Meet Desiree Peterkin Bell, the Woman Changing the Face of Marathon Race Directors

Meet Desiree Peterkin Bell: The Woman Changing the Face of Marathon Race Directors

(Image: Desiree Peterkin Bell)
(Image: Desiree Peterkin Bell)

How many runners and volunteers does the event attract?
We anticipate more than 30,000 runners across our three races (full marathon, half marathon, and Rothman 8K). We have an average of 3,000 volunteers each year.

What sets the GORE-TEX® Philadelphia marathon from others?
Our races are not just about the athletics. We work with local restaurants to create our Choose Your Course program, where runners can go to a variety of places and enjoy a special prix fixe (fixed price) menu to carbo-load before the big day. We set up more than 20 Cheer Zones throughout the course for members of the public to join in the Race Weekend excitement and cheer on all of our participants. We even have Mayor Nutter out at the start/finish line giving high-fives to all the participants as they begin and end their race.

What can participants expect for 2015?
We’re excited to welcome two new partners to Race Weekend 2015: Comcast, the title sponsor of our Health & Fitness Expo, who will bring their own special features to the free, two-day Expo and CarbBoom! Energy Gels, our second partner, serves as the official energy gels of the 2015 GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon, providing six flavors along the course–Apple Cinnamon, Banana Peach, Grape Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberry Kiwi, and Vanilla Orange.

We are also in the process of developing a new app that participants and their fans will be able to download and use to enhance their Race Weekend experience.

Can you give us some tips to prepare for a marathon?
Listen to your body and  know your limits and your strengths. And drink water.

You’ve worked with several high-profile officials in government. What’s the one piece of career advice you’d give to a young woman who wants to follow in your footsteps?
It is important to be driven by purpose and not position. I have been humbled and blessed to be at the table where many important decisions have been made that impact many people, and often called on for my counsel and advice. But I also recognize that I drink deeply from wells I did not dig and many women, specifically many women of color, have paved the way for me to sit at the table. Always remember where you come from and what drives you.

For many people, serving in a dual capacity can be challenging. Which transferable skills have helped you succeed?
Branding, communication, and strategy are the key skills that I use for both roles. My tenacity is another quality. I learned early on as I competed in track and field, that I couldn’t ever give up, no matter what. Again, knowing how many women have come before me, I don’t have the luxury of not getting up after I fall and continuing to persevere.

Describe your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
Self doubt. We all are human. There will be a time when we doubt our own ability despite the accolades and positive comments from others. What’s important is to believe in yourself and believe you have already attained it: conceive it, believe it, achieve it.