Now in his 8th year as Soweto Marathon Race Director, Danny Blumberg took some time out to tell us about his strengths, the challenges, the innovation, the sleepless nights and abundance of energy required to tackle one of the country’s greatest events: The African Bank Soweto Marathon.
Having also been a Race Director to races such as the Gaborone Marathon; Mandela Walk and Run Event; 702 Walk the Talk; Melrose Arch Walk; Bedford Centre Walk; and the Discovery Jacaranda FM Spring Walk, Blumberg knows all too well the pressure that’s on his and his team’s shoulders to produce another epic extravaganza come 5 November 2023 at FNB Stadium. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: What are some of the qualities you possess that make you the best in what you do?
A: I endeavour to focus on the detail – to scrutinise every item and be extremely thorough. In addition, I never give up and am always striving for new ways to do things, always innovating.
Q: What are your main roles and responsibilities for this year’s race?
A: I manage everything race related including the technical teams, procurement, sponsors, and on the day execution (which as you can imagine, is a rather lengthy list of items).
Q: Who are some of the key role players that you work with that help you with the workload?
A: My event management team as well as the Soweto Marathon Trust; the technical team, and all of the clubs involved in race day.
Q: What’s the greatest challenge you face for this race?
A: To those on the outside, every event may seem the same. However rest assured that every event, every year brings with it a new set of elements and challenges. Our focus is always to deliver a safe, flowing event that is enjoyable and memorable for all involved. This has always been a race by the people, for the people – they are integral to all that we do, and ensuring that they have an unrivalled experience come start line, is our job.
Q: In your opinion, what part of the 42.2km route is the most challenging and why?
A: Temperature plays a huge role in this race, with November always being an extremely hot and dry month. For the route itself, runners tend to have the misconception that the route is a flat one – I assure you it is not. I would say that the toughest part is the last 12kms, with multiple hills and a horrid heat to contend with.
Q: Do you sleep the night before the race?
A: No, I certainly do not sleep the night before. It’s all systems go right up until the late evening on race day. Following that and some well-earned sleep, I do try to take some time off to spend with my family.
Q: Is your job done once race day is over?
A: No. We commence immediately with event wrap up and reporting to the various clubs, partners and committee’s – making notes of successes, learnings and improvements required for the following year. Following that, we start planning for the following years race. It is a full-time job, year in and year round.
Q: Talk to us about the pressure on you on race day?
A: There are so many different moving parts – and that’s where the pressure comes in. Irrespective of how thorough one is, how many recce’s we have run through, how much preparation we’ve done, there are always certain elements that could go wrong and are often out of our control. It’s those elements that I personally find the most stressful: The things that you cannot control. Because it’s live on television, there is no margin for errors and we need to be meticulous in our planning and sublime in our execution.
Q: What is it that you love so much about this race?
A: I cannot put into words the power that the people bring to this race. The people of Soweto are unmatched in their pride, their generosity, their spirit. The streets are lined with supporters wholeheartedly embracing those that tackle the routes, and do so with an admirable warmth. You cannot match this race (in my opinion).