at the races Ever Dream of Being a Race Director? Inside the Busy Life and...

Ever Dream of Being a Race Director? Inside the Busy Life and Fast Times of Sandie Orlando, race director of the Georgina Marathon 


If you are thinking about running a fall marathon, the Georgina Marathon & Half-Marathon + 10K & 5K—45 minutes outside Toronto—might just be the one for you. It falls just at the cusp of the Boston Qualifying window closing and is considered a ‘double dip’ for both 2025 and 2026. The date of this year’s race is September 8, 2024. 

Runners not ready for the full distance have lots of reasons to choose it as well; fast, flat, and scenic and a certified half-marathon and 10k course, plus a walk-friendly 5K.

Survey results from the Georgina Spring Fling marathon, half-marathon, 10K & 5K, which is essentially the same course, indicate that one third of the people who responded have run in one or more of our races and 12.7% say they keep coming back. There must be something in the water, as the saying goes. Here are some of their comments:

“Everything was amazing. My perspective as a first-time half marathoner was nothing but completely positive. I felt rejuvenated seeing so much community and so many people working together for such a fantastic event. Thanks to all involved!!”

“Keep your races the same size. Don’t lose the intimate, personal feel. Basically, keep doing what you’re doing. You have something very special here.”

“Because there isn’t a ‘what did we do great’ question, I wanted to add here that the vibe, location, and shuttles were fantastic. The food/drink at the end was the perfect amount.  I will be back.”

For anyone not familiar with this race, here is a race report from me, Sandie Orlando, one of the race organizers, that I hope provides insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the days leading up race day (and while the runners are running).

Georgina Spring Fling – An Inside Look from the Race Directors’ POV

The first kit pick-up day makes months of planning very real as faces and names come alive, one runner at a time. Their stories begin to unfold in those short bits of conversation. The ‘I’m only doing 5K’ is admonished for diminishing that accomplishment—and the half-marathoners are teased with a marathon bib and told ‘you only have to run a bit longer.’ 

Excitement and nerves, hopes and dread—it’s all there as the countdown time to the race start gets shorter.

For the race directors and crew, the real heavy lifting begins on Friday with deliveries to the race site. Cases of water and Gatorade, barriers, boxes of gear, rolls of banners, flags to assemble, signs to put up, medals to unpack. The goal is to get as organized as possible before the real set up begins. The course crew is doing last minute checks of the markers and road conditions. Everyone is stressing about volunteers cancelling or not showing up and making back up arrangements. These events are quite personal to us. 

Saturday is Expo Day (!), when most runners will come to pick up their bibs. Sponsors, vendors and community service groups arrive to set up their table displays hoping to engage participants in conversation. Some with young families look for distractions to keep the kids occupied. Newer runners wander and chat, taking in the excitement of the day. Experienced runners look for friends and the quickest way to get off their feet. Inevitably, one last minute person arrives in a panic after travelling … and leaves with a sense of relief, knowing they can settle into their race day preparations.

What Runners Don’t See

While runners are assembling their race day kit and charging their watches, hoping to be able to sleep despite their nerves, the race crew is at the park setting up whatever they can. Rain in the forecast means some last-minute changes to plans and no small amount of dread. The goal is to be finished before midnight to get a few hours of sleep. The reality is…four o’clock in the morning comes too soon and the planning and weather-worry hasn’t stopped. 

It’s dark and windy at the park, but no rain! The road crew is out on the course dropping over 1,000 pylons and setting up signs. The course crew is delivering tables, water and cups to aid stations and putting kilometre markers in place. At the race site, tents are being lifted, the finish line arch is installed; finish line food and medals are brought out. Vendors and support services arrive and find their spot as false dawn begins to lighten the sky. 

The first buses arrive, and last-minute kit pick up begins. Runners wander about chatting and taking care of last-minute details—checking bags, dropping off special needs packs, staying warm, lining up for washrooms and getting in their warm up runs. Greg Nicol takes the mic and begins housekeeping announcements. The course crew and zone directors check that aid stations are set up and manned, course marshals are in place and understand their responsibilities, and radio back to advise the race directors. The medical team is set up, with medics on the course. 

With ten minutes until the starting horn, the marathoners and half-marathoners are assembled in the starting chute—each carrying their own story as they stand poised to hit the start button on their watch.

And they’re off! 

The moment the starting gun goes is one of relief as we watch hundreds of runners stream past and out onto the Georgina course. Spectators are cheering, music is playing, and the energy is high. We take a few moments to feel the pride in being able to create this event that has an impact on so many people. That moment passes quickly as the next wave of runners begins to line up for the start of the 10K, then the 5K shortly afterwards. Each wave has a different vibe and collection of different ages, sizes and abilities. In front, those with intensity and purpose in their eyes. Behind, huge smiles and celebrating that they are there.

Soon the earpieces from our radios begin reporting from the course: “Lead bike for the 5K winner is 500m from the finish. Lead for the 10k is at the turn around.” 

The quiet at the finish line is over within 15 minutes before the 5K winners arrive. For the next six hours, we are at the finish line welcoming in runners, supporting some who have given everything they have, listening to the radio reports for any incidents on the course, answering questions from media, responding to spectators who are looking for their athlete who should have finished by now, pushing anxious spectators back from crowding the finish chute—and dreaming of a coffee or bathroom break. 

As the day goes on, the radio reports become focused on tracking the last runners on the course and ensuring they are supported. Some runners need medical assistance, others are simply determined to finish under their own steam. After six hours, the course is considered closed. Timing mats and finish lines are dismantled. The truck to pick up cones and aid stations slowly makes their way back to the race site. Our course marshals on bikes and medics stay out there with our last finishers and continue to report their progress. We wait for them with a medal and an escort in, because their stories are just as important as all the other runners. They are celebrated with a special welcome that has become a meaningful tradition at our races. 

After the race. 

It takes hours after the race is over to dismantle and pack up. It takes days to unpack and wind up all the details following a race. And even before this one has started, we’ve begun planning for the next year. But, like all of the people who have just run our race, we take a moment to sit down at a real meal and raise a toast in gratitude for having accomplished something special for ourselves and for everyone who runs, volunteers, supports and cheers. 

Come out and join us to race, cheer or volunteer! Everyone is welcome!

For information on the Georgina Marathon and Half Marathon, and all of the Endurance Event Productions, please see