When Krys Davis planned her first Wicked Wine Run with her husband, Sam, they could have never guessed what it would eventually turn into: a large, nationwide race series that draws in thousands and thousands of participants each year.

We spoke with Davis to get the scoop on her rocket-fast growth, the challenges that came with it and what advice she has for other race directors who want to mirror her success.

Tell us more about the Wicked Wine Run! What can a first-time attendee expect?

Expect to have a lot of fun and see a lot of shenanigans. The Wicked Wine Run is part race, part festival and all party. There is so much to do and see before the race even starts. The 5K and 1K are typically trail runs. If you’re coming to this amazing property, we want our customers to really see the magic of it, and a trail run showcases the beauty of the venue.

Unlike an average 5K race, instead of getting a participant medal, a banana and sending you home, the end of the race is only the beginning. You cross the finish line to someone handing you our special finisher’s award—a wine glass filled with award-winning wine. Then, you party the night away with our post-race concert, contests and games.

Wicked Wine Run

Wicked Wine Run participants enjoying friends and wine after a great race.

Is it true the Wicked Wine Run started as just a one-off event? That’s incredible! What inspired you to create the first race?

Yes, we started as a one-off. Before entering the endurance space, my husband Sam and I had operated a fitness company for nearly 10 years. We were great at helping our fitness clients achieve their weight loss goals, but we also wanted to show them how fun and healthy an active lifestyle was.

We signed them up for local runs—zoo runs, pumpkin runs, etc.—but many found these types of 5K’s boring. We then helped them participate in military-style mud runs. Those were definitely not boring but intimidating. So I asked myself, “What would make everyone excited about a 5K?” Light bulb! Wine Run at a vineyard with a party.

It clearly stuck. You’ve now expanded to 19 states! How did you handle such a massive expansion?

We’ve been able to scale with an awesome team. Some of that team is in-house, like our amazing race directors and event staff that travel the country with us, our office staff that are executing the behind-the-scenes production details and our customer service and social media staff that keep our customers entertained and informed.

The other part of that awesome team includes partners from other companies like ACTIVE, who have been brilliant at keeping our customer data organized and making transactions and registrations seamless, our graphic design company who have taken our branding to the next level and the fantastic vineyards and venues that have become a part of the WWR family.

Were there any bumps along the way? Massive growth like that can be challenging.

We’ve definitely had bumps along the way. But out of obstacles and setbacks come the most valuable learning opportunities. Most recently, our primary source of advertising, Facebook, altered the way companies can advertise on their platform, and it really affected our marketing results and costs.

However, email is not dead! Thank goodness we have great customer databases that we host on the ACTIVE platform. We doubled down on our email campaigns through ACTIVE’s CRM tool. Not only is it easy to create email marketing campaigns, but it’s even easier to measure the success of the campaign.

What part of your job makes a hard day worth it?

Gosh, so much. Producing live outdoor events is not for wimps. It’s tough mentally and physically. My favorite reminders of why we do what we do are the customer testimonies. Every single event, our participants approach me and share their personal story.

Two weeks ago, in Detroit, a woman told me she and her husband had barely survived a motorcycle accident. She walked the 5K—a huge feat for her now—as her husband, who now uses a walker, cheered her on. She told me she wasn’t going to stop living, and even though her and her husband still have dark days, the Wicked Wine Run showed them that there was still so much fun they could have together.

I also love seeing soon-to-be brides celebrating together with their bridal party in sisterhood and friendship. I love to see the teams made up of three generations of family members—daughter, mom and grandma—who say, “I never thought we could all do something like this together.” I love seeing the diversity of our attendees: black, brown, white, mature, young, middle-aged, all body types, all abilities!

Participants starting off the Wicked Wine Run.

What would you say is the top thing that drives your success?

I’m driven by young me. The 9-year-old me that said she was going to impact the world positively. The 13-year-old me that wanted to grow into a woman of strength, success and power. The 16-year-old me that pushed down all her fears about leaving for college and left with the hopes of seeing the world and learning from everyone, everywhere. And finally, the 24-year-old me that became a mother and vowed I would show my daughter—now daughters—that if she wanted anything in life, she could create the opportunity for herself with belief and hard work.

What tips would you give to your fellow race directors reading this?

Set out to serve others first. Do it with love. And if you have the opportunity to attend events with other race directors, do it. It’s a small industry and being able to connect with each other, even if only once a year, provides lots of insight and relief.

What can we expect from the Wicked Wine Run in the future?

We want to continue to grow, and not just wide, but deep, by adding in more magic to our existing events. We also want to diversify under our brand and offer our customers a multitude of experiences to get out and get active.