“Running” our first marathon

If you would have asked anyone on the 1881 Event Productions team one year ago if we could see ourselves helping to plan a high-class marathon with a record breaking number of runners, we would have probably responded with, “Ha. The chances of us running a marathon are more likely.”

Kat Christian, President and founder of 1881 Event Productions has now had experience running and planning a marathon.

“It is definitely easier to plan a marathon,” Christian said.


She said when planning a marathon, you can stretch it over a longer period of time and have a team working on it with you which can make it more enjoyable and rewarding. But when you run a marathon, you have a few hours to run and you are on your own.

“Nobody else can run it but yourself,” Christian said.

However, when “running” a marathon from behind the scenes, teamwork is a driving factor of success.

The 1881 EP team is comprised of Kat Christian (President), Tom Biegler (Chief Financial Officer), Emma Tomsich (Chief Marketing Officer), Izzy Staton (Associate Project Manager), and Alyssa Dunn (Junior Project Manager).

Christian said she founded 1881 EP in February 2018 because she saw an initiative that students could fulfill while working with some of the best companies in the country, like Rugged Races.

“This opportunity is pivotal for any college student’s time at their university,” Christian said. “1881 EP allows companies in Milwaukee to support students with new initiates while simultaneously gaining lower cost event planning and management.”

Rugged Races, one of the largest endurance event companies in North America is a race planning company from Boston that owns the Milwaukee Marathon.

They partnered with 1881 EP and gave our team the responsibility of handling partnership sales, volunteer coordination, and other supplemental help, Christian said.

“When we began working with Rugged Races, we set a goal of 5,000 attendees (at the Milwaukee Marathon) and then we rose it to 6,000 and then we rose it to 8,000, so hitting 7,500 attendees was a huge success,” Christian said.

Before Rugged Races took ownership of the 2019 Milwaukee Marathon, it was called the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival and only had 3,700 participants. In 2016 and in 2017, the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival faced backlash for being mismeasured and failing to be inclusive of Milwaukee’s diversity.  

Being in charge sponsorship sales and volunteer coordination, 1881 EP was primarily responsible for facilitating community engagement.

Just like running a marathon takes perseverance, training, and determination, so does planning one.

By creating the University Challenge and finding volunteer groups from local schools and foundations, 1881 EP was able to include Milwaukee residents from all backgrounds.


Izzy Staton, Associate Project Manager of 1881 EP said the marathon brought the Milwaukee community together for an exciting event that helped out many local businesses and organizations in the area.

“We were not only able to get Milwaukee community members active in the marathon but people from all over the county participated which brought even more light to Milwaukee as a whole,” Staton said. “As a company we were able to re-gain the trust of the community members in terms of the marathon and I think we successfully re-branded the marathon in a way to be an fun, exciting, and innovative event that of course also has all of the measurements correct.”

Not only did the Milwaukee Marathon make advancements in the Milwaukee community, but it helped 1881 EP gain traction and attention in the city.

“We promoted our brand at the marathon and we started to form relationships with local partners and community members,” Staton said.

She said as a team, 1881 EP was able to learn from experiences at the marathon and apply it to other events.

Though the 2019 Milwaukee Marathon is in the past, plans are already in motion for the 2020 Milwaukee Marathon.

“Now that we have a clearer idea of what the marathon is actually like on race day, we have a ton of ideas on how we want to improve on multiple different aspects,” Staton said. “This was just the first year, and with such a great turnout and feedback from participants, I can’t wait to see where (the 2020) marathon will go!”

1881 EP has also established long term goals for the Milwaukee Marathon.

Our top goal is to be able to gain more and more ownership of the event, until we completely have control over the entire operation, Staton said.

“We also want the Marathon to be a top destination for avid runners worldwide, starting with focusing on taking control of the midwest region and making sure the Milwaukee Marathon is the top marathon in the midwest,” Staton said. “We hope to double our participation numbers by next year as well as create a unique, fun experience for runners and spectators alike that fosters a social environment.”

Christian said both her and her team are excited for the 2020 Milwaukee Marathon and other future events.

The 1881 EP team already has a lot coming for the 2020 Milwaukee Marathon, so stay turned for our launch, Christian said.

“It might be coming sooner than you think!”