The best events don’t always start with a business plan. Often, they start with a spark. Someone has a passion they want to share, and a great idea about how to share it. They’re moved to bring people together around a vision, so they make it happen — even with no event planning experience. Here’s an interview with a creator who sought to make endurance races more accessible.
Trail racing can be a daunting prospect for recreational runners. The hills, the tough terrain, and the risk of getting off course all seem more fitting for ultra marathoners and elite athletes.
But that’s exactly the kind of stereotype Sasquatch Racing CEO Matt Forsman set out to break when he founded the Sasquatch Scramble in 2013. Fast forward six years later, and Sasquatch Racing now hosts five popular trail events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area annually.
So what did it take to overcome an entire community’s misconceptions? Here’s how passion helped Forsman turn a love of trail running into a thriving series of family-friendly events.
What first sparked the idea for your event?
Forsman: I’ve been a passionate runner for over 20 years and manage a running club in San Francisco that helps people train for half marathons, marathons, 5ks, and 10ks.
The idea for creating a race really stemmed from this fantastic documentary I saw called Run for Your Life about Fred Lebow, creator of the New York City Marathon. He got lucky and ended up turning it into this iconic, 50,000+ runner event that everybody wants to sign up for every year.
That really struck a chord with me. I’ve been a small business owner for 10+ years. I’m used to hustling and creating something out of nothing. And while I was on a trail run through the Marin Headlands, the idea crystalized as I thought, “It’d be great to get my runners out on these trails.”
But a lot of people have this perception that trails are the exclusive territory of ultra marathoners, people who run 26.2 miles or more. That’s not really my audience, so I decided to create a trail race for people who ordinarily balk at my idea. And Sasquatch Scramble was born.
When did you know your event was/would be a success?
Forsman: At the end of the day, I know it is going to be a success if people come up to me with a smile on their face and say they had such a good time that they’ll be back next time.
That’s really how I measure success.
When was the moment you had to take the leap and go all in on your event?
Forsman: My run club used to be a full time endeavor. After the first few races, however, I realized I couldn’t effectively do everything. So my involvement in the club changed a little bit.
I am still present for most of the Thursday night workouts. But throughout the rest of the week, I have coaches and captains who manage everything else.
What was your first big failure and what did you learn from it?
Forsman: I wouldn’t say there was one big failure. But there was a lot that I had to learn along the way.
For example, I had volunteers who needed direction on where to go and what to do, race participants who wanted to change their shirt size and do a different distance, or know what kind of beer we were serving. It was a lot for me to manage. I just felt like I was kind of putting my fingers in the dam, just trying to prevent all the holes from breaking loose.
How has your business grown and what was the toughest lesson you had to learn along the way?
Forsman: In the first year, we produced two races. After a reasonable number of kinks that first year, we eventually rolled out four races, then five.
Eventually, I had overcome most of the challenges that one could make, and I felt more confident rolling out more events because we had a model in place.
The biggest lesson was learning to put my trust in others. I have got a great group of people who’ve been supporting Run Club for years. If I didn’t have an experienced, seasoned team there supporting me, I probably would not have been confident stepping away and would have put all my energy into Sasquatch Racing.
What’s your advice for someone who has an idea for an event, but isn’t sure they should take the leap?
Forsman: Never take anything for granted. Never assume that things will work out. Always be vigilant. Stay on your toes. Endurance events are a very competitive, challenging space. There are lots of great events going on all the time. Always be looking for the big and the small things that can help you differentiate from all the other great options out there.
Ready to take your passion and run with it?
Forsman’s journey began six years ago with the seed of an idea — to get recreational runners out on the trails. Now, he’s turned that passion into a thriving community and events business.
Do you have a passion worth sharing? Set up your event on Eventbrite in minutes.