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  John in the Media  

Volume 28, Number 2: Summer 2000


by Jim Hage

Peachtree City, Ga., May 11-Day one at Camp RRCA started early-7 a.m.-with a trail run. Some 50 early risers logged five up-and-down miles before outgoing President Don Kardong and Executive Director Henley Gabeau made official opening remarks to the approximately 450 attendees.

For many, the morning run actually marked a second foray along the bike paths, trails and (shh!) golf courses of Peachtree City, as New Balance had hosted a kick-off run the prior evening as well. A Meet the Board reception and some well-earned refreshments followed that evening's registration and workout.

But post-run, Thursday morning was all business at the lovely Wyndham Hotel and Conference Center. The opening workshop featured Kim Ottaviani from the Miami Runners Club, who hosted a discussion titled "Running R Us" on children's running. Kim, an elementary school teacher in Miami, discussed the growth of children's running, various and surprising motivations for young runners, at what age and how far children should run, and how adult running is but a grownup version of child's play. The audience was engaged and well-behaved; no timeouts were necessary.

Simultaneously and in the adjoining room, there was a panel on "Running in the 21st Century," covering club and race technology for a room full of running geeks (or is that redundant?). A panel of experts, including Hal Higdon from Runner's World, addressed a wide range of topics concerning the Internet, club web sites and how to maximize the benefits they provide.

Tim Scott, Senior Vice President at Active.com (formerly RaceGate.com) suggested that running in the future is not as much about technology as it is about innovation and change. "There's lots of neat stuff out there, such as video technology featuring web cams, that have more of a 'Gee, Whiz!' than practical appeal," Scott said. "Our job is to maximize existing technology such as online registration, credit card security and web site utilization."


Don Kardong hosted perhaps the most entertaining and intriguing panel of the weekend, the "All-Star Panel" featuring four Olympians: Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist; Jeff Galloway, 1972 Olympian at 10,000 meters; Ralph Boston, three-time Olympic long jump medalist, now a Peachtree City resident; and himself. (Lest we forget, our Donnie finished fourth in the 1976 Olympic Marathon in Montreal.)

Kardong recounted how, ever since running 4 minutes 30 seconds for the mile in high school, he had been dogged by the question: Are you going to try out for the Olympics? Kardong realized better than his inquisitors that making an Olympic team entailed years of hard work, and he never took the question seriously until he continued to improve after college. A bout of mononucleosis derailed Kardong's chance for making the 1972 team, but he learned from running far back in the pack with eventual fourth place finisher Galloway that the marathon is often a race of attrition.

"After that, I used the Galloway method-the old Galloway method, that is-of coming from behind. I didn't walk," he chided his fellow panelist. Utilizing what he termed an "incremental approach to training," Kardong eventually returned to top form. Although he was not a favorite to make the team in '76, much less nearly earn a medal in the games, his strategy served him well.

Kardong then introduced Shorter as "the only man to twice have an impostor finish the Olympic marathon ahead of him," referring to the famous fraud who entered the stadium in Munich as well as the 1976 gold medalist from East Germany, Waldemar Cierpinski, who is suspected of having used performance-enhancing drugs.

Shorter described his work as a member of International Olympic Committee's drug enforcement team, and how, while out for a lunchtime jog along Lake Geneva during a meeting in Lausanne, he was elected chairman of a task force. Shorter took a swipe at U.S. marathoners, all of whom failed to meet the Olympic qualifying time under difficult conditions during the recent trials. "If you can't break 2:33 [for women] or 2:14 [for men] then you don't deserve to go," he said. "The standards are there for a reason."

Galloway recounted his days as a serious runner, and when he first decided he would try to make the Olympic team. He won the inaugural Peachtree Roadrace in 1970-beating 115 other runners-and a reporter asked: What next? "Without ever having considered it before, I told him I would like to make the Olympic team." And thus a seed was planted.

But the Olympian who offered the freshest perspective on competition was not a distance runner at all, but Ralph Boston, who won gold, silver and bronze medals in the long jump in 1960, '64 and '68, respectively: "I knew enough to get out after that," Boston quipped.


Bart Yasso regaled members with tales and slides from his running adventures around the world, notably in Antarctica on a trip sponsored by Boston-based Tom Gilligan and Marathon Tours. Yasso's tales of long days and nights aboard a rocking ship from Patagonia likely chilled the fervor of many would-be marathoners to the seventh continent; then again, his sense of adventure probably fired the imagination of just as many more.

In the first afternoon session, the woman who would be president, Freddi Carlip, a.k.a. Miss Road Manners, discussed proper race etiquette-or the lack thereof-demonstrated by many new runners. Her Eminence presided over a loosely styled debate between John "The Penguin" Bingham, and this writer, Jim "The Pundit" Hage. Feathers flew, or they would have, had not the discriminating and always correct Miss R. M. orchestrated in her inimitable fashion.

The Penguin preached the gospel of inclusiveness, and made a case for those who can't run: They should walk, he said. The Pundit argued for standards in racing, marathons and life generally. It is doubtful few opinions were changed, but hopefully panelists at least felt better for getting that stuff off their chests.

A forum hosted by Gabeau, Kardong and Peter Casals covered some of the topical issues facing the national office, including insurance and liability, as well as the pros and cons of last fall's highly visible third annual "RRCA National Run to Work Day," launched in 1997 by Kardong.

Workshops on stretching and massage, hosted by Brooks Coville, and club promotions, hosted by Jim Stasaitis (he of Utica, N.Y., and the haircuts) ran concurrently. Ellie Norwitch and Jim Hite assisted Stasaitis.
A short "Guess the Distance Run" followed the day's extensive mental efforts. Members of the Peachtree City Running Club, ubiquitous and helpful all weekend as the meeting's hosts, marked the course and provided water stops.

An outdoor Bar-B-Q-poolside, thank you-followed. Diners were serenaded throughout by the mellifluous plainsong of auctioneers Phil Stewart and Jeff Darman, who raised beaucoup bucks for worthy RRCA causes, including the Roads Scholar Program, during the Running Times Auction.


Again, New Balance hosted a 7:00 a.m. trail run; reports are that it was well-attended. After breakfast and a general session, conventioneers broke into workshops. "Dollars & Sensibility," hosted by RRCA Secretary/Treasurer Jeff Hollister, cut to the heart of many of the difficult legal and financial issues that running clubs face. RRCA Deputy Executive Director and general all-around stalwart Anna Berdahl continued her farewell tour, and deftly answered questions regarding insurance and tax exemption status. After a coffee break, sponsored with southern hospitality throughout the convention by the Atlanta Track Club, attendees sharpened their pencils and returned for a second hour.

Meantime, self-described "old-time runner" John Boyle moderated "Over the Hill, Miles to Go," on masters and seniors running. Western Regional Director Po Adams and USATF masters long distance running chair Jerry Crockett ably assisted.

John Farrow, twice named Western Region club writer of the year, hosted a workshop on newsletter writing and editing. Dave O'Brian, editor of the Badger RRCA newsletter in Wisconsin, provided expertise on soliciting and placing ads. Freddi Carlip added insight on how editing a regional publication, Runner's Gazette in Pennsylvania, can be a springboard to national club prominence.

Mike Cook, who has worked for Nike and Reebok, discussed what corporations look for in leading a discussion on finding and keeping sponsors. For savvy investors and definitely off the record, Mike also provided insider trading tips. Gail Johnson from the Rome (not Italy, but Georgia) Runners Club and Marlene Atwood, who has handled sponsorship for the Chattahoochee Road Runners, assisted.

Runner's World sponsored every runner's second favorite activity-lunch, during which RRCA state representatives were recognized and some business actually completed. State reps had attended an orientation session earlier in the morning, where they had been coached to stand and thank Runner's World at the lunch meeting; they executed their lessons admirably.

In addition to enjoying informative workshops, fine convention facilities and lovely weather and training conditions in Peachtree City, convention attendees relished most the camaraderie of their fellow club members, many of whom began the weekend as casual acquaintances or even strangers and ended as good friends. The workshops and discussions sparked myriad new ideas that were kicked around over dinner, during runs and throughout the following weeks. That synergy is the legacy of the 43rd National RRCA Convention; and the goal of the 44th next year in Albuquerque.

Jim Hage is a nationally ranked masters runner. He finished eighth in the 1992 Olympic trials marathon.

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