By Trisha Anas
Special to The Malibu Times
Wearing a pair of her best running shoes, Erica Segel has spearheaded the Malibu Run Series for nearly seven years. Not only will she be lacing up for the upcoming Malibu Half Marathon in November, she’ll be prepping for her new position as chair of the Women’s Leadership Committee of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce.
“I know I have to step in and fill big shoes,” Segel said. “It’s like being part of this process where a group of powerful women are coming together and determining how we can bring about change and make an impact for each member and the community.”
With hosting events that center around bringing the Malibu community together, the Chamber of Commerce provides networking opportunities to local companies and businesses through programs that help create a strong local economy.
Segel, born and raised in Italy, moved to Malibu in 2011 after receiving her master’s degree in management engineering.
“I came to the United States with a job I landed right out of college and I worked in Malibu as an executive assistant for a philanthropist that was based in Malibu,” Segel said. “For five years, I was on this high-speed train non-stop. At the same time, I was starting to spend time in Malibu and learn about this community.”
In the process, Segel was reeled into the Malibu Run Series which was started by her ex-husband.
“I was transitioning out of my job and had a background in management engineering, so [he] said why don’t you give it a try?” Segel said. “In reality, I was no runner. But I said that I would give it a shot. The first year, I was very late in the game, but I observed a lot and I was blown away by the experience I had just witnessing people running. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything more magical.”
Chamber President and Chairman Chris Wizner said that they are very lucky to have Segel, who has been leading the Malibu Half Marathon event for nearly seven years.
“She’s the perfect example of an incredible local Malibu woman leader,” Wizner wrote in an email. “She’s friendly, humble, resilient, highly intelligent and has a beautiful heart. We’re so excited to see how she leads the way with our local community and inspires more women to get involved, lead and make a powerful difference.”
Segel said she’s been a part of the Chamber for a few years, but recently felt compelled to be more involved.
“Chris [Wizner] was telling me about the importance of committees, so when the Women’s Leadership Committee was introduced to me as an idea, I felt like it was definitely relevant. I wanted to be a part of it and at the same time, I thought it could be an incredible opportunity for growth.”
Segel said that training for a half marathon and running can be used as life lessons.
“Running is like a life metaphor,” Segel said. “It’s about having a goal, working toward that and really surprising yourself about how much you can achieve.”
Segel said that she worked hard to advocate for the vision she had for the event, which meant trying to keep the race within city limits and keep it local.
In an interview with Voyage LA, Segel said she had to work hard to bring the event back to Zuma Beach since the previous managers of the Malibu Run Series had parted ways with the city’s administration.
“What I really want is for the Malibu community to first feel like this is their event,” Segel said. “A community is only a community when we have opportunities to come together. That’s why in general, the community events are important because otherwise, you’re just isolated.”
“I really wanted this event to be community focused, to put the Malibu community first and then it was about bringing in people from out of town to enjoy Malibu,” Segel said. “One of the first things I did is that I wanted to partner up with a charity that was relevant to the community.”
Segel spoke passionately about the Boys & Girls Club, an organization that provides voluntary after-school programs to kids.
Through the club, Segel met the club’s chief professional officer, Kasey Earnest, and director of community affairs and outreach, Siugen Constanza.
“They’re amazing women, and what they do for the community is unparalleled,” Segel said. “Like so many, I thought ‘Why does Malibu need a Boys & Girls Club, it’s an affluent community.’ But they were the ones that opened up an entirely new reality to me. I discovered that the Boys & Girls Club provided so many essential services.”
Segel partnered up with the club and chose it as the charity beneficiary. To date, Segel said Malibu Run has donated over $100,000 to the organization.
The club provided an opportunity for her to work with Earnest and Constanza.
“I really do need to thank people like Kasey and Siugen because they believed in me, you know,” Segel said. “They saw something and gave me a hand in trying to go where I wanted to go.”
Segel said her new position as chair will help her connect with the community and help continue its efforts to make Malibu a place for everyone.
“As a chair, it’s about listening and trying to understand what the needs are for the people,” Segel said. “There’s not a more inclusive and positive community to be a part of [than Malibu.]”