a thing? The tunnel has
been a solid partner ever since.
Shine retired from the
Free Press as publisher in 1995 and now, at 72, teaches journalism at Oakland
Kozloff (75-95): Became
involved with the Motor City Marathon the first year it was held in 1963 and
then again in 1964, as a runner. He learned of the trials and tribulations of
former Motor City Strider officers trying to get help from sponsors. They were
the sole providers for the event from 1963 through 1977, the year before the
Free Press joined the event. Kozloff has been President of the Striders since
The Motor City Marathon was a highly regarded race nationally with a North
American Record set on the Belle Isle course in 1969 with a host of Canadian
champions participating in the 1970's. In 1974 the first woman ran in the
race, and in 1975 Detroiter Ellis Willis won the women's race as a high school
senior and later won the Free Press marathon. In 1976 the race was the
Road Runners Club of America North Region Championship and in 1977, with over
400 participants, the event was one of the ten largest marathons in the
Kozloff fondly remembers nearly 2,000 participants and the international
flavor of the first event, as well as a mile and 10k race. He enjoyed seeing Greg Meyer in 1980
run a 2:13:07 time in his first marathon race (an American record at the time)
and then the next year seeing the race grow to 4,953 marathon entrants was a personal
During this era the 10k in Windsor numbered well over a thousand. In the mid
1980's, the Stroh Run for Liberty hit 2,000-plus the day before the
marathon. He was always proud to see local runners finish well and to be
around when Jim Ramsey, the oldest finisher for a number of years,
completed the distance and set an age-ninety U.S. best.
The marathon was a great time for Motor City Strider members to get together
and help at the race. Often, the number was close to a hundred.
Some were at every marathon from the 1978 event until the Striders final year
as host club in 1998. Long time member and volunteer, Dewey Ames, continues to
this day to be a valuable asset to the marathon.
The Kozloff family has always been deeply involved in the marathon. His
three kids performed a variety of jobs at the race from the time they could
walk and eventually were timers in the pre-computer era. Wife Sue also
served in a variety of critical jobs that helped make the race what it is
Anderson MacDonald (78-79): When planning began for the first international marathon her
toughest challenge was controlling entry from Canada into the United States
from the tunnel. After many meetings with U.S. Customs and Immigration a good
system was developed for preventing illegal immigrant runners into the
original plan was to use the Bridge and Tunnel but Ladd Neuman had only a
verbal agreement with Bridge and they changed their mind. At the last minute,
MacDonald and the Free Press had to negotiate a new course and sell the idea to
Grosse Pointes. "It was a
frantic time, but we pulled it off", said MacDonald.
the marathon landed in the promotion department for funding and staffing. At that time, MacDonald was the Special
Events Manager for some 25 annual Free Press sponsored events. It was a wild
nine months of pulling rabbits out of hats. The entire newspaper staff, from
editorial to advertising to production to press pulled together to make the
situation she would like to forget was the pre race spaghetti dinner. MacDonald
arrived at the hotel ballroom after doing a couple of radio and TV interviews
and was confronted by Shine who announced that hundreds of runners were eating
a buffet spaghetti dinner on the floor.
The hotel did not set-up tables and chairs. It was an oversight and assumption on her part or that if a
hotel was serving dinner, people needed a place to sit and a table upon which
to place their food.
she wants remembered is Hank Szerlag who designed the long-lived logo, which is
testament to Hank's strong sense of design. Sadly, Hank died suddenly, four years ago of a heart attack,
but she's certain, that his family and in particular his wife Nancy, warmly
remember this talented man, each year this logo resurrects itself.
after coordinating the marathon MacDonald ran in small races until injuries and
five childbirths in nine years ended her recreational running. Today, she takes fast morning walks and
lift weights while watching Good Morning America.
(80): Joined the Free Press in the summer of
1979 as the Public Relations Manager to manage all of the public service events
and activities that the Free Press sponsored including the Marathon. He was MacDonald's understudy that year
before taking the reigns in 1980.
remembers driving around Belle Isle at about 5pm Sunday night knowing that
"We did it again! It seemed tough working with a plethora of different
organizations and how many ways the whole event could be sidelined. And there
were a few occasions in which the senior management of the Free Press had to
remind everyone of the "greater good" that this event was bringing to
Dub is now
the Americas Marketing Manager for IBM's Wireless Solutions and finds that the
experiences he had while at the Free Press were invaluable later in his career.
Taylor (81-82): Was
working as an artist in the Freep promotions department when she was tapped by
Shine and Neumann to coordinate the marathon. Up until then, she only knew "marathon" as a word to
describe a huge effort Ð a definition that remained apt!
Taylor was given a two-month leave from the drawing board to manage the
marathon office and runner registration.
By 1981, she was promoted to Public Service Manager, which automatically
meant Race Coordinator.
was a labor of love for her and led to a career in special event
management. After leaving the Free
Press in 1984, she worked on the Grand Prix, International Freedom Festival,
Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival as well as many other events in Detroit.
of the marathon was so great and interesting that it united a lot of the
editorial and business people at the paper. For Taylor, it was all exhausting
but satisfying to have a chance to be part of something much bigger than
memories include: Hank Szerlag overseeing all the art efforts on the early
promotions and printed pieces. He
devised the slide shows about the race that were the highlight of many Saturday
night spaghetti dinners. The very
first one, to the accompaniment of the "Rocky" soundtrack, was a stunner!
Weinstein (83- 86):
Her first contact with the marathon was as a runner in 1980 finishing in 4:25
her personal best. Being a runner meant she saw the race a little differently,
compared to her predecessors. For
example, she though it was important to have an aid station at every mile and
saw it as great exposure and fun for sponsoring groups.
considers the expansion of the wheelchair division as her biggest
accomplishment. Until 1984, a
handful of local wheelers had been doggedly insisting on participating in the
race without any officially recognized division. Under her watch and with the
help of Tony Filippis the Free Press Marathon became one of the premier
wheelchair races in the U. S.
Instituting creative marketing ideas, shoring up the
fundraising promotion for the MS Society and selling the first outside
sponsorship were also new projects started by Weinstein.
Today at 55 years old, she is the mother of two teenagers
and wife of Sports Agate Editor Jim Dwight (former FP running writer). She walks 2 miles most days, which is
all her crippled back (Scoliosis) will allow her to do.
Goltz (87- 88):
Began her Free Press Marathon career as a shadow to Diane Taylor and was asked
to stand in as race coordinator when Pam Weinstein was pregnant. At 26, she was the youngest race
part of the 10th anniversary and created a new logo and theme for
the race as well as playing up the anniversary. There were few disappoints except when the race ceased to
run through the Grosse Points after publisher Dave Lawrence couldn't negotiate
an agreement with the Eastside Ministers to run through Detroit up into the
Pointes. She really thought it
would be worked out. Still the
race had an International start, the tunnel into Detroit and the finish on
of today's sporting events, she sees the race as more commercial than during
her reign but views that as a better for the participants. Goltz still
walks15-18 miles a week and is an account executive in television sales at WXYZ
Bennage (89 Ð 94): The
Marathon became part of her job responsibilities as Promotion Coordinator for
the Detroit Free Press. She also
had no clue how large the running community was and how passionate runners are,
but liked being a part of the metamorphosis of the whole event. She enjoyed planning from ground zero
and working with a marathon committee comprised mostly of volunteers working
favorite memories include: Getting rid of the out and back on Michigan Avenue
in 1992, acquiring Mazda as the title sponsor from 1990 to 1997. Working with
Ed Kozloff who mentored her. During nine of the last twelve years she has had
the opportunity to be in the pace vehicle and found it to be an exhilarating
like to forget 1993 when renovations of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel didn't
complete in time and an All American course was created for the first time. To
make matters worse, race morning was a downpour. By the time the pack was crossing the finish line, runner's
numbers on sweat bags were not legible, the band they hired to play was unable
to perform and the awards ceremony had to be moved to underneath Hart
Plaza. It was at that point that
she broke out in the worse case of hives her doctor has ever seen!
proud of the marathon's ability to run international using the Ambassador
Bridge and the Detroit Windsor Tunnel and to utilize so many unique finish line
areas (Belle Isle, Hart Plaza, Tiger Stadium, Chene Park and Ford Field).
still part of the marathon organization and runs a few races a year including
many Crim 10 milers. Both her husband and son Brandon have been supportive of
her passion for the Marathon and have volunteered their services most every
Thurston (95) : Was recruited by
International Management Group (IMG)to produce the event after working with
them on running events in California. IMG needed some expertise with the
operations of an urban marathon and Thurston had considerable background.
liked being part of the long history of the marathon. He was fascinated with
Detroit's cultural and running community and raced in many local events,
trained with several local running clubs. He was inspired by the Kozloff family
and the Motor City Striders. He considers them legends in the race-directing
and shouting from strikers at the awards ceremony during his years with the
event was disappointing. He felt it detracted greatly from the courage and
efforts of the thousands of marathon participants and volunteers.
set his personal best in the 1990 Detroit Marathon with a time of 2:40 while he
was still directing the Columbus Marathon. He now owns his own race directing
and consulting firm in Sacramento, California and coordinates a dozen shorter
races a year
Orloff (96-98): Took
over as race coordinator while also working for IMG as the Race Director of the
Detroit Grand Prix.
some similarities between the two and loved seeing the look on runner's faces
as they crossed the finish line, especially those that were just in it for the
accomplishment. He also enjoyed sitting in the pace car and seeing the race develop.
that working out the layout of the course to be one of the toughest things to
be concerned with because there always seemed there was some construction to
He is proud
of IMG's marketing and corporate support they gained for the event. He said
that the race was a positive learning experience in his life. Orloff is now IMG's Vice President,
Director of Facilities and Operations, North America.
Kurtis (99 Ð 00): When
I was offered the director's position it was unexpected. In hindsight my
involvement in other races and with other directors groomed me for the
position. It was a scary and wonderful at the same time. It gave me an
opportunity to use the knowledge I had gained from spending time with many
marathons all over the world. Every year there are new challenges and its very
demanding of your time. You learn to thrive on organized chaos.
approvals to use the Ambassador Bridge for the first time in the race's history
and then added bonus of using Tiger Stadium made my first year as director
unbelievable. It got the runners
excited again and energized new and old staff members. Witnessing all the emotions at the
finish line, especially the first timers and their families, gets my tear ducts
remember seeing Tiger stadium lit up before the start of the '99 race. It was
mystical. Creating the "greenie"
numbers for first timers and the great logos for the back and front of the
finisher medals were favorite accomplishments. I won't forget the look on the
faces of my barricade buddies when I almost broke my neck falling out of a
truck the night before the marathon.
thankful for what the Cities of Detroit and Windsor do for the marathon. Trying
new things every year, especially a new course involves a lot of risk in making
sure it comes out to runner's expectations.
I ran my
first of 15 Freep Marathons in 1979 and won it six years in a row starting in
1987. Currently, I'm the technical director and course designer. I also work at
Ford Motor Company and write a running column for the Free Press.
Ball (01 Ð 02): The
1982 Free Press Marathon was her first "official" marathon. In 1999 she became
involved with the marathon as manager of the team captains, customer service
representative, and volunteer coordinator.
the helm of the race in 2001. The year 9/11 occurred just six weeks before the
event. Initially, there was concern that the event might not be held because
Detroit's resources were already heavily stretched. But publisher, Heath
Meriwether, worked directly with then Mayor Archer to insure not only that we
would have a marathon, but that the marathon would be safe. Mayor Archer made
several public service announcements regarding the marathon and he even showed
up on race day to participate in the 5K event. He was the first Mayor to
participate in its 24-year-history.
thanks to Patricia Kelly at the Detroit Newspaper Agency and Joan LeMahieu,
General Manager, Ford Field, they were able to negotiate the finish at Ford
Field. Then Daphiney Caganap of
Immigration and Naturalization, who had just finished her first marathon last
year came to the rescue and spearheaded approval of an international route.
first person in her family to have received a college education and also the
first woman to trek the continental divide from Canada to Mexico. She completed
the almost 2,600 mile in 5-months.
previous race coordinators, Ball's mission exemplifies their goals and
achievements. It is to give the ordinary person an extraordinary experience.
Contact Doug Kurtis at Detroit Free Press, 600 W. Fort St.