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Meet Erica Segel MacVittie of Malibu Half Marathon & 5K in Malibu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Segel MacVittie.

Erica, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am no writer, so please excuse any grammar mistakes or typos. But I’m thrilled to be able to tell this story, my story.

Back in 2011, I moved from Rome, Italy, to pursue my new career. Moving to Malibu from Italy was a bit disorienting at first, to say the least. But my job kept me extremely busy and I traveled extensively for most months out of the year. After almost five years of no work-life balance (basically, only work), I decided it was time to make a change in my life.

The idea of having to start a brand new job was at first very stressful, but then, as most times happens, when you open up to possibilities, the Malibu Half Marathon event came knocking at my door. The event was founded by my ex-husband and a couple of good friends but hadn’t been doing well financially. The mismanagement and the financial troubles had created a ripple effect including reputational issues among participants, local administrations and vendors.

When I was asked at the time to invest my savings and dedicate myself full-time to help save this event I didn’t think it was really possible. I come from a completely different mindset. In Italy, there’s little or no space for entrepreneurship. The best you can aim for is to land a good job, work hard and make a decent living.

The idea of taking full responsibility for a business terrified me. I was a young girl, a foreigner and I was supposed to do what the former group of managers weren’t able to do, and all by myself?

Looking back now, five years down the road I am forever thankful that I didn’t let my fears decide for me. Getting involved with this project was the best thing that ever happened to me and it changed me forever as a person.

If I close my eyes, I can go back to the first year organizing the event and be there again among the crowd of people gathered at the start line with their hands on their hearts while a 13-year-old Malibu High School talent was singing our National Anthem. I was so inspired by the sense of accomplishment and complete happiness (sometimes accompanied by pain) that every finisher had written on their faces, that at that moment I knew I was hooked and that I was going to devote myself to relaunching and rebuilding the event the way it was supposed to be.

Now we are about to celebrate our 11th anniversary, and my 5th as race director and manager, with the event bring sold out for the past three years. In 2017 I launched a brand new out-and-back course starting and ending at the famous Zuma Beach and I was able to increase the size of the event by 400%. We now cap it at 4500 to keep the experience premium and intimate, just like our beloved community. Another aspect I’m particularly proud of is our commitment to giving back to our community. I decided to partner up with the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu, a charity that is often misunderstood.

Despite the area’s celebrity status, many local kids don’t come from affluent backgrounds, so the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu plays a critical role within the community by providing a safe, affordable, professionally staffed clubhouse with inspiring opportunities for kids to grow and learn. Although the race has been supporting the club since 2015, I saw the need to create what I call the ‘Run for Charity program’ in 2017 to encourage runners to actively participate in fundraising for the organization. It’s proven to be an enormously rewarding experience for both runners and the club which are rewarded with perks including access to the best lounge in the endurance circuit.

In 2017, we raised over $16,000 for the club. In 2018, the money raised nearly doubled to $30,000. And this year I expect donations to be over $55,000.

But all of this didn’t come easy. Back in 2015, I didn’t even know what a bib was, nor was much of a runner myself so I rolled up my sleeves and started with the basics. Throughout the year I started joining different running clubs to get a feel of what was out there. I loved every one of those experiences for different reasons and decided to become a member of the LA Leggers and train for the LA Marathon. Only a few weeks later I ran my first half marathon in Long Beach.

It goes without saying that I will never forget how I felt crossing the finish line, eyes full of tears, joy and pure happiness. I remember passing mile 13 and thinking just how a few weeks before I didn’t believe I could ever run more than a few miles and there I was, sprinting through the finish arch, feeling on top of the world. With a new appreciation for running and road races, I went back to working on the event full of new ideas and feeling reinvigorated and inspired. Since then I have never stopped.

Every day I ask myself what we can do to improve my athletes’ experience and how I can make that day memorable for them and the Malibu community. When I read people’s reviews and they say that they felt the organizers cared, that they felt valued, that’s when I feel I’ve been successful at what I do.

Looking back I feel proud of what a young woman from Italy could become thanks to the support of a city that welcomed me with open arms, the community of runners which are the most positive and inclusive family I could wish for and my friends who have supported me through good and bad times.

Congrats on all the money you’ve raised and the progress you’ve made. Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I think I have already answered that question, but no, it hasn’t been smooth.

It took me almost two years to turn things around. I worked with no compensation for more than a year and had at stake more than just my savings.

The previous managers had burned bridges with the City administration and the County. I had to work hard to prove myself to them before they allowed me to bring the course back to Zuma Beach. I had a vision, but I inherited debts and a bad rep and I had to make wise decisions on how to utilize my limited resources to gain everyone’s trust back again.

It was the toughtest of times and coincided with me also losing my mother.

So sorry to hear about that, especially the loss of your mother.  It’s inspiring to see how you haven’t allowed life’s challenges to stop you or your journey. What else should we know about you, your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am the Race Director and Manager of the Malibu Race Series LLC. The Malibu Race Series organizes the Malibu Half-Marathon & 5K event, which occurs annually along the pristine coastline of Malibu California www.malibumarathon.com.

In this position, my responsibilities range from overseeing brand development, project management, advertisement and marketing [Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram], grassroots outreach, sponsorship development, securing event permits & event production.

The thing I’m most proud of is how I was able to create something that is now perceived as valuable to the community that welcomed me eight years ago. I never thought I could truly make a difference for my community, and the Malibu Half Marathon & 5K gave me that opportunity.

When in 2015 I approached the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu I was only able to write them a $600 check. I asked them to believe in me and my vision. Five years later they will receive over $40,000 from us and I see this continuing to grow.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I have no regrets, but I doubted myself a lot along the way. If I could go back I would tell a younger me to have a little more trust in herself. If the heart is in the right place, everything else follows.

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Malibu Half Marathon & 5K

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