On Saturday, April 26, more than 30,000 runners will lace-up their sneakers for the 15th running of the St. Jude Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon in Nashville. Take a spot at the starting line, situated just outside of Bridgestone Arena – in the heart of downtown – to watch the action and maybe you’ll spot one of the nine Nashville Predators employees running the race and countless more volunteering along the course.
Of the nine Preds employees participating in the race, only one, Hockey Operations Manager Brandon Walker, will take on the full 26.2 mile marathon course.
“I’ve never run a marathon before, but I’ve done about eight half-marathons,” Walker said. “I’ve always wanted to try it and thought this was just a good time to do it.”
In his job as Hockey Operations Manager, Walker travels on all road trips with the team and takes care of many trip logistics, from organizing travel plans to booking hotels and countless other things in between. As one can imagine, training for the marathon while traveling all across North America during the course of a full NHL season brought a few challenges.
“We were in some cold places throughout the winter and I couldn’t go outside, so I had to do a lot of training on treadmills,” Walker said.
With just one day left before the race, Walker has heard from a few of the players, offering both encouragement and some good natured ribbing, the latter of which has been going on for awhile, especially when he was spotted training on road trips.
“I’d have to do 18 miles on the treadmill in Chicago,” Walker said. “Guys would see me walking out of the fitness rooms looking like I just jumped in the lake, I heard about that.”
Both Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales Nat Harden and Director of Hockey Operations Brian Poile decided on Thursday to run the race. Harden, who is running Nashville’s half marathon distance the first time, has run the full marathon distance three or four times and completed more than 10 marathons overall.
“It’s a fun event and a lot of people come to Nashville, it’s great for the city,” Harden said. “I want to support the event and just be a part of it, that’s the reason I’ve done it all of these times.”
A one-of-a-kind event that is quintessentially Nashville, the race course features more than 100 musicians performing during the race. Poile, who said that this will be his first time running more than six miles, is looking forward to just taking the whole experience in.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the fans, seeing the bands, and just seeing the community of Nashville running,” Poile said.
Premium Seats Service Coordinator Courtney Reilly and Sales Associate Megan Mischler are two of a handful of staff members that encouraged each other to take on the challenge of a half marathon.
“I had a few friends that are running it and we all decided to do it together,” Mischler said.
More of a team effort, and less of a competition, Reilly and Mischler are both looking forward to having friends by their side during the race and as they cross the finish line.
“There are a couple of girls that I’ll run it with,” Reilly said. “It will be nice to have someone there with you the whole time. I’d say making it through to the end will be a true test, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The city of Nashville and its citizens are no strangers to welcoming guests and are frequently lauded for their hospitality. Those visiting for the marathon shouldn’t be surprised to find a city full of friendly faces, willing to lend a hand and offer suggestions on great places to eat, the best place to buy a pair of boots on Broadway and even what to expect on race day.
“Make sure you pace yourself and drink plenty of water,” Harden, the Preds staff race veteran, said. “Just take your time, enjoy the crowd, enjoy the festivities and don’t worry so much about time.”