I stumbled out of the hotel at 6:00 am to find hundreds of other runners with bibs on. We stood around in the chilly pre-dawn air waiting to start our event. As my watch neared 6:30 we surged ahead toward the starting line. Any runner certainly knows the drill, and it’s always a challenge to coax one’s body into a hard running effort this early in the morning. I’m talking of course about this year’s Running USA Conference in San Antonio.
Each day started with a group run that seemingly EVERYONE participated in: Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray, New York Road Runners Chief Executive Mary Wittenberg, Runner’s World legend Bart Yasso, and the list goes on. Hundreds of race directors, vendors, magazine editors, and other folks affiliated with our sport. They were all out there each morning putting in their miles. And socializing. It was like a business lunch taking place at a 7:30 pace! What better way to talk running business than while you’re on a run? But the key takeaway for me was that almost everyone in the sport of running is there for a reason: they LOVE the sport. And that’s really powerful when you think about it. How many other sports, or businesses, can boast a passion quotient like that?
Here are some highlights from the conference:
• Hearing Bart Yasso tell one great story after another about his far-flung running adventures. As the Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, his job is to travel to events and spread the gospel of running. I know, I know–he has arguably the greatest job in the world. He told me that he spent exactly three weekends at home last year, and that his wife travels with him to some of the warm and sunny events.
• During the awards ceremony, Greg McMillan’s elite running team was presented with a $25,000 grant from Running USA. For a program like his, that is a game changer. Greg and his runners took to the stage to accept the award, and some of them broke down in tears of gratitude. The entire room of 500 people lost composure at that point, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was a powerful moment. I resolved to root for his kids whenever they’re racing. They all got up for the early run the next morning and ran along with us, which was a lot of fun.
• I got my first look at our 2011 Honda LA Marathon Finisher’s Medal, and it looks great! The good folks from Maxwell Medals were there, and they slipped me the goods. I can’t wait to share it with all of you.