During a time when many are steering away from crowded gyms and populated events, Frankie Ruiz, Miami native and co-founder of the Miami Marathon, has shown resilience in the face of adversity. His main event – the Life Time Miami Marathon, which was acquired six years ago by Life Time, one of the country’s largest and premier health club operators, was naturally canceled for the coming year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to stay active and promote its first-ever digital rendering, he helped the platform pivot and turned to Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams for every facet of the organization, from employee communication to virtual trainings with his running community. “We couldn’t live without it. It’s what we use all day now,” expressed Ruiz.
As Life Time’s largest events coordinator, Ruiz’s team has had to adapt and adjust operations in a time of tremendous uncertainty. His core team of five sits in offices around the nation from Florida to Arizona, and Microsoft Teams has been essential in maintaining communications and collaboration. “It began with perhaps every couple of weeks, but now we stay connected by meeting every single morning on Teams,” Ruiz stated. Health and safety are top of mind for all organizations during this time, and the use of Microsoft Teams for communications and the ability to share and collaborate on documents, facilitates the flexibility for remote work.
Data from the September 2020 Microsoft Work Trend Index Report shows that people are in significantly more meetings, taking more ad hoc calls and managing more incoming chats than they did before the pandemic. After-hours chats, or chats between 5pm and midnight, have also increased. Ruiz shares that, “work and life have intertwined, we’ve always talked about balance, but now we’re making them all fit together.” The flexibility has allowed team members to take calls from the car, in the parking lot, or even with a child on their lap.
Wellbeing also plays an important role in the work that Ruiz’s team focuses on. In the past, they trained individuals for races and fostered a running community via in-person interaction. During the pandemic people have discovered they still need exercise in spite of changing work environments. Because of this, he anticipates and is preparing for an endurance sports boom. Despite this bright future, he acknowledges there most likely will not be an immediate return to 22,000 person races. Therefore, Ruiz states, “we’re offering virtual training and leading the first timer down the right path, so they don’t go out and run 10 miles on their first day. We want them to participate and to ensure they do it carefully.”
With the use of Microsoft 365, they have created training calendars and guides for #VirtuallyMiamiFamous participants, Miami Marathon’s new virtual edition, allowing them to be as close and present as possible during an individual’s training. “We’re really leaning on technology to aid the wellbeing of our participants. I can’t be in person to coach them but am able to leverage simple tools such as a training calendar created on PowerPoint to assist them,” expressed Ruiz.
The Life Time Miami Marathon is a huge event for Miami, especially the Latino community, which makes up about 80 percent of the running crowd. Ruiz has strived to make his event for Latin America what the New York City Marathon is to Europe and the rest of the world. Through hard work, the Latin American visitor number represents approximately 30 percent.
Ruiz advises to fellow sport organizations or people whose events have been canceled: “start by using technology in a manner that is the most human way possible, knowing that there are different levels of understanding of technology. Be consistent with the communication and understand that seeing people’s faces is critical to maintaining the human side that people crave.”
Ruiz’s ability to pivot and turn to technology has allowed him to make the most of the current situation. His resilience and dedication to his running community has shined through during the pandemic, as he makes strides to maintain human connection and run together from a distance.