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The Boston Marathon...My Best Customer Experience Ever!

Updated: Apr 15

Author running in the Boston Marathon

My Dad was a huge runner in the 1970s. He had a dream to run the Boston Marathon, but after a serious motorcycle accident he was unable to realize his dream. Inspired by my Dad and motivated to get fit, I started running in 1982. This was no small commitment on my part. It took my first three months of running to work my way up to five miles so I could finish a local five mile road race that summer. I wasn’t last, but pretty close to it!

Patrick Sandefur with his father

A couple of years later I attended the 1984 Boston Marathon as a spectator. I came away wanting to be a part of this inspired running tradition! The following year I ran Boston as a “bandit” (not an official, qualified entrant), an age-old Boston tradition which ended after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing tragedy. My first, unofficial Boston Marathon was hot! I struggled, suffering from heat exhaustion, but finished in just over 4 hours. Even though I was not officially in the race, my Dad was proud of my accomplishment.

Qualifying For Boston

In 1985 at the young age of 58, Dad died unexpectedly. I was crushed and promised myself that one day I would run the Boston Marathon as a qualified runner. Twenty-one years later, in Lowell, Massachusetts, at the 2006 Bay State Marathon, I ran a time fast enough to qualify me for Boston 2007. I cried when I crossed the Bay State finish, thinking about Dad and wishing he were there with me to celebrate.

The Boston Marathon Experience

Patrick Sandefur in the final mile of the Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon is a fun time for me and my family, with my son, daughter and wife cheering the runners on at the iconic finish on Bolyston Street in Boston. I have run this race seven times as a qualified runner, starting in 2007. Each time the Boston Marathon delivered the best customer experience I have ever been a part of. They focus on all the touch-points of the customer journey, starting with the official “confirmation of acceptance” mailing in the fall, to the personalized, 8”x10” certificate of completion after the race in April. In between you receive regular email updates, the race program, and a welcome book which includes a runner’s “passport”. The passport contains a list of the race weekend’s activities, restaurants, cab companies, a map of the area, subway map, race logistics information and more!

What Would A Boston Celebration Be Without Samuel Adams?

The marathon “goody bag” you get when you pick up your race bib at the Hynes Convention Center race expo is exceptional, especially the race shirt and the pewter Samuel Adams bartender style bottle opener engraved with the BAA unicorn logo, the Boston Marathon name, number and race date. All this special treatment before the race makes a marathoner feel pretty special, and it doesn’t even include the fantastic experience on race day!

Race Day, Boston Style…A State Holiday (Patriots Day), A Red Sox Game And The Boston Marathon!

Patrick Sandefur at the finish of the Boston Marathon with his children

With 30,000+ runners, how special can the Boston Marathon make each runner feel? From my vantage point, incredibly special. From boarding the official buses that take you to “Athlete’s Village” in Hopkinton, MA (race start) and all the way to the finish line in Boston, it is the marathoning equivalent of going to the World Series! Start line logistics, course logistics (race runs through eight cities and towns), crowd control, safety considerations, aid stations, medical stations, course entertainment, post-race refreshments, finisher medals, family meeting areas as well as a pre-race dinner and a post-race party are all delivered with precision and with smiles from the Boston Marathon Team. The race director, volunteers, police officers, medics and sponsors understand that for many runners the Boston Marathon is the crowning achievement of a running career. They work as a team to deliver on all touch-points of the customer journey. The Boston Marathon brand is legendary because of its storied history, but mostly it is because they know how to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

2020 Virtual Boston Marathon

The 124th Boston Marathon was held as a virtual race in September 2020 rather than its traditional April race date. 18,000 qualified runners participated, each on their own, personal, selected course! While COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of live, mass participation races, it has not destroyed the community and competitive spirit of marathoners.

50 Miles On A "Dreadmill" To Raise Money For Feeding America

During the spring of 2020 I was training for a marathon in Vermont which is a 2021 Boston qualifier. It was postponed to August 2021 due to COVID-19. Not wanting my training to go to waste, I decided to run a 50-mile, charity ultra-marathon in my basement, on a treadmill, to raise money for Feeding America. That is a lot of time on a treadmill folks, starting at 7:00 AM on Saturday, June 6th and finishing at 4:23 PM. It was the most successful charity run I have ever sponsored. People do care about their neighbors! Experiencing this generosity firsthand gave me hope that if we all stay safe, work as a team, helping each other throughout the duration, we will cross the finish line of this Covid-19 marathon to better times ahead.


Patrick Sandefur profile picture

Patrick Sandefur is the Founder and Managing Director of Bass Harbor Group / Customer Experience Solutions. His 30+ year career in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Business Development has given him a unique perspective of what customers want and expect when interacting with a brand.

Read more from Patrick Sandefur by clicking on recent posts below.


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