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Leadership Spotlight: John Kane, CEO & Founder of Race 13.1

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the fastest growing online fundraising strategy being deployed by charities today. Charities are using events such as 5k races, half marathons, marathons, and endurance races to engage their supporters and raise money. But how do charities go about setting up peer-to-peer fundraising events, specifically racing events?

We interviewed John Kane, Founder and CEO of Race 13.1, to learn why he started Race 13.1, how his business works with charities, and some of the ups and downs along the way.

To start, tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Raleigh, NC and graduated from NC State, where I started at fullback on the football team. Prior to starting Race 13.1, I built a chain of frozen yogurt stores that ended up being quite the failure, but it was great learning experience.

Why did you start Race 13.1 and what problem were you trying to solve?

After completing an Ironman, a number of half ironman’s, and running the New York Marathon, I was frustrated with how inconvenient it was to participate in big races. The stress of the pre-race logistics and the annoyance of the post-race logistics for most races took away from the joy of competing. I also found the customer service of races to be the worst of any industry I had ever encountered as a consumer. So, I wanted to create a first-class race management company that produced events that provided highly convenient pre- and post-race logistics such as parking by the start and finish area, first-in-class customer service where participants can call in and actually talk to someone who can help - even on race day- or will have a response to their email within an hour or two.

Did you experience any hurdles after your launched Race 13.1, and if so, how did you overcome those hurdles?

Six or seven weeks before the first race I ever produced, there were hundreds of runners signed up, eight or 10 sponsors on board as well as charities, and I realized I had no clue how to actually produce a race. My plan for aid stations was to drop cases of bottled water along the course the night before the race and let runners help themselves! Fortunately, I got connected with a gentleman named Eric Johnson, who still works with us today, and I was able to convince Eric to come on as the Race Director. Without Eric, that race would have been an epic disaster and Race 13.1 would not exist today.

As someone who works with other charities, what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding part of what we do is seeing the expression on people’s face when they cross the finish line. Race weekends are long, sleep-deprived and stressful, but all of that dissipates when we see runners smiling as they cross the finish line.

What’s the most challenging part of your job that in turn makes it so rewarding?

Convincing new cities to partner with us to start a new event is usually an uphill challenge that takes a great deal of time and effort. Once we complete the first race in a new city, it is highly rewarding to be asked back because we delivered on precisely what we promised to – which is something that is of the upmost importance to everyone at Race 13.1.

How does Race 13.1 give back to the community and local charities?

We partner with a different local charity for every race to raise money and awareness for their cause. It’s very rewarding to be able to positively impact so many different charities that reach such a wide array of people. In our experience, our most successful partnerships with charities are with those who are led by people who are very passionate about their cause. When the leader of a charity lacks passion, our partnerships have more often than not fallen short of their expectations and ours.

Skydiving or bungee jumping? Why?

I tried to go bungee jumping in 7th grade. I paid, walked to the top, and then chickened out and walked back down the stairs.

Share one of your most cherished memories while working with Race 13.1, and why it stays with you?

Our races typically have a 3:30 hour time limit because we have to re-open the streets. At our Raleigh-Spring race in 2014, a woman crossed the finish line (we waited to take down the arch until she finished) in just over 4 hours and 30 minutes to complete her first ever half marathon. She was overwhelmed with joy and pride at her accomplishment. I still think about the look of pride and satisfaction on her face today, and it’s what gets me out of bed at 3 a.m. on race day to setup and ensure everything goes well – so that other runners can have that same feeling that she did.

What causes do you deeply care about, and why?

Helping people to get and stay healthy is very important to me. I was very overweight as a kid and remember how bad I felt physically and how bad I felt about myself. When I got serious about living a healthy, active lifestyle, it changed my life in a profound way. I want everyone to experience what it feels like to be healthy and fit because it's one of the greatest feelings there is.

My Church, Holy Trinity Church in Raleigh, NC, is extremely important to me. I was a founding member of over 12 years ago and in the past year we’ve just moved into our own building in downtown Raleigh. I’ve seen our church impact so many people in our city in a profound way and change so many people’s lives, including myself.

Name your favorite sports team and why they are No. 1 on your list?

NC State – it’s my alma matter and I grew up going to games there with my Grandfather, who also played on the football team at NC State.

About Race 13.1

With over 20 races planned across the Southeast and Midwest in 2016, you can count on the same first class experience every time you Race 13.1. We do everything we can to ensure that your experience before, during, and after the race exceeds your expectations. We know that you work hard to get ready for race day, and we work hard to ensure that your hard work is rewarded with an exceptional race experience. Register to Race 13.1, and we promise to go the extra mile for you!

To learn more about Race 13.1, please click here:

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Published on March 14, 2016

by JohnPaul Bennett

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