"I Get to Do an Event Where I Was Born and Raised": Staff Q&A with Airbnb Brooklyn Half Event Lead, Ro Crispin
As New York Road Runners prepares for the 37th running of the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, we sat down with event lead Ro Crispin, NYRR’s Senior Manager of Event Development, to learn about what it takes to move 27,000 runners from Prospect Park to Coney Island.
How long have you been working at New York Road Runners, and how long have you been the event lead for the Airbnb Brooklyn Half?
I’ll complete nine years in August. This is my third year leading the [Airbnb] Brooklyn Half, and I’ve worked Brooklyn every year since 2008.
And you started with other roles within Brooklyn?
Yeah, I started off as a coordinator for Brooklyn, and then I led an area within Brooklyn, and then eventually I led the overall operations of the event.
When does the Airbnb Brooklyn Half planning process begin?
We had our first meeting in October, so roughly seven or eight months out. It’s kind of nice to finally see it be so close.
As race planning moves forward, what sorts of things are you working on?
In the events department, we have area leads who are in charge of their logistics. So, for example, the start team’s in charge of speaking with their vendors and agencies, and I oversee it if there are any issues with that. Then there’s the course lead, the finish lead, and the transportation and baggage lead. They all deal with their logistics and the day-to-day, whereas I’m kind of like a thousand feet up and making sure that everything is running smoothly.
Are there unique challenges to organizing the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, or any challenges that stand out in particular for this race?
In any big race, I think the biggest challenge is always communication—clarity of communication—and things like clear responsibilities and roles. But our team works really well together, and there’s an open line of communication at all times.
Race “day” for you starts in the middle of the night. What’s the process of setting everything up that day?
Race day, for me, starts at midnight—that’s when the start team gets there. I make sure that I’m there in case they need anything. Once we start setting up, we’re usually show-ready by 4:00 a.m., and the first runners start coming in around 5:00 a.m.
Once that’s rolling and the start team is all good to go, I head to the finish, and then I head onto the course. I make sure that the course is all good with setting up the fluid stations.
Around 6:30, I hop into a police vehicle for an escort, and we close down the entire course. I usually get to the finish around 7:00 a.m. From then on, I'm with the finish team, and I look for any ways I can help out.
What would you say is one of the best parts of putting this event together?
For me, one of the coolest parts is that I was born in Brooklyn, and I lived on Coney Island until I was 12, so for me that’s the coolest thing—I get to do an event where I was born and raised. It’s like coming home. I love Coney Island—there’s an emotional attachment to it, a lot of nostalgia. My mom used to take me out of school sometimes to ride the rides, and we would go to the beach sometimes. I have a lot of really great memories of being there, so being able to put on an event and showcase the area where I’m from is really cool.
What’s one thing you think runners don’t know about setting up the race?
I think what some runners don’t know is how long it takes to set up an event and how long it takes to break down. Friends that aren’t in the industry think, “Oh, what do you do, just put up toilets and put up a finish line?” and I’m like, “Well…it’s a little more intense than that…”
There’s a lot of planning throughout the months, a lot of site visits, and a lot of hard work. Our team is going to Coney Island, doing course drive-throughs, talking to community boards. The amount that goes into it is not generally known.
One of the cool things that runners might not know is that the DoT [Department of Transportation], who are awesome to work with, throughout the weeks they’re filling potholes and covering anything we need, but they’re also doing it on race day up until like 6:30 in the morning. They’re really dedicated to making sure our event goes smoothly, which is awesome.
What advice would you give runners to make sure they have a great race-day experience?
Definitely get there early, and just take it in—enjoy it. It’s a unique place you’re running through, with really cool neighborhoods. And then when you end in Coney Island, there’s no need to leave; if the weather’s nice, just hang out. Go to the After-Party, grab a beer, grab a hot dog, and enjoy the company of the other runners. Enjoy the event and take advantage of everything that’s in Coney Island.
Because when else are you going to have the chance to ride a roller coaster after finishing a half-marathon, right?
For sure, yeah! Actually, I used to ride that roller coaster on June 26—that’s its birthday and it’s my birthday, too, so I was always one of the first people to ride the roller coaster on June 26. I always made sure of it.