Managing Director of ReesLeisure
Fresh from the return of Southampton Sailing Week, which featured a team of members from the Old Bond Store, Chris Rees is on track to get sporting events back up and running in the city.
At a time when togetherness is needed more than ever, ReesLeisure is uniting communities, companies and people across Southampton through its events, and by teaching children the life skill of swimming through its Wessex Swim School.
Chris’ motivation is influential and inclusive – qualities which have enabled him to create such a celebrated compilation of sporting opportunities for Southampton.Connect on LinkedIn
It’s great to hear things are getting moving again. What events have you got coming up?
We've got two big events coming up; the Southampton Sporterium, a cycling event with 3000 cyclists; and the ABP Southampton Marathon with 10,000 runners taking part in September.
We’ve made some changes to make sure people are happier and healthier outdoors, we’re doing a big campaign showing it’s safe to take part in outdoor sports, and to get involved.
We've evolved and adapted, and we're trying to make sure we get the city moving again, both literally and figuratively by getting people on their bikes, on the water, or getting their running shoes back on.
I think this September will be particularly special when people all come together again for the first time outdoors – it’s going to be an emotional weekend.
When coming up with a new event idea, what are your processes in making it come to fruition?
I tell people it's going to happen, and we manifest in it to bring it together. We spend a lot of time meeting and talking to everyone in the city. Our team grows to 800 people for the marathon weekend - we've got marshals, traffic wardens, security and the ABP mile makers made up from 43 different community groups around the city.
It's an awesome and fun job but it takes a lot of planning. We've just come back from St Mary’s; we’re lucky enough to run through the stadium each year. We try to make each event as exciting as possible and include as many partners as possible, to create a great day for the city and for the community.
Have you had moments which have personified your ethos of inclusivity in sport?
Over the years we've had lots of different questions from people about what is possible, and wherever it is safe to do so we will try and encourage everyone to take part.
We've tried to make sure we include as many people from around the city; we work with numerous charities and partners and we've got some of the biggest employers in Southampton taking part.
It's not just about one day - it's that legacy of keeping people motivated, and continuing to support them so they can continue to reach their goals.
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"“It's not just about one day - it's that legacy of keeping people motivated, and continuing to support them so they can continue to reach their goals.”"
What are your aspirations for the future?
We want to take the marathon to a national level to get people from all over the country taking part. We’ve got the cycling event which is brand new this year so we want to see that grow; we’re already a national cycling event supported by British Cycling. Ultimately, we just want to get more people in the city fit, healthy and active.
How do you look after your own health and well-being?
I enjoy running and cycling around the area, I try to test out our routes to make sure there’s no changes, that’s always a good day out cycling. I love being on and in the water too, swimming, diving, and often kayaking up and down the River Itchen.
"“We've evolved and adapted, and we're trying to make sure we get the city moving again, both literally and figuratively.”"
Who is your sporting hero?
The non-sporty people are my heroes, who take on a challenge like the marathon. I’m in the lead car at the event, and I then go to the finish line to cheer everybody on. It’s those people who you can see as they cross the finish line have put their heart and soul into something, and trained for months to get to this stage, then they reach the last mile and get cheered on by their community and people around the city.
What do you love the most about what you do?
Working in events, you have a magic moment when you bring people together for one day or for one particular time period. It’s incredible to think of all the hard work you do throughout the year, and you have this moment on event day where you realise that we managed to create all this and build this all together.
Having those shared moments of celebration around the city, where everyone has their own perspective and stories from the day is special. I just love hearing everybody’s stories about what they’ve done, how the event was for them or who they’ve done it for.
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