Ever “liked” a Chevron Houston Marathon Facebook or Instagram post? Are you on the marathon newsletter e-mail list? If so, chances are Vicky Oddi was behind it all. I first met Vicky in 2013 when I applied to be part of the Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador Program, a program she introduced to the Houston Marathon. She’s an integral part of the marathon and a runner herself. A Pennsylvania native, Vicky has had some amazing career opportunities that have taken her, literally, around the world. Before calling Houston home, Vicky worked for U.S. Water Polo, U.S.A. Track and Field, NBC Universal, as well as NBC Olympics, which gave her the chance to attend the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. When she’s not busy planning Houston’s biggest single day sporting event, she can be found running around town or in the kitchen cooking (beware, her salmon dishes will make you hungry).
Full Name: Vicky Oddi
Current Occupation: Senior Communications Manager with the Houston Marathon Committee
Educational Background: Coastal Carolina University: Bachelor’s in Business Admin (2003); Temple University: Master’s of Education in Sport and Recreation Admin (2006).
Race PR’s: Half Marathon-1:58:58; 10k-54:25; 5k-26:23
Who/what influenced you to become a runner? How long have you been running? I have been running since the 4th grade, even though you couldn’t travel with the team until 5th grade. A sprinter and field eventer in high school and college, I made the transition to distance running after graduating college. Without the team aspect and practice to force me to work out, I signed up for my first half marathon in an effort to keep me running; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
How many road races have you completed and which ones? Which was the most fun and as well as the most challenging? I’ve run a bunch of random 5k’s and 10k’s, the Steamboat Springs 10k, Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco four times and Washington D.C. once, NYC Half Marathon, Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio, the Indy Mini twice, HMSA Classical 25k (my farthest run ever), Houston Half Marathon three times, Austin Half Marathon twice, Rhythm & Blues Half Marathon three times, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon
Tell us about your most memorable experience during a race? I generally try to tune out during a race, as that’s the easiest way for me to get through it. I do remember passing a Real Housewife (Kelli Bensimmon) while running the NYC Half, not being able to feel my toes for the first seven miles in Dallas because it was so cold, and for sure getting the Tiffany finisher’s necklace from a fireman in a Tuxedo in the Nike Women’s Races. I had a great time at this year’s Conoco Phillips Rodeo Run, pacing a friend to an eight minute PR for her 10k.
What are your future running goals? I would love to break the two hour mark in the half again. It’s so hard for me to train in the summer here in Houston (oh the heat and humidity!), but it’s even harder for me to train from November through January because that’s when the Chevron Houston Marathon’s busy season is. Twice I’ve run the Austin Half Marathon, but it takes place three to four weeks after our race, so I usually don’t start training until it’s over! A few weeks to get into half marathon shape is not ideal – those were two very painful halfs. I would also love to say I want to run a marathon, especially given where I work, but I’m just not sure that’s going to happen. When I think of how I feel crossing the finish line at a half, I just can’t imagine running another 13 miles after that!
You currently work for the Chevron Houston Marathon, tell us what a normal day is like in your office. What are your responsibilities? What is the biggest challenge of your position? In sports, every day is different. But it’s all the same if that makes any sense. I do all the social media for the marathon, so there’s always a Facebook post to create or an Instagram image to come up with. The busy season for me is generally September through January and then to a lesser extent when we open registration. My responsibilities include all publications (think race day program, spectator map), press releases, social media, the ambassador program, the website, newsletter and mobile app. I think the biggest challenge is making us relevant to the media year-round and not just on race week.
How do you make time for running? Are you a morning or evening runner? Solo or partner runner? I am definitely a night runner, although in the summers I wish I was a morning person! I enjoy running alone or with other people depending on what I’m training for. Every Tuesday, I do the Luke’s Locker Social Run – it’s a good way to meet more people in the local running scene. And I’ve run with Runner’s High off and on. Not being from Houston, getting out and doing group runs is an easy way to meet new people.
You were the brains behind the Houston Marathon Ambassador Program, how did you come up with this idea? Why do you think this program is going to be a success? I initially wanted to start the program after seeing what the San Francisco Marathon was able to do with theirs. I love the idea of having runners who are passionate about our race being out there and promoting it within their own community. I think it will be a success because there are so many runners out there who love Houston and love talking about Houston…it’s hard each year to narrow down the applicants and pick just a handful.
Runner’s World recently listed the Chevron Houston Marathon as the number one marathon on the marathon “Bucket List.” Why do you think the Houston Marathon should be the number one choice for runners? The Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon are flat, fast, runner-friendly courses. If you’re going for that all-elusive Boston Qualifier, this is the place to be – we send the most qualifiers to Boston out of any other race. It’s also not often, if ever, that you find a race that has pre and post-race services indoors. Having a space for our runners in the George R. Brown Convention Center before and after the race is a huge plus. And the spectator support we get on race day – about 250,000, is amazing!
What is it like behind the scenes of the Chevron Houston Marathon, the day of the race? How do you celebrate after the race is completed? Race day is a blur. I’m usually up and in my media office at the GRB by 4:00am and out to the start line by 5:00am to help facilitate any TV interviews and make sure my photographers know what the game plan is. Once the gun goes off, I hurry (there’s no need to hurry) over to the finish line. Once the races end and ABC has gotten their live interviews and the rest of the TV stations are taken care of outside, it’s time to head back to the media office to host the press conference with the winners and any other pro runners that have been requested. While all of this is going on, I have a team in place inside and out, to make sure the media get everything they need – stats, splits, etc. I also have someone running all of our social accounts for me – for the past three years it’s been my twin sister! I check in with her periodically to make sure she’s getting everything she needs. Once race day is over for me and I’ve broken down my office and moved everything out of the GRB, I celebrate with dinner (definitely starving by this point) and then go to bed immediately because we have to be at work the next day. This year I went to El Tiempo, had a margarita or two, and was so tired that I left my purse at the restaurant.
When you aren’t running or taking part in organizing the best marathon out there, how do you spend your free time? I love to cook; if you follow me on Instagram you may see my never ending posts of salmon for dinner! It’s so good! I’m also a voracious reader, although I don’t always have time for that. Yoga is one my new hobbies/passions. Yoga One has a studio by my house and I try to go to their hot classes three to four times a week.
What advice would you give a girlfriend who is thinking about running her first marathon or half marathon? Since I’ve never done a marathon, my advice is geared toward the half. Anyone can run a half marathon, all it takes is a little effort. Have fun with it, sign up with a girlfriend, make it a road trip if that’s something that appeals to you. You can tell by the races I’ve run, that I am a fan on “runcations.” But don’t forget to train! And make sure you do at least one 10 mile run! My first half was in San Francisco…I didn’t do any hill work and my longest run was six miles! It was not an easy race. On the flip side, the first time I used a training program and was running three to five days a week, I set my PR.
What is one funny or interesting fact about you? I was a pole vaulter in college!