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The recent purchase of a 5K and half-marathon series that attracts around 12,000 runners every year was a big win for a local timing and event management company.
Heartland Racing Co. announced its acquisition of the 11-year-old Go Girl Run series from Columbia-based Ultramax Sports in September. Owner Keaton Garrett says the race will be fully back in action in 2023 after its reduction to one city the past two years, due to the COVID pandemic. Next year, Go Girl Run participants can hit the ground running in Springfield, Columbia and Oklahoma City.
Managing races, namely the electronic chip timing for runners, is Heartland Racing’s bread and butter. In its two years of operation, the company has managed over 100 race events.
“Our whole staff tries to look at the events that we’re contracted for as our own event a little bit,” Garrett says.
Heartland Racing’s services include event production, marketing and logistics, as well as assistance leading up to the event and on the day of the event.
Brad Hamman, the company’s head timer and logistics coordinator, says race days mean beginning setup as early as 3 a.m. so everything is ready to go when participants show up.
“Whatever was needed to be set up is already set up when the first athlete arrives,” Hamman says, “so the magic has already occurred.”
Nonprofit organization Camp Barnabas made a switch this year to Heartland Racing for its Campfire Run fundraiser after previously working with Ultramax Sports. Community Relations Director Mindy Frech says Garrett and the company’s Christian values, which mirrors the nonprofit’s own mission, inspired the change. It wasn’t originally planned.
“I really felt like we had an opportunity to grow the race with him,” Frech says.
The growth came. She says the event topped $100,000 raised – $33,000 more than last year – and there were 304 registered racers, up 27 people.
Camp Barnabas utilized Garrett to help plan the event. He set up and certified the course, helped set up registration for the runners and gave Camp Barnabas staff guidance in placing volunteers. Frech says Garrett was knowledgeable from both the administrative and runners’ standpoint, since he also is a runner.
“He did what he said he was going to do,” Frech says, noting about a half-dozen members of the Heartland Racing team were there to help on race day, “and that’s not always the case when you hire a company to do something.”
She says the two teams already are working on the 2023 Campfire Run.
Small and nimble
Garrett says he started the small company with the help of his parents in 2020 while still in college, right before the pandemic hit. As a triathlon racer, he already knew the ins and outs of the racing business.
In its first year, Heartland Racing managed six events. By 2021, that number jumped to 30 events, and this year, Garrett says it’ll be nearly 70 events.
Heartland Racing also added several employees in that span.
“It has grown much beyond just me and my laptop,” Garrett says, declining to disclose annual revenues.
Today, there are 13 employees, with the addition of event operators, timers, a graphic designer and an operations assistant. Garrett says the company is now considering an office space; it currently just has a P.O. box in Ozark.
Amid the growth, Garrett still has been working toward his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Evangel University. He’s on pace to graduate in spring 2023.
Growing into other markets is up next on the docket. Garrett says Heartland Racing has capped out on events to work in Springfield, with others the company owns including Running from Yeti, the ConcreteMan Triathlon, ConcreteKids and the Springfield Office Run. The company is beginning to partner with events in other states, such as Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Hamman says the company’s regional footprint has grown considerably as a result of purchasing the Go Girl Run series. Heartland Racing hopes to expand the race to Kansas City and Memphis, Tennessee.
Garrett says the goal is to grow without sacrificing quality. While the company has added events to its portfolio, going forward he says the focus is on doing what they already do better.
“Our future goal would be to build and improve on what we’re doing right now,” Garrett says.
Urban Studios LLC, a natural light photography studio and pop-up event space, opened; the Missouri State University Foundation became the new owner of event venue The Old Glass Place; and Polk County’s dining scene expanded with the opening of Flat Creek.