There’s a very important volunteer position that requires an encouraging attitude, a fun-loving personality, and most importantly, a planned and methodical approach to helping a group of runners reach the finish line. These “pacers” contribute directly to the runners’ successes – and they certainly have many great stories to tell from their side of the brightly colored pace flag they wave.
Mandi Wilke is a pacer. Yes, we’re referring to the aforementioned position, but she’s also quite the pacer in her N2 business as well. She’s goal-oriented, always makes time for fun, and brings along those who are drawn to her drive. These standout traits shouldn’t surprise anyone who already has the pleasure of knowing her. We spoke for the first time as I was interviewing her for this feature – at 7:00am, as she jumped into a friend’s car on the way to her next race – and, despite it being a tad early and her being a bit busy, Mandi gladly made time for me. As she succinctly put it, “It’s not always about being ‘up,’ but being organized, right?”
There are not only many parallels between Mandi’s work with N2 and her pacing responsibilities – one of which being the necessity of a fine-tuned schedule – but she also has her work to thank for this newfound passion.
“I didn’t even know what this was a year ago,” Mandi confessed. “[Last] summer I paced with OnPace Race, a pace team owned by a husband-and-wife couple who are residents in my Ledgeview Living neighborhood. I wrote a feature story on their company a year ago. I was quickly convinced to try pacing, and after one time I was hooked. I’ve been a part of their team ever since and now we are like family!”
Mandi paces with OnPace Race, owned by a couple who are residents in her neighborhood.
With multiple paced races now under her belt, one would think she’s done this for years. She’s paced six half-marathons in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, and Massachusetts – all in 2019. With 2020 just a few months in, Mandi has already paced in Bermuda, begun helping with social media coverage, and is set to help at races in eight states so far. She is typically assigned anywhere between 2 hours, 45 minutes up to 3 hours,15 minutes for her pace time – affectionately called the “party pace.”
“They roped me in and now I’m stuck with them,” Mandi slyly said in the car, within earshot of the OnPace Race owner on their road trip to Bismarck. “The object is to all run slower than we can to help others run faster than they thought they could.”
Unexpectedly fired from her job two years ago, not to mention in complete shock and resumé-less ( never having needed one before), Mandi knew what she needed to do next: File for unemployment. At the time, she was also going through a divorce, and her main concern was supporting her three kids. After filling out the necessary online application, some job opportunities popped up on the screen – potential matches based on the interests she had listed. One of them was N2.
“I didn’t know what N2 was – I had zero understanding. I just clicked and applied because I had to,” Mandi said.
Later that night, a good friend shot her a text saying he had an opportunity she might be perfect for. He sent a screenshot of an N2 Publishing listing. This coincidence jump-started a deep dive into this mystery company.
Mandi went to training with N2 in May of 2018. Ramp-up was filled with difficulties, and making sales was only part of it. In June, her divorce was finalized. In August, she bought a home and resettled there with her kids. By September, she remembers calling Wendy Franke, her Launch Director, and telling her she’d never make it through. Thankfully, Wendy told Mandi in so many words, “Quit being desperate and do what you do.”
Not bad advice. After all, what did she have to lose?
“I didn’t have a second choice,” Mandi said. “When you don’t give yourself an out – I didn’t have a second income or a backup plan for failure – if you have more of a cushion, you don’t have the same drive or desire.”
And with her 198th meeting, Mandi made enough sales to go to print in October 2018.
ABOVE THE RADAR
Because the previous summer was so difficult for both her and the kids, Mandi was determined to make the summer of 2019 different and intentional. She decided on a couple of business goals and hit them both by August. In her view, it was a good example for her kids to see how to dedicate themselves to a goal. The life lessons didn’t end there: She showed that when you achieve your goals, instead of striving and striving, it’s okay to stop and celebrate that win.
Mandi with fellow ADs at National Conference.
What motivates Mandi? Just like with pacing, she doesn’t want to fly under the radar in anything she does. She wants to be noticed. She speaks at N2 Conferences and spends most of her time meeting and surrounding herself with people who are where she wants to be. And she’s keeping pace all the while.