Ashley Kelly won the Big 10 Conference Indoor 400m title in 2011 and also won All America Honors in the event outdoors that same year. PHOTO: Dean "The Sportsman" Greenaway
When Kenyans Dickson Chumba and Florence Kiplagat were sweeping to Chicago Marathon victories on Sunday, British Virgin Islands sprinter Ashley Kelly was right there watching them zipping by just before the halfway point in the 26.2 miles race.
Kelly, a 400m All American sprinter for Illinois, was glad to return home for a brief stint after moving to New York, where she's doing a community and marketing internship with Radagen Sports Marketing company.
Kelly said she got the connection via a combination of being in class, volunteering with different guest lecturers for different things, networking and applying for an internship. While she wasn't able to fulfill that aspect of the internship, she was speaking with someone affiliated with the New York Marathon and said they were sending a small group to Chicago and that's how she got in.
"I was volunteering for the upcoming New York Marathon and then I got picked to shadow in the Chicago Marathon, to kind of piggy back on what they were doing and bring it back to the New York Marathon," she explained. "I was glad I got to go. I haven't been in Chicago in the two years since I moved. The people were really nice and it was hectic the first day, as I worked the help expo on Friday and Saturday and the planning stages getting everything organized. There were lots of people who thought they were head of things, too many leaders, but shortly after, everything began flowing. But it was a cool experience."
Kelly said she learnt how to handle different personalities, crowds and the behind the scenes aspects of events. She said she's glad she didn't have to work the main event because that meant getting up at 4:30 a.m., working the whole day and cleaning up after the event.
"At the help expo, I was at the athletes packet pick up and helped with the T-shirts and also worked with all the signage that was being set up," she said. "I will be in the same capacity in the New York Marathon, helping plan in the beginning stages, not working the event, so I keep getting out of the grit work. I'm just in the planning and helping people market different things and coordinating with the different sponsors."
During the race she was at the 12 mile mark and saw the runners zipping by. "That's the point where people were getting over the hump and you look at their faces and it looked just dreadful and I was like 'what got you into this,'" she said. "I saw the Kenyans go by with was intense because they were running miles faster that I've ever run one mile, they are going through miles in 4:40, I don't know how they do it."
Her internship with Radagen Sports Marketing, where they handle off the field events and branding, not contract negotiating, includes such clients as Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz, New York Rangers' Ryan McDonaugh, New York Jets' Muhammed Wilkerson and several hockey players. "The experience is good so far as I've been working with the committee events related to the foundation the athletes we represent are connected with, as well as sponsorship and soliciting business planners," she explained. "I have been working on sponsorship for David Ortiz's celebrity Golf event in December in the Dominican Republic."
As an athlete, being exposed to this side of things Kelly said its lot of grit work. She aid as competitors, they only see the end result but don't know how things get in place. "There's a lot of work involved in getting through those stages," she noted. "I'm learning a lot about the athlete side, marketing and branding, I'm learning athletes can be very difficult to work with. I guess because it's a sense of entitlement, but it can be irritating at some points. So I'm trying to see what I don't like in the field, this is helping me see that part and what I'm good at. I'm good at coordinating sponsors and community outreach events."