Event manager at Strong Viking
For more than six years Strong Viking has been organising obstacle runs. Throughout the year an energetic team is working on organising these spectacular runs at our new headquarters in Cuijk, where you can also find the Viking Lab. The operations team of Strong Viking consists of three event managers. For each country (The Netherland, Belgium, Germany) where Strong Viking organises events there is an event manager. I (Sam) am working for Strong Viking since 2014, I am the event manager of the Netherlands. This means that my responsibilities are all the events in the Netherlands: Spaarnwoude (Amsterdam), de Berendonck (Wijchen/Nijmegen) and the brand-new Trail Run in De Bergen (Wanroij).
What does an event manager do?
Simply said, I’m responsible for designing the trail and the start- and finish area of the event. I’m also responsible for the execution of the design. It is not as easy as just marking some locations and building obstacles. It requires lots thinking, redesigning and time. But it’s all worth the while when in the end all Vikings can enjoy a day full of adventure!
A separate team is responsible for finding and judging new locations. As soon as the agreement with the township and the owner of the location are settled, my job starts! It is time for one of my favourite tasks: designing a completely new trail!
How do you design a new trail?
The first visit of the area takes place in a 4x4 vehicle. Typically, we get a tour by the owner of the area who comes along to show us all the awesome parts of the terrain like steep hills, rivers, lakes and other possibilities the area has to offer. During this first round we also get to know which areas we must not enter. Think about nature reserves or biotopes. We also discuss where we are allowed to dig. Like the hole for the Fjord Drop, it has to be 2m deep, 15m wide and 18m long! This leaves an impact on the area and we can’t just dig this hole randomly. Next to this enormous hole in the ground, we also need to make sure the water supply. It is also important that the ground is firm enough to carry the colossal scaffold construction without sinking into the ground. All together there are a lot of things to keep in mind while designing the trail.
The next step is to get out of the 4x4 vehicle and get on the bike or start running with a GPS watch. This is the best way to find small paths and the most beautiful pieces of nature. When I find a potential location for an obstacle I always walk around the flat area so I can take a closer look on this particular area when I load the route onto my computer.
When you have returned to your computer, what is the next step?
Back at the office I connect my sport watch to my computer and load the data to Google Earth. This gives me an idea of the paths we can use, and I can start drawing possible routes. It’s import that the trail always exists of three unique loops, the 7km, the 13km and the 19km loop. So, you will never come across the same obstacle twice. I try to let every loop return at the start- finish area before starting a new loop. That means that you will never be more than four kilometres away from the start- finish area. This is handy for visitors who want to watch their Vikings conquering obstacles at different parts of the trail. Also, it is very convenient with incidents, help can arrive within three minutes! Fortunately, this isn’t often necessary during the events.
So, we have the route, how do you decide where to place the obstacles?
A separate team is responsible for continued development of Strong Viking obstacles. Next to their own creativity they get inspired by colleagues, participants and by the visitors at events. At this point there are about 65 obstacles to choose from for each event. Each obstacle is linked to one of the three distances: 7, 13 or 19km. Obstacles are also linked to the edition themes of Strong Viking: Mud, Hills, Water and Brother. Within these possibilities it is my job to create the best course and find a good balance in different obstacles which require (hand)strength, agility, mud, teamwork and condition.
Through dialogue with my co-event managers, other colleagues and depending on any unforeseen circumstances the trail keeps changing. Sometimes even till the day before the event! An important point is the experience of the participants, another important point is the flow of the trail. This flow determines the order and frequency of the obstacles. When the flow of the trail isn’t good there will be waiting times before obstacles and that definitely isn’t desirable. Even though the time it takes to complete the run isn’t important, waiting simply is never fun. We don’t want our Vikings to have a bad experience because of the waiting time. So, by designing a good trail we try to avoid these waiting times as much as possible.
The weekend is over, how do you know the trail was good?
That’s a good question, but not an easy answer. During the weekend I myself receive the first feedback. Next to the things I hear myself I get my information from my colleagues who are driving around the terrain and monitoring the trail. Afterwards we will also receive messages through social media from people who are very pleased or less pleased and why they feel this way. We always try to gain as much information and opinions as possible, so we can make each event a little bit better!
During the weekend I am staying at the central post (the heart of all communication). This means I don’t have sight on the trail, my colleagues are my eyes during the weekend. They have to report all uncertainties or waiting times at obstacles. This way we, event managers, can learn which obstacles cause more waiting time and how natural obstacles like hills, muddy areas or water crossings can spread out a group before arriving to an obstacle with risk of a higher waiting time.
Strong Viking keeps gaining more and more experience at each event, at different terrains and different countries. All the experience we gain, we take with us to all of our upcoming events. This means that a ‘wrong’ order of obstacles or long waiting times at obstacles probably won’t happen again, because we communicate these problems within our team of event managers. The trail of the upcoming event will be adjusted in order to avoid these problems for the next run, even if the trail of this event has already been built.
This sums up the most fun part of my job as an event manager at Strong Viking. I really enjoy designing a trail with natural obstacles, mud areas, Strong Viking obstacles, the right distances, and all other things!
See you at the next run!
Event Manager NL