Ahead of The Pace with Temilola Sobomehin Marshall (Tes)

Temilola Sobomehin Marshall otherwise known as Tes has been a prominent figure in our run community. For the past eight years she has been leading through her organization runningnerds, LLC while helping others to achieve their goals and providing access to running and walking events in the Atlanta area. Fellow runners always say that Tes is known for an abundance of ideas when it comes to running and how we are represented in the running community and culture. One of her most impressive ideas has been the inception of The Race Half Marathon & 5K where she serves as the Race Director. Taking place each October, the inaugural edition took place in 2018 from October 11th to the 14th. What makes this event a must for everyone to experience is the entire event feels like a vibe – as if we are all coming home one weekend to see our family, our run family, the feeling of homecoming weekend or, a runner’s family reunion.

MSM: Hey Tes, first we’d like to thank you for allowing us to feature you in Mid Strike Magazine. How have things been? For our new audience that hasn’t had a chance to meet you let’s give them a formal introduction.

Tes: Thank you for the opportunity to be a featured guest in Mid Strike Magazine and kudos to getting started and providing this voice to the Black running community. My name is Tes Sobomehin Marshall and I am a runner and Race Director located in Atlanta, GA.

MSM: I’m sure the last couple of months haven’t been easy. How have you been managing to stay fit during these Corona months? With no races how have you been keeping yourself occupied? Any challenges you’ve been giving yourself? 

Tes: I have actually been very consistent with my running through the pandemic.  I have participated in a few challenges and virtual events and have really enjoyed my solo runs. A mix of neighborhood runs, long runs, and small socially distanced group runs have kept me active, connected, and positive during this time.

MSM: Temilola strikes me as a name that has significant meaning, I haven’t been able to exactly pinpoint it but it strikes me as something with great meaning . I didn’t want to look it up because honestly i’m nervous I might be wrong (lol). What does Temilola mean?

Tes: Temilola is a Nigerian name.  My father is Nigerian and I have a strong network of Nigerian and Nigerian-American siblings and cousins.  I was told that the name meant princess, but I have not seen one penny of the royalties! 

MSM: You’ve been running for years. Give our readers a look into your why. What made you get into running? What made you choose running?

Tes: I started running in 2010 as a way to stay active and as a personal challenge. I was a basketball athlete growing up and into my 20’s. I also was a personal trainer and bootcamp instructor. Seeing people running outdoors always intrigued me and seemed like something I would never be able to do. So one day I gave it try and saw myself get better and stronger. I ran my first race in 2010 but didn’t run again until almost a year later. My second race was a 10k that I ran with some friends. After that experience, I thought it would be cool to start a run group and keep up with the progress that I made. Lucky for me Black Girls Run had just formed and were looking for leaders in the Atlanta area. I volunteered and became an ambassador and helped to grow the Atlanta Chapter of BGR exponentially in 2011.

MSM: Care to share some of your run stats? I’ve seen a few Ragnar’s mixed in there, those have to be a beast.

Tes: 2015 was my peak year. I posted PR’s in just about every distance and ran a TON of races that year. Best 5K 22:15, best 10K 48:38, best Half Marathon 1:49:01, Best Marathon 4:19:55. I completed two Ragnars, several triathlons (Olympic & Sprint distances), lost count of 5Ks, 10Ks, & Halfs, and have completed 9 marathons. My love is for big races that have a community feel and I love attending events with my running community. I currently don’t run for time or speed, but simply to move and stress relieve.

MSM: You’re pretty recognizable in Atlanta through your running organization runningnerds, working to help others lead a healthy lifestyle. Has there been anyone that allows you to take a step back and just say “WOW”? Someone that’s accomplished so much it just makes you to just smile.  

Tes: The growth of the Black running community makes me smile huge.  I feel that I have played a role in making running & walking accessible and relatable to more Black and brown people in our community simply by putting on events and being a part of a great presence at established events.

MSM: In 2018 we were blessed to be a part of The Race’s inaugural year which honestly was an experience, unlike any other race I’ve been a part of. I think I speak for everyone when I can honestly say I went home sincerely satisfied with everything The Race offered except for ONE THING (lol) we’ll tackle later. How did the idea of The Race come about?

The starting line for the inaugural edition of The Race 2018

Tes: The Race, as the inaugural mission states, is a collaboration of running community leaders, vendors, and supporters that came together to host a road race that intentionally highlighted and impacted Black businesses, neighborhoods, and charities. There was a lot of chatter about putting on a race utilizing all of the resources that had been established and that the Black running community could support en masse. Together, the founding partners of The Race (Da’Rel Patterson, Ralph Lyons, Shanta McMillan, Booker Edwards, & Myself) put those conversations into action with the 2017 planning and Kickstarter campaign. All those that supported The Race Kickstarter campaign and inaugural event formed The Unity Collective.  The Race 2018 Legacy was destiny manifested by The Unity Collective.

Tes as Race Director Running Nerds 5k

MSM: Have you ever had any experiences putting together a race on that large of a scale? I’m sure you have a strong team in your corner to keep things flowing smoothly.  

Tes: I have been a Race Director for 8 years and have created and hosted over 150 running and racing events.  The Race is National event and I am extremely proud to be at the helm of one of the fastest-growing Half Marathon weekends in the nation. We have an awesome team of runners and leaders that make up our planning and advisory team.

MSM: How did becoming a Race Director happen, is that something you saw yourself doing? I feel as though life has a tendency to course-correct our paths from time to time where we fall into positions we then excel in.

Tes: I have a background in collegiate coaching and I have always been in leadership roles on teams or in professional settings. So, after attending a few races at the start of my running journey, I thought to myself “this looks like fun, I would love to try putting on one of these races” I hosted my first race in 2012 in Atlanta, the runningnerds 5K, and from there just kept developing race ideas. I have grown tremendously in the profession and absolutely love being in the road racing industry as a Race Director.

MSM: For those that don’t know The Race isn’t just a weekend event. There’s an entire slate of pre-week festivities leading up to the race which and The Community Impact Service Day which takes place the Sunday morning of the race weekend. What are some of the communities you’ve been involved in?

Volunteers at The Race’s Community Impact Service Day

Tes: It was extremely important to us that The Race was not just a 1-day event that ran through Atlanta.  We want Atlanta and the neighborhoods we run through and around to embrace The Race and feel the positive impact of an event such as The Race being connected to its communities. Throughout the year, we host neighborhood group runs in the various communities and invite the local neighbors to join.  We also follow up each group run with a community service project.  We also utilize The Race’s social media and email platforms to elevate our charity and business partners events and calls for service.  The Race weekend not only offers a 5K & Half Marathon road race, but we also host a full-day Expo with Small Business Showcase, Speaker Series, Welcome Night Celebration, and as you mentioned the Community Impact Service Day on the Sunday after race day. These service projects take place within the neighborhoods we just ran through the day before.

MSM:  There’s also Rep The Race week which runs in May. My personal favorite of that week are the DJ sets followed by the Black-owned business highlights. How has it been putting everything together?

Tes: We wanted to amplify #RepTheRace Week this year to uplift and bring some positive spirit to our national community during this challenging time in our world.  We were extremely blessed with all of the DJ’s, fitness professionals, and guest speakers that gave their hearts, time, and talent to #RepTheRace week. It was a beautiful week of celebration of Black excellence. #RepTheRace week 2020 occurred the week just before George Floyd was killed, which proved to be extremely timely as our world was on the verge of racial & social justice heightened awareness.

MSM: What I love most about The Race is the cultured feel of it as it screams Black excellence from start to finish even down to the finisher medals which I feel is as good as a world major medal. As the Race director is this something that you’ve made sure to focus on based on any of your previous race experiences?

Tes: Absolutely! Our ultimate goal is for The Race is be just as important on your race calendar as the World Majors!! Runners of all races creeds, paces and speeds are welcome to participate in The Race, however the success and growth of The Race will be due to massive national support from the Black running community. This is a race for the culture by the culture. Black Excellence is beautiful, spiritual, bold, and dynamic. This is what The Race should symbolize for all runners and walkers that participate.

MSM: The finisher medals are very detailed. Give us an idea into how those medals were put together.

The Race 2018 Half Marathon Finisher Medal
The Race 2019 Half Marathon Finisher Medal
The Race 2020 Half Marathon Finisher Medal

Tes: The Half Marathon medal design each year is one of the most tedious and important processes of the planning.  We wanted it to be a classic, circular shape, unique design, HEAVY, and dawn the Red, Black, and Green ribbon.  The Race HM is a collectors item and highly coveted in the road race community. The 5K medal will be where we can lead to some more contemporary creativity each year.

MSM: As the Race Director, what made you decide on a 5k/Half Marathon. Do you think we could see a 10k at some point?

Tes: The Race is a national event and the largest gathering of Black runners for a long-distance endurance event in the nation. We knew, in order to draw runners from around the globe we would need to offer a long distance event. The half marathon is the featured event of The Race weekend. We added the 5K as a way to give new participants an opportunity to participate and hopefully aspire to the half marathon in the future. The ultimate goal is to grow the half marathon to one of the largest endurance events in the country.  For the foreseeable future The Race will only include the 13.1 & 5K.   

The Race 2019 finisher run festival has an absolute party vibe

MSM: Okay here’s my personal question, who decided the half marathon route (laughs)? (Pauses) WHY, WHY, WHY and WHO thought it was a good idea to add that hill between miles 12 and 13? This is my one exception of the entire weekend by the way. (lol)

Runner’s taking on Sylvan Road Hill with a smile

Tes: The start & finish location is what generally determines the route! However, God makes the hills, peaks and valleys! We wanted The Race to run through Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods and we were blessed to partner with Impact Event Center, which is a Black-owned venue that has the space and capacity that we needed. Unfortunately, the only way to get to Impact is via Sylvan Rd. which is that last big hill that everyone dreads. But remember, you go DOWN that hill to start The Race and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Ha-ha..

MSM: Any chances of other virtual races sponsored by The Race throughout the year or a possible race series throughout the year once quarantine is over?

Tes: We have made the pivot to The Race 2020 Pivot Edition as a responsible response to the restrictions that COVID -19 has placed on the road race industry and events industry in general. We will host an excellent and engaging virtual and digital experience this year.  Make no mistake that our hope and goal is to get back to hosting our LIVE IN-PERSON event and bringing the RACEr community together in October for that family reunion that we have all come to love.  We want to get back to hosting our community events throughout the year and we hope that other cities are inspired to continue to get involved in their communities as well.

MSM: What does the future hold for Tes? Anything our readers can look out for?

Tes: I am extremely excited to bring the nation together in The Race 2020 Pivot Edition October 1st-4th. We are working very hard to create an experience in Black Excellence for all that participate and engage. No, this is not our preferred way to “race” but this is what we have to do to get through this time and we are going to do it with culture and style. I hope that everyone will participate and also introduce a friend or family member to the running community through this 2020 edition of The Race. This could be a life changing experience for many people. I’m excited about the addition of The Race Bike Ride to the 2020 event to keep our connection with the cycling community alive and thriving. I am also a big fan of craft beer and culture. I will be embarking on some professional development opportunities this Fall and exploring ownership and community building in the craft beer industry.

MSM: From myself and all of those that have been part of The Race experience, I want to say thank you. Thank you for making this experience unlike any other. The pandemic ruined everything but we cannot wait for the next runners family reunion at The Race.

Tes: Thank you for the opportunity to share.  I take tremendous pride in being the producer, director and a founding partner of The Race. 

Feel free to follow Tes on social media and check out the websites below.

Be sure to register for The Race 2020 Pivot event

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