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January 3, 2018

On New Year’s Eve I came home to a disturbance. Apparently the dogs had lost their minds while I was away. The main culprit was my dog Roscoe aka the singing dog aka @roscoe_champion aka my squish and finally aka my boo. Roscoe has developed a healthy fear of fireworks. I am aware of this fear and thus I locked the dogs in the house upon my departure. I didn’t want them to run away or freak out the neighbors with an extra dosage of howling and barking. Roscoe’s first move in fear was to try and break down the back door. It is now scratched to hell and will either need to be replaced or painted. At first, I thought this was the extent of the damage. I told Roscoe I was sorry for leaving her alone in the middle of an air raid and gave her some love. Then I passed out. Ok actually I stared drunkenly at Instagram for 20 minutes and then I passed out. Ok, for reals? I probably made and then ate a quesadilla, smashed up a multi-vitamin to try and make homemade Emergen-C and then looked at Instagram stories and then I passed out. But I guarantee then I passed out.

Thankfully she has not learned to open doors.

I now realize it is Alvin and the Chipmunks. Technically Alvin is in the Chipmunks band though. 

The next morning I awoke feeling the beautiful effects of NYE, tortillas, cheese and smashed up vitamins. For me that’s a pretty good feeling. At some point in the morning I noticed that the Internet was not working. I ventured over to the mysterious box and typical spider web of cables to pretend that I knew how to fix it. What I found was a heinous massacre of chewed up cables. I mean every single cable was murdered. TV power, Internet data, Apple TV, stereo power, speaker wires, Cable TV cable, some shit I don’t even know about and even the record player power cord. I really can’t believe she torched the record player. I now realize the area behind the TV looked like the safest bunker during a New Year’s Eve explosion. It’s a great spot to wait out a storm and then apparently calm your nerves by gnawing every accessible wire.

Roscoe is four-years-old and has never acted in this way and I can only assume there was real fear to instigate such a reaction. First off, it’s my fault. I know she is afraid of fireworks and thought my parent’s visiting dog would help keep her calm. That was stupid. However, my first reaction was still frustration. Dammit Roscoe! How am I supposed to watch my Netflix? How am I going to keep up with kids and watch Youtube videos of Lil’ Pump? And how dare you take away my Yoga with Adrienne. Adrienne!!!!!!

All cords cut.

All cords cut.

Since I had nothing to stream, I decided to grab what they call a book. And this is one of those old school versions with actual pages. Right now I am ready and loving Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. Fatefully that morning’s chapter was focused on Malcolm X and how prison had transformed the career criminal into one of the great leaders of the civil rights movement. Prison focused Malcolm. In a weird way prison freed Malcolm. Holiday notes that when unfair things happen “it would feel much better in the moment to be angry, to be aggrieved, to be depressed or heartbroken.” But these are just moments in our life. Distractions, detours and dead time is a powerful thing. These are opportunities of the utmost importance to quarrel with your demons. At this moment I realize that Roscoe had given me that that slice of prison. At the beginning of this New Year my resolution was chosen for me. You could event say it was chewed for me, but I’m a nerd like that.

I am not a big resolution believer because I am of the mindset that it takes more than the turning of a calendar year to create impactful change. However, I do like the idea that New Year’s makes you think about improvement. It makes you think about how you might better oneself by either addition or subtraction. My preferred improvement is one of addition and my sum is the production of personal content. I have been consuming others content gluttonously, veg’ing out and venturing into pointless nights with a lost glow on my face. Now, I am yearning to produce. I believe the cord massacre of New Year’s Eve 2017 will support this goal. Whether it is writing quick pieces like today, creating content for our @representrunning audience or even collaborating with some of my favorite artists. I cannot wait for less cord in 2018. So thank you Roscoe. In your honor I will repaint the door to add more color to our home and reduce my consumption to add more color to the world. Now if you could just eat Instagram…


December 13, 2017

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Define Love. If we are to give it, first we must define it. It’s everything. It’s yes and it’s also no. It is affection and it is resistance. It is god for some and simply faith in the good of humanity for others. For me, work on this subject began after the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Most attention was focused on the incredible divide between so many people across America. This division felt greatly out of our control, on both sides. My focus returned to the question, “What can I do?” My answer was that I can control how I treat others. I can regulate the love I provide to those around me. Right now, our world and our culture can go in a multitude of directions. It feels as if society has ceremoniously agreed that these are the worst of times. First of all, this sentiment has been expressed by every generation. It’s bullshit. Some will always believe it’s best of times and others the deem it the worst. Electric cars, smart phones and hope are in constant competition with oil, books and fear. This era is no different than the Cold War or the Crusades. This era is no different than the positives or negative feelings toward our manifest destiny to the west. There will always be wolves. There will always be angels. And you cannot have a rainbow without the rain. Now even if the ship is truly going down (which it is not), do you suggest we free fall into hate and sneer all the way to bottom of the oceans? If the glaciers are expeditiously speeding towards our shores in the form of rising waters, do we plunge our poor and run for the hills? Or. Or, do we open our arms, smile and give until our last breath? To fight for humanity is to give love. I can only imagine that world. Oar. Oar, give me an oar and I will dip it deep into the rising waters for good, forever. And ever. That is my love.

“Give love, get love” came to me as I was searching for foundational motivations within my modest organizations. I was preparing to give a keynote in Ottawa to a group of Canadian race directors. Sometimes when I say race directors people think that I either work for NASCAR or for the ACLU. Really neither, but kind of both. In preparation, my incessant reading and TED Talk watching crashed me into the likes of Ryan Holiday, Afdel Aziz, Simon Sinek and it even included a reintroduction to my beloved Victor Frankl. Don’t worry each will poke their head out at some point below. I was probably digging too deep for a thirty minute unpaid talk, but that is kind of how I roll. My station in life finds me seeking for meaning for why and how I do what I do. I was seeking.

On the most basic level my crew creates experiences and produces events. Certainly there must be more to it than that, so I sought to uncover some common threads of truth. I looked at my relationships within my team, with our customers and amongst our partners. Thematically returning to each relationship was the word love. At every level we performed our jobs with love. It could be disguised as hard work or consideration or customer focus or empathy, but for me every time it came back as love. It’s the base layer to our entire outfit. We love our staff. We give love to our participants. We smile and laugh in the office. Often times it’s really even a job, it’s an affair. We love the cities that we work in. We work closely with agencies, neighborhood groups and local non-profits. We try to give at every turn and when something does not seem to be working, we take a deep breath and love more. I can see that every successful thing we do falls under the category of giving love and I am proud of that. We give love to get love.

My favorite tales are origin stories. History and past experiences provide the most insight to the now. In looking at our origins, it seemed that our team all gravitated to a line of work that seemed fun, meaningful and always changing. Beyond our attraction to producing sporting events, we also seek to create cool in a niche world. That niche turned into just creating cool and get beyond sport. At the core was passion, a love for creative work and the “carny” lifestyle that came with it. Personally, this passion drove me to go all the way through law school, zip right pass the bar exam and then passed up the local District Attorney with a polite yet quick cold shoulder. I love the law, but my passion for creating and building things exceeded societies potential prestige. Similar stories proliferate within our organization as most of of my teammates chose to get on the events train over more stable career paths. Again at each of their core was fire, but not necessarily purpose. A few had an early goal to promote health and wellness to the masses or to fundraise around youth fitness as a public health initiative. But most were there because the gig was fun and the money was decent. Energy was a constant, but organizational purpose needed to be added. Many would assimilate passion and purpose as the same. They are not. A passion to produce events doesn’t mean you want to accomplish a larger goal. Ryan Holiday, the prolific author and my favorite modern social influencer, explained his preference for purpose over passion.

Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Passion is form over function. Purpose is function, function, function. The critical work that you want to do will require your deliberation and consideration. Not passion. – @ryanholiday

Basically, think about why you are doing this and then get shit done. This is important because I agree that passion is too often thrown around as something to chase. “Follow your passion” is a constant theme of commencement speeches and cheesy framed office wall quotes with soaring eagles in the background. Holiday makes a valid point that passion often lacks the requisite structure for attaining goals. However, and this is where I disagree with my favorite dude of day, you still need passion to fuel the purpose. Passion fires people up, passion gets your ass up every morning for 15 hour days, and passion is so rare in today’s world that I’m not ready to sweep it under the rug for regimented purpose.

In fact, my term for the combination of passion and purpose, form and function, is producing life product. In order, to create important life product we need the passion to start, to fuel and to finish within the structure of purpose. Purpose is the finish line and the training plan, but I believe there is something special in the emotion required to persevere. The gear to the grit. Life product is all actions within your personal and work life. There is no delineation and thats why the most interesting people are always at work, yet never working. Raising your children, building your company or supporting your community should all be part of your life product. And it’s a big part of giving love.

As it applies to our organizations, passion within the ranks can turn into purpose under focused leadership and direction. Once purpose is crystalized and determined then that love for the work can be disseminated like tentacles into every area of the business. Now, I am not naive in understanding that special events especially in sports and entertainment may evoke more passion from its proprietors than your corporate accounting firm. On the other hand, one must begin with engaged individuals and add purposeful leadership. Get the right people on the passion bus and the leader drives with direction and as Holiday says, we “…function, function function.”

Lets talk about money. I make money. We are a FOR profit. Frankly, I am pro-profit. I love making a modest living doing something I love. But love comes before the money. I will always spend and give and work and bend and listen to make sure someone on my team or a customer feels the love. And gets paid. Always. This costs me money in the short term. However, in the long term this choice is directly linked to more profit…especially in this day and age. This philosophy has been driven home by the writings and research of Afdel Aziz. Aziz is well known a brand marketing expert, but with a focus on brands that do good. He recognized that modern consumers are looking for more from their brands than just cool. They are looking at the TOMS, Patagonia’s, and even Paul Newman salad dressings as “the #newcool.” Authenticity puts you in the right place and people can smell it. That smell of confidence provides the path and the answer to the saleswomen and consumer.

Paradoxically the thing the universe will give you the most money for is the thing you’d do even if nobody paid you #goodisthenewcool – @afdelaziz

We give love because we personally are in the place we are supposed to be. It is so hard to love others when we are not personally happy. Perhaps we’re in the wrong relationship or the wrong job, the right position or the right geographical coordinates. Love yourself and make sure you are in the right place or you won’t be able to love and thrive. Give yourself love and you are automatically getting love. That one is easy…start there.

In our organization, one of my main tasks is to make sure that each team member is stoked on their job. Checking-in with them and attempting to prevent burn out from menial tasks is a constant. Essentially our leadership teams ensures that each team member feels loved. We want our people to be happy. It seems obvious, but the author of Starting with Why, Simon Sinek recognized the power of this interaction.

The leaders who get the most out of their people are the leaders who care most about their people. – Simon Sinek

And this care seems to spread to the rest of the company. Once the team feels safe then they make others feel the same way. It’s like trickle down Reaganomics that actually works. By giving love, we have loyal team members. By giving love, we have die-hard members of our customer tribe. By giving love, we have deeply woven relationships with our vendors and partners. The receiving end is not the intention, but instead a pleasant return on investment. I rarely have to worry about how my team will treat someone. They get love, they give love.

Once we learn the success of the equation there is nothing more to complain about. Upon receiving constructive customer feedback or if we get turned down for a job there is only one answer. Throw more love at the next event or towards a request for proposal. The best tactic for this pivot is increased empathy to see where that client is coming from and ask “where did we lose the job?” This requires conversations and strategy, but more than anything putting ourselves in their shoes. The answer to the equation is typically give more love. Don’t ask for more, give more and know that you have chosen the path of the clear conscience. It may not come back immediately, but the knowledge of an appropriate action is an immediate return. More often than not it’s a for profit decision as well.

This was all hammered home by Holocaust survivor and philosopher, Dr. Victor Frankl. In his classic Man’s Search for Meaning Frankl reminds us of the basis for the direction of self reflection.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Victor Frankl

This is coming from a man that was interned and almost driven to his own death in Aushwitz. Frankl could not change his station in the camps. But he could control the attitude within his spirit. Emotional reactions are pointless because trouble is only trouble, once recognized as such. While we may have divisions in this country, we can only control what is within our power. We have the power to empathize with others, listen and give love. The ultimate example of this was Frankl’s mindset at the end of the war. If there was anyone that could turn cold and hateful, it should have been him. Instead his outlook came down to this.

The Truth, love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. – Victory Frankl

Focus on your life product. Turn that passion into purpose. Focus on what you are giving. Find your team, love them and get them to continue the chain to your tribe. Control the elements in your sphere, see it through and let it rip. I believe we can get this chain of giving through our teams, into our customers, through out our communities and change the world.  #givelovegetlove

(Quick note on gratitude. Of course gratitude is the process of returning love to complete the equation. There are so many people that have given me love and opportunity. Starting with my personal triumph of winning of the parent lottery in Barb and Tom Service. Love to my brother Scott and always to the late Adam Service. Love to all my teachers and coaches for challenging me. To the rest of my family, my friends, my teammates and my colleagues… lets keep going. There has been so much love given to me in my 37-years that I cannot thank everyone, but I love you all.)

 


March 20, 2017

JT

J.T. Service founded Soul Focus Sports in 2011. Prior to that Service was a 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier, is still a member of the California Bar, a USATF Authorized athlete’s agent, and the creator of the SF Bay Area based Represent Running Series featuring 15,000+ athletes annually. As a production company Soul Focus manages endurance events for the San Francisco Giants, the San Francisco 49ers, HOKA ONE ONE shoes, and Cumulus Media amongst numerous others. Most recently Soul Focus partnered with Silverback Productions to create Silverback Pacific and has been tapped to manage the 106th Annual Bay to Breakers. Service resides in Santa Cruz, CA where tries to find time to surfs waves and run on redwood covered trails.

The 2017 edition of the Athletics Canada Race Director’s Summit will be held in Ottawa as part of Race Weekend and Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations!

As registrant of the Summit you will receive a free copy of the Ottawa Marathon 40th anniversary book, free entry into an Ottawa Race Weekend event of your choice, and access to VIP event and finish line. We are also offering an AIMS/IAAF course measurement seminar on Friday.

The Welcome Reception will take place at the Canadian Museum of History, in the Grand Hall.

REGISTER FOR THE SUMMIT


February 14, 2017

August 23, 2016

(Authors Note… aka J.T.’s prologue. I really want everyone to know the whole team behind Soul Focus Sports. I’ve recently been amazed by how far we’ve come in such a short time and I fully realize it’s because of the people that surround me every day. So obviously I’ll be sharing embarrassing biographies about my love for each of them. Also note that I’m afraid Scott will take this post down as soon as he see’s it. Someone please screen shot and place on some hidden server.) 

Ode to Scott Anderson

Co-Founder of Soul Focus, LLC.

This beast of a man is also known as Scotty, Skipper, Skip, Scooter and most commonly around our myriad of munchkin runners…simply known as “Big Scott.” Some may say he’s cynical, questioning, adverse, intimidating, and to be honest it is all of those things that keep Soul Focus afloat financially. Above all Big Scott is loyal. We’ve been colleagues since 2006, which makes this our 10-year work anniversary and it also makes this the 10th year of trying to figure each other out. We’re very different and it’s perfect. Symbiotic like a bee and pollen or something.

We're like twins. I always get this movie confused with the one where Arnold is pregnant.

We’re like twins. I always get this movie confused with the one where Arnold is pregnant.

During the summer of my first year at law school we were advised to find an internship in a law office. I received a job offer from the Santa Cruz District attorney and then promptly turned it down to work with Scott Anderson at Evolve Sports, LLC in San Francisco. I wasn’t ready to work in the prosecutors office and instead chose to intern for the big guy rocking sandals and corduroy shorts.  Who has baggy corduroy shorts? In that first summer he learned me up good. In fact, he taught me everything there is to know about how to produce events on a shoestring. This was my first experience in sports management and I quickly fell in love with the high intensity the environment events.  Of course we’d chill when it was chill, but we’d roll very hard when it was time to get it done.  Scott set the tone for Evolve and thus very much set much of the tone for Soul Focus. After law school I joined Evolve as a full-time employee. Scott and I became a small band of brothers keeping the events afloat and tried to keep our sanity in tact. It was one of the best times of my life. We’d eat pizza every other day and drink Sparks all day on Friday. So many good memories and it was because Scott kept the office balanced.

In 2010 I founded Soul Focus, LLC. I decided to move on first and thus hung out my shingle as a fledgling sports marketing firm specializing in endurance events. Scott joined a year later and became a co-founder. Immediately we applied the lessons we had learned by fire from our former employer. I never give enough credit to Keir Beadling and Doug Epstein for their leadership at Evolve Sports. They hustled and created and succeeded and took big risks and ultimately failed, but in looking back it’s amazing to see the opportunities we were provided. For most of the projects Scott and I were allowed to lead the company and learn on the job. In those times we learned some priceless lessons about financial stability, the importance of cash flow, and how to cover your six. Our first small business experience scarred us with knowledge, but in the end it was the embers of Evolve Sports that still make Soul Focus a controlled burn.

Can you tell he's a California bear? And I don't mean the Folsom St. kind.

Can you tell he’s a California bear? And I don’t mean the Folsom St. kind.

If you were to ask me what Scott Anderson does at Soul Focus, I’d say he pays the bills and doesn’t let me do anything fun. Yes, it’s true that he doesn’t let “us” (read me) do anything crazy with our cash. Keeping an eye on me is the equivalent of catching a greased up pig. I want everything. And I wanted it yesterday. Luckily, Scott is bigger than me and I can’t remember any of our bank passwords so the money is safe. Ultimately, after 10-years, I’m even starting to trust him a little bit. The deeper truth is that he’s an outstanding sounding board, a part-time COO, a watchful eye at all of our events and he’s even become good at hanging banners in a straight manner. I mean very good. His scrim rolling could use some work, but we can’t all be me.

This was the time Scott was visiting Carlo in Georgia and pretended he was a DAWG fan. Go Dawgs!

This was the time Scott was visiting Carlo in Georgia and pretended he was a DAWG fan. Go Dawgs!

Here are some more tidbits. He’s a good coach and a ridiculous athlete with multiple college rugby national championships under his belt. He’s an awesome dad and seems like a pretty good husband. Plus, Jenny is a babe. I give him grief for being tight with our money, but then he’s always the first one to suggest pay bumps for our team and always takes care of me first. With the exception of the vintage VW and Sprinter Vans that I keep trying to buy…I like him well enough. Lastly, Scott is the account manager for two of our most high profile clients including the San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco 49ers.  The big man gets the big teams.

In the end, there would be no Soul Focus without him. I’d be stressing over the books, lets be honest there would be no books, I’d be penniless at the end of the month and we’d have multiple hand painted broken down VW vans in my driveway. I probably wouldn’t even have a driveway. Scott…you rock my world. Actually you keep my world somewhat flat. Flat like Columbus.

Thank you for keeping us balanced.

Also, did you know he was pitcher for the Expos in the 90s? Not really but I did find this in a google image search.

Also, did you know he was pitcher for the Expos in the 90s? Not really but I did find this in a google image search.

 


November 17, 2014

I’m forcing myself to write this all down. I am tired and I’m weary and likely wary as well.  It’s all due to our current calendar and travel schedule, but I need to get it down. Typically I would compose a blog or an entry at the bookends of an exciting event or new project. Typically we would beat our chests and say.. “look at what we’re about to do. We’re so awesome or something. Look at our stupid press release and say…aren’t we awesome for choosing to do this thing that we have not yet completed. We have no idea how it’s going to turn out or if we’ll be successful, but you should know about it.”

Yes. Typically.

Often times after the reality of the full project sets in we are humbled by mediocre results and we’ll softly let the drum beat fade in hopes that most won’t remember last month’s chest thumping.  We tip toe out of the room hoping they forgot about the announcement.

On the other hand we often succeed. We’ll knock a new event out of the park or one of our athletes will shred face with a performance that causes our little PR team (aka my iPhone) to unleash bravado over social channels.  It’s those times that we get all up on the Facebook and show a hero image looking for further social approval, likes and “great job” carbon copy comments.  Like I said, it’s either a pre-project machismo or a post-project celebration.  The before or the after.

But now, for once, I’m writing in the eye of the storm. Soul Focus is fully in it and we’re scratching for every yard. In a span of six weeks we will produce seven events, six of them new. Five of those are part of a nationwide experiential sports marketing project of the sort that we have never led. I probably should not say that to the client now, but we’re pushing tin and it would be really tough to fire us anyways. In that same time span we had an athlete compete valiantly at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. Further, we targeted, negotiated and closed on the purchase of a classic event that may become the cornerstone of our entire business. All in the last month.  It’s freaking crazy town.

So admittedly there is some chest beating in there, but there is also a story of transparency as well. I like others to know that we have nothing to hide. We are proud of what we do, why we do it and that clarity helps us do the right thing in our everyday business. Right now we’re in the thick of it and it’s exhausting, intimidating, exciting, and damn near perfect to know that you don’t really have a choice when you wake up. It’s 4:00am and you gotta go. You have to be on a plane, make quick decisions and execute the layered plan we put into place over the last six-months.

What’s going on like Marvin Gaye.

On October 25th we hosted the 2nd Annual Let’s Go 510 “The East Bay’s 5k/10k.” It’s the final event in 2014 for our Represent Running Series and it went pretty darn well. We made a mistake with some medals and too often we’ll focus on some negatives, but overall it was a great way to start building the storm.  This event tripled in size, we overcame significant political obstacles and literally moved boulders to make it happen.  Seriously a huge tractor was contracted last minute.

We hosted over 150 kids from Running for a Better Oakland.  Entries provided by Gu Energy.  Awesome.

We hosted over 150 kids from Running for a Better Oakland. Entries provided by Gu Energy. Awesome.

On November 2nd our top athlete Nick Arciniaga ran the NYC Marathon and finished 10th after leading for a couple miles in the mid-stages. It’s been an incredibly inspiring year for Nick as he finish 7th at Boston, 8th at Twin Cities and now 10th at the NYC Marathon. Three marathons, three top-tens, and all in one year. Nick is stronger than ever and Under Armour’s support and belief in him through out 2014 has been a big boost.  I love New York…for 4 days.  Not enough surf.

Nick Arciniaga (@ownyourrun) is owning 2014.

Nick Arciniaga (@ownyourrun) is owning 2014.

On November 8th we put our new event partnership with the San Francisco 49ers to good use by hosting the Inaugural 49ers Rush 4.9k Stadium Run and The Challenge football themed obstacle race. All of this took place at the new Levi’s Stadium and my crew crushed it. By far the best inaugural event we have event produced and we had over 3000 first year participants registered in just 6-weeks.  This event will be 10,000 next year.  Total team victory, not to mention we ‘re huge 49ers fans.  There are perks.

49ers Rush meets 49ers Gold Rush.

49ers Rush meets 49ers Gold Rush.

On November 12th we kicked of a new partnership with Hoka One One shoes to revive the 2-Mile High School Postal Nationals. We’ll produce five flagship events around the country encouraging teams to run 2 miles on the track in order to compare their team to any other around the nation. This tradition was huge in the 1950s to the 1980s and we’re pumped to bring it back. The coolest part is teams can run these as time trials or duel meets on their own and report back to “post” their results.  We’ll be celebrating with high school teams across the country for the next month. New Jersey is a really interesting place.  The people are fantastic and they love it there.  Good for them.

Hoka One One 2-Mile High School Postal Nationals New Jersey - Florida

Hoka One One 2-Mile High School Postal Nationals New Jersey – Florida

And lastly we have purchased an event. I’m so excited about it, but I can’t reveal the full story for another week or so.  The tradition will live on and we will honor that history with a mix of tenacity and respect.  Keep an eye on www.representrunning.com in the coming weeks for the big announcement.

Jacket my wife made for me for the 2015 Represent Running Series.

The jacket my wife made for me for the 2015 Represent Running Series. 

So there you have it.  I worry about the work load because we are not really sleeping, we’re constantly hustling and I was scared that we bit off more than we can chew.  I asked my team, “Are we crazy?”  Their response “We got this boss. Don’t worry about it.”   I guess they would not want it any other way either.  In unison, we say yes.  It’s more fun to get dirty than sit back and let others get on the field.  It requires big stones to take on big projects, but it’s the way we want it.

None of this is possible without a team you can trust, a team that trusts each other, and years of experience.  My team is an amazing group of individuals.  They’re passionate about our projects.  They’re leaders inside our industry and many of them through their personal day jobs. We didn’t get these jobs without a quality resume and you don’t complete this workload without utter dedication from your crew. We’re family and we love each other. No one person wants success more than another. Fostering that environment takes years and it’s times like now when it pays off in moments. It’s all about the moments; the moments for our participants, moments of satisfaction for our clients, and moments of joy for our team to see our vision become reality.

Josh Muxen, Scott Anderson and J.T. Service (me) at the 49ers Rush Finish Line

Josh Muxen, Scott Anderson & myself at the 49ers Rush Finish. 

There is no point to any of this diatribe unless we unearth a lesson or two from the storm. Here is what I am currently feeling:

  • Be brave and take chances. You’re ready so just say yes.
  • Go big. If you are going to do it, do it right and finish the job.
  • Trust in your team and give them everything they need to succeed. You cannot do it alone.
  • There is nothing better than living in the moment. Nothing. Get yourself there.

We’re either in the eye of the storm or we are the storm.  Like most things in life probably a bit of both.  A little of column A, a little of column B.  A touch of gray.


July 23, 2014

(Note: I felt compelled to write this on a whim…I was certainly trying to avoid some other work so I spent an hour writing.  Comment, crush me, share, or do a mud run. – J.T. Service)

A number of notable recent press releases have alerted me to a new reality in the endurance event industry. Essentially I’m pretty sure its going freaking crazy.  Obstacle race series are shutting down, major television networks are simultaneously placing their bets on likely future winners, and disgruntled participants are showing their fury on Facebook.  Whoa…Facebook fury.  If the story of the last few years was the outrageous growth of unique obstacle events then the current narrative is one of uncertainty.  Gapping cracks are beginning to show in the alternative event industry, while other fitness crazes of the  Cross Fit nature could be here to stay.  For next few paragraphs I’ll muse on all of the above because I think it’s interesting.  So there.

For the past 18-months or so you could not go a week without a seeing a new mud run, color parade or electronic dance 5k series touting to be the next big thing.  As an example, lets play a quick game called “Guess which of the following are fake races!”  How about Bad Prom 5k, Prison Break Run, Electric Foam Run, Fustercluck 5k – Redneck Games, Goose Poop Challenge, The Crawfordsville Indiana Mudoapocalypse, Squish Squash, Disaster Run, Mudders Against Domestic Violence, Splattered and Battered, Hillbilly 5k, Armageddon Ambush, Westchester Medical Center Mud Run and The X-Run: Adult Themed Mud Run and Obstacle Course.  The answer…they’re all real. There are more than 600 new versions of these mud, zombie, punch you in the gut, and army crawl runs things.  (Event More here http://www.mudrunguide.com/organizers/)

Self Explanatory really.

Self Explanatory really.

Now lets take a moment and look over these fantastically named events.  First of all, do you have to commit a felony to make to the Prison Break run start line?  The Squish Squash people clearly saw that there were just no mud names left.  Personally, I don’t think the Mudders Against Domestic Violence should be allowed to also compete in the Splattered & Battered event.  It sends a bit of a mixed message.  Not really sure what to say about the Hillbilly 5k or the Goose poop Challenge, but I’m pretty sure both would fit nicely in Crawfordsville, Indiana.   And I still can’t believe the last one, but I suppose the obstacle at the “X-Run” is trying not to get herpes before you hit the finish line.

I should say where this perspective is coming from.  I’m a road race producer.   Compared to the Slutty Slopin’ Dash 3k we’re pretty boring, but we do take pride in the experience we provide, the preparation we put into our business plan and the integrity we share with our participants.  Personally I have experience competing in everything from the Olympic Trials marathon to running the Bay to Breakers with a questionable amount of clothes. Okay it was a speedo and a gold chain.  There are probably pictures somewhere out there.  Basically, there is a perception that plain bread road race directors don’t like those “Color Run” or Muddy Muck sorts.  Not true.  I’d say most are more likely intimidated and certainly envious of some of the numbers these events put up.

Personally I’m in awe.

The 2014 Color Run calendar.  Nice work.

The 2014 Color Run calendar. Nice work.

Please know that I have never had anything bad to say about the mud/color/foam events since the inception of Muddy Buddy, Tough Mudder, and the Color Run.  From the beginning I believed and still believe that these obstacle events add some really fun spectacles for all runners, walkers and party people.  Most importantly I think these new types of events also bring new people to the sport.  I mean there are only so many white-42 years old dudes in split shorts to fill up your charity 5k.  So internally our goal at both Represent Running and Soul Focus Sports has been to learn from the amazing digital, social and experiential marketing brought by this new breed.  While we didn’t necessarily join them, we have tried to learn.

On the other hand, I’ve been simultaneously concerned that new race directors or any Johnny come lately trying to make a quick buck or really anyone with zero event experience could have the potential to hurt the overall industry by simply cutting standard corners.

And unfortunately there are now signs of some decline in the obstacle space.  Has the bubble fully busted? No, but there are 600 new events out there and they won’t all be around next year.  I just hope it doesn’t hurt the whole industry or scare off a new potential participant.

For a second, imagine a new participant paying $20 via Groupon for a color run and then having it cancelled without an explanation. What if my son jumps off a 12 ft. mud obstacle only to be landed on by another participant?  What if I signed up for a run that advertised live DJ’s and foam party and I got this?

It does look like those 6 people are having fun.

It does look like those 6 people are having fun.

Over the last few weeks and months the following has occurred:  Hard Charge Mud and Obstacle Series apparently charged too hard, Foam Fest Run is done, Electronic Foam 5k aptly got electrocuted, Hero Rush stopped rushing, Run or Dye has been forced to combine events due to low numbers, Spartan Race was accused of not living up to charitable promises, some serious injuries across the board, and tons of participants not being paid back.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many successful events, large and small all around the country.  Just like traditional road racing or really any business venture; there are good obstacle events and there are bad ones. In fact, Spartan Race just signed a big deal with NBC Sports, which I believe is awesome for the whole industry.  There is a National Fitness League developing and the strength of both Cross Fit and the fitness craze will keep the top organized events in business for a long time.  Furthermore, there is a solid future in trail racing…the original mud runs. Perhaps you trail directors can grab some of those flailing mudders.

In the end, those not willing to invest in the long haul, those that fail to put their participants first, or rob Peter to pay Paul via deal sites & “Pre-registration” will kill themselves off.

My only recommendation is to look up Yelp reviews, check out their facebook page after an event, and perhaps peep MudRunGuide.com (Brett Stewart does a pretty good write up on a similar topic here:  http://www.mudrunguide.com/2014/07/ugly-side-sports-races-fail/)

When you find good events that deliver on what they promise, tell others, and support those producers like a good groupie because what they accomplish is not easy.  It’s a total passion, completely draining, and their biggest goal is to see you smiling participants at the end of the day.  Note I’m running my first obstacle event on August 9th at San Francisco’s AT&T Park Spartan Sprint so I promise to report back.

Lastly, after you survive a Color Run, Mud Run or Hillbilly Hell Chase come on over to the roads.  We’re kind of like a nerdy frat, but more like the guys from Revenge of Nerds.  Like cool nerds.  Yeah…cool nerds.

 

Me trying to be cool.

Me trying to be cool.

 

 

 


(Note: I wrote this right after the San Jose 408k, shopped it around thinking it was better than it was, and then forgot to share it.  Now re-reading it, I realize why it’s only on a blog. However, I will say it was a powerful moment for our runners and apparently America.  It’s a bit on the wordy side. Apologies. – J.T. Service)

A light gray and drizzly day greeted 5000 runners in San Jose, California on March 2nd, 2014.  The masses began to slowly gather around the downtown SAP Center as the partial sun came up on Sharks territory.  United by the presence of a starting line each in attendance was here for the 3rd Annual San Jose 408k “Race to the Row” Benefiting the Pat Tillman Foundation.   The humans had gathered for a multitude of reasons from fitness goals to charitable promises to local pride; each had a reason.  From the elite runner’s perspective, perhaps in the mind of standout Brett Gotcher, the conditions were perfect.  A mellow breeze, cool temps and a flat point-to-point course lay out in front of him.  In 1982 this would have been the overarching sentiment, but running has since changed in this era of musical marathons, costumed color parades and medals for everyone.  In earnest, our production team has adapted well to creating events for the social media minded millennial and the lingering jogger from the 1980s alike.  My favorite part of race day is standing at a starting line knowing that we brought these people here.  It’s a beautiful sight to look out upon that many people, faces as different as snowflakes, but all standing at one moment in time together.  And so as the sun continued its rise and the runners continued their arrival, I looked over them one last time hoping the next few hours would go absolutely perfect.   For race directors it never does, but you can always hope.

For the greater part of the past year my team was consistently in different stages of preparation for the 2014 event.  Per usual our goal was to put on a large-scale race featuring the local pride of the “408” area code and simultaneously raise some money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.  Seems simple, seems easy. It’s not and never is. Every year and with each event we work thousands of hours to try and perfectly sculpt the outcome.  That is the life of the top event crews. You create, plan, prepare and often agonize over the creation of the perfect event.  Eventually you realize that perfection is a myth.  Anything can go wrong at a race with thousands of participants.  Perhaps an equipment shipment gets lost right before the expo or in our case the weather decides to disagree with your plans.  The truth is we do not produce events in a fairytale vacuum, but instead in a world a human influence.  And when humans are involved the results are unpredictable.  Ask Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGivilary about the implication of the unthinkable and you realize that anything is possible at an event of thousands. My team, likely led by my sentiments, has always viewed this human element as a negative.  Perhaps a runner could miss a directional sign and go off course or maybe a volunteer would provide some crucial misinformation to a participant.  In any case, it always felt like the possibility of human error was the only thing we could not fully control.  That being said, after this event, I would never underestimate the positive power of the human individual again.

 

Amazing 408k Course Maps that is not really helpful for our runners.

Amazing 408k Course Maps that is not really helpful for our runners.

Being a race director has changed dramatically in the last 40 sum odd years.  Back in the day all you needed to produce the New York City Marathon was Fred Lebow, a bullhorn, Popsicle sticks and a ton of passion for the sport.  Of course it still required a ton of work, but it was certainly a simpler time.  Now we are required to keep up numerous websites, social media channels, and maintain traditional marketing just to get the runners to your starting line.  Cornerstone events are now competing with mud runs, beer gardens, color blasting and even foam parties. When I started directing events with the Silicon Valley Marathon in 2006 the new kid on the block was the Rock N Roll Marathon Series.  At the time we thought that was outrageous and potentially a fad.  We were wrong.  I personally bought in by running my first marathon at the San Diego Rock N Roll the next year and it was a damn good time.   The point is that race producing has become more than just bibs and street closures.  The participants want and expect more and if you want to stay in business you have to give it to them.  Many of the participants are new to the sport and their expectations are weighted differently than runners of previous eras.  Shirts, medals, and themes are more important than times and accurate courses.  Preparing your race day outfit takes precedent over preparing to perform.  With this in mind, we try to create a blend of the old and the new by continuing to respect the roots of organizes races, while still making the experience cool for everyone.  It’s a tight rope to walk, but the end result can bring about inspiration, smiles and a job well done.  We have a cool job.

5000 Await the Start of the 3rd Annual San Jose 408k

5000 Await the Start of the 3rd Annual San Jose 408

At our events we try to prepare a number of what we like to call “memory makers” or “Facebook moments” on race day.  For example, this year we had a mix of new and classic VW’s leading our runners in association with a new local sponsor, behind the cars a gang of custom wood bikes led out the runners, and a live DJ created the soundtrack to get the runners fired up.  Make the event feel big and you build a foundation of excitement.  On the course we planned for a radio station to sponsor each mile to specifically show off the eclectic Sounds of San Jose, plus we always treat our runners to the final Mariachi Mile featuring six live bands lining the route.  Our Santana Row finish line is a carnival of opportunities with a 408kids zone, post-race parties, beer garden, and more live Mariachi.  It’s all wonderfully local and it feels like San Jose.  And this is how the event flowed, smooth enough at the start, entertainment on course and then a big finish.  It was not perfect, but it was pretty freaking good.  And then it happened.  It got even better.

I was checking social media soon after the event, just to make sure the twitter and Facebook were clear of major problems, and I came across a video.   This video was low resolution and taken with a cell phone.  It featured an old man, dressed in his military uniform and he was clapping for the passing runners.  My eyes started to well up.   You must know, and my wife will tell you, I’m not a crier; maybe if someone dear to me dies, or maybe after the movie “Up” and definitely after the Giants lost their 2003 World Series bid.  I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve given in to that so-called  salty mess over the last decade.  Not a crier.

Anyways this older gentleman is cheering on the runners and my eyes are welling up.  Then one of our participants steers off course and starts B-lining it for the uniformed man.  The runner extends his hand, the veteran receives it and the runner says thank you for your service.  This unleashes a flood of more runners veering off course towards the old vet.  At this point the floodgates are wide open.  I’m alone in our warehouse, crying my eyes out and it hits me that this just happened at our race.  I’m certainly talking to myself at this point.  “This just happened on our course, this is amazing, and this is beautiful. It’s perfect.”  And then I realize this might be one of the greatest achievements of my life and I had almost nothing to do with it.  It’s the human element.  The element that always made my previous events imperfect has just created perfection. That mysterious force of energy that I previously detested just renewed faith in why we do what we do.  We produce events for people to find their personal inspiration.  Represent Running has always been about finding more than just scratching the surface.  We called it Represent Running because we wanted to represent the individual participants passions. Whether it was your town, your family, or your favorite team we want to provide the platform for your expression.  On this day, our runners represented themselves in the best way possible.  At the 2014 408k, our runners represented and displayed gratitude.

It was then viewed 3 million times, shown on everything from NBC Nightly New to The Today Show. I had to ask myself why did this particular video capture the nation? Why does it affect so many, so quickly?  I believe it’s because we all know that veteran.  Joe Bell is simply one of thousands of veterans and soldiers that have fought and continue to fight for this country.  We all know “a” Joe Bell.  For me Joe represents my grandfather’s Bruce Service and John Pete Armstrong, both late WWII veterans.  He represents my Cousin Stephen Fernandez, a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When I saw the appreciation being poured out for Joe, I felt my heart yearning for the members of my family that had made similar sacrifices.  I believe millions of viewers of this video feel some of that gratitude and somehow wish they could thank their Joey Bell’s.

But the story goes even deeper, deeper into the abyss of amazing human connectivity.  We originally asked the Pat Tillman Foundation to be our benefiting partner because of its local connection.  Our race series is based on area codes and the culture of a region. In San Jose it’s mariachis, low-riders, the Santana Row shopping village, and Silicon Valley technology.  It’s a wonderful mix of culture, innovators, hard workers and we’re all surrounded by beautiful terrain.  Pat Tillman was a product of this culture, just like myself.  We never knew each other, but if you were from San Jose you were proud of Pat.  You were proud of Pat in the NFL, you were proud of Pat when he decided he was joining the Rangers after 9-11 and you were deeply saddened by his passing.  There was no other charity to choose in my mind. I’d run and won the original Pat’s Run – San Jose and then when it went away, we made the Pat Tillman Foundation our charity partner.  Admittedly, and I want to be honest with this, we are not a non-profit event.  Our livelihood depends on putting together races and we guarantee the foundation a baseline amount. Then do our damndest to blow that baseline figure out of the water.  Since the inception of the event we’ve raised over $35,000 and millions of impressions for the charity.

Erik and Joe meet on course

Erik and Joe meet on course

Now here is the crazy connection.  The race is benefiting a charity in which their main goal is to send returning veterans back to school as part of their military scholars program.  Amazingly, that first runner to adjust course and thank Joey Bell, was one of these returning scholastic veterans. His name is Erik Wittreich, he served proudly in Afghanistan and will soon be graduating from Stanford Business School.  I do not believe it is a coincidence that Wittreich started the flood of appreciation. Instead I see it as symmetry.  Wittreich is a man that knows the experience of a soldier, he may have even saw glimpse of his future in the 95-Year-Old vet and simply wanted to acknowledge him.  This is part of the story that has been missed by most of the major news outlets.  The video is beautiful without the back-story, but once you realize that the moment may not have happened without Erik sparking the fire, then it becomes even more beautiful.  From one human to another, from one veteran to another and from one runner to one supporter…he created a memorable moment.

In the end, the circle is closed by the human element.  Our event partially supports Wittreich’s transition back into excelling in society and in return Erik’s gratitude helped create the greatest moment I have ever been a part of.   So now I find myself beyond thankful. Thankful for Erik, thankful for Joey Bell, thankful for the Pat Tillman Foundation, thankful for my dedicated event team, and most of all thankful for my 408k runners that flooded Joey with appreciation.


June 11, 2014

Soul Focus CEO JT Service co-hosts the Giants SFG Live special-edition show announcing the 2014 Giant Race Runner Bobblehead.

WATCH THE FULL SHOW HERE

SFGLive-June2014


Check out the issue, on newsstands now. De Macedo and several other Portuguese surfers explore the untapped potential for big waves in the Azorean Islands of the Atlantic Ocean.

JDM-Surfer-July14