High on the Hog: RRCA National Conference and Flying Pig Marathon

by Chris Vanoni, RRCA Colorado State Representative

As a group, runners are terrific company!  As the RRCA Colorado State representative, I was privileged to represent the Colorado clubs at the 50th Road Runner Clubs of America annual national conference in Cincinnati April 30th through May 4th.  Just rubbing shoulders with so many energetic folks dedicated to the sport was inspiring.  It was an eventful and stimulating gathering.

The news was good at the annual business meeting.  The financial performance is solid.  The organization has a net worth of over $500,000, up from a $300,000 deficit in 2002.  Membership is at an all-time high with 863 clubs and events in 2007.  A new slate of officers was elected for 2008.  The new president is Brent Ayer, vice president, David Cotter, treasurer, Dennis Novak, Eastern Region Director, Mark Grandonico,  and Central Region Director, Mitchell Garner.  All of these folks have incredibly impressive resumes.  I’m confident that they will continue to move the organization in the current direction, in the best interest of the member clubs.  At this meeting numerous bylaws were revised.  (Note: One bylaw that is on the slate for 2009 has to do with elimination of proxy voting in favor of an on-line voting system.  If it passes, 2009 will be the last year I have to bug clubs for proxies!!) 

Numerous national awards were presented including two journalism awards to Colorado clubs.  Jeff Recker of Mesa Monument Striders in Grand Junction received the Club Writer award and Jim Kelleher, editor of “The Long Run” in Colorado Springs was given the Large Club Newsletter award.  Congratulations!!

At the workshops and meetings there were numerous opportunities to share ideas and hear how other clubs are handling problems we all share.  Colorado clubs are increasingly having problems getting permits in city and state venues.  There is hope that RRCA, as a large national organization can lobby on behalf of all the clubs to solve some of the problems.  To increase our “clout”, clubs are encouraged to post their races on the RRCA website (www.rrca.org).  Insurance issues were discussed at one of the general sessions.  We were reminded that RRCA club insurance covers only those events managed by the club.  The headphone issue was also discussed.  The RRCA website has a “No headphones” logo that can be used on race applications and other literature.  USATF is looking at revising its stand on headphones.  Headphones will still be prohibited for elite athletes competing for records or cash prizes.  Others will be allowed to have an “ear bud” in only one ear.  Hopefully, this will eliminate the problem with marathoners being pulled off the course.  In the meantime, RRCA discourages headphones at races. 

There were also workshops on timing systems, course measurement and certification, club management, working with the media, working with government and community leaders, trail running (led by Colorado’s very own Nancy Hobbs), developing training programs, managing finances, US ADA keeping the sport clean, and youth running programs.  Coaching certification classes were also held. 

Lest you think that the conference was all work, I should tell you that we had plenty of time to socialize and run.  There were daily morning and evening runs, and a hash run.  There was a reception at Fountain Square and silent and live auctions.  We were also regaled with hilarious running stories by Bart Yasso and past RRCA presidents.  We had plenty of shopping opportunities at the convention expo.  We even managed to get in time for the Cincinnati “experience”—doing the riverwalk along the Ohio River, eating Cincinnati chili at Skyline, eating ribs at Montgomery Inn, and snacking on Graeter’s ice cream.  (A lot of eating going on here.   Hmm…)

The conference was held in conjunction with the 10th running of the Flying Pig Marathon.  The race starts with a bang-literally.  There are fireworks over the bridge to signal the start of the runs.  A total 16,406 runners participated in the marathon and half.  The Cincinnati folks do a great job—the course is hilly but provides some wonderful views.  It’s definitely the best supported race I’ve ever participated in.  There are water/Gatorade stops, porta-pots and bands every mile.  And the crowds are wonderful–I felt like an elite runner with cheering along most of the route.

All said, RRCA annual conferences are a terrific experience and provide a lot of useful information for the member clubs.  I would recommend that all Colorado clubs try to budget to send a representative to next year’s conference to be held in San Francisco.  I promise they’ll come back inspired and energized.  The bay area clubs are working hard to put on a memorable event.  You can run with Frank Shorter, listen to Bart Yasso, and do numerous runs along the scenic waterfront.  You can also run the Presido 10 in which you can run 10 miles or 10 K out and back on the Golden Gate Bridge with beer and margaritas at the finish.  If that doesn’t convince you to come, check out the website www.pamakids.org where they have travel information and lists of activities and sights in the area.  The convention organizers have managed to get good hotel rates along the wharf—consider bringing the whole family.