Friday, May 29, 2009

Race Politics

You might know that I am president of my running club. I have been on the job for four weeks now and I am exhausted.

Last night I attended a 2-hour meeting with our ten-mile training group committee. And fielded a call at 10 p.m. from a director informing me that the scheduled club race next week doesn't have a race director yet, so no work has been done on it like getting any permits or volunteers. That will be today's fire-dousing.

Wednesday night I attended a 90-minute meeting with a local race director and our training program director. And spent an hour composing a letter I sent to another club president decrying his club's arbitrary large increase in racing fees which some of our club members have complained about.

Tuesday night I attended a two-hour meeting of our club's 20-mile race committee. And spoke for 30 minutes with a club director about a club member's request for expenses in attending a race championship event in another state.

In this conversation I found myself explaining why I had used red headings to embolden the important points in a president's message I had posted on our website, which in itself took me 45 minutes to compose. Some computer savvy persons in the club, whom I am finding to be hyper critical and very intolerant of (older) persons who are not facile with technology, were lighting up their email chains with how stupid they thought this looked. I think the more polite comments went something like, Is he gonna use pink bolding the next time? The "problem" was resolved by some unknown computer savvy person just going in and removing the colored font when I didn't act upon their stinging criticism. What are you gonna do?

Sunday and Monday, aside from some light email checking and replies, I had two days off from club business.

Saturday I met with a couple of club VPs after the Saturday Long Run for a 90 minute strategy session. And so it goes. (Right: Having SmartBiked to a running store in the District early one morning last week for a scheduled meeting involving club business, I waited with club official Sasha (on the right) for a locally prominent businessman to arrive. Frequent meetings have taken up a lot of my time since I became club president on May 1st.)

Wednesday of last week I ran in the monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K Race, normally an event I enjoy doing. You know, the race I have run practically every month since May, 2001, the monthly race that has been run unabated since the early 70s.

There was nothing much different in my effort, 13:43 (7:22), nor the outcome, bottom 30%, except that a woman beat me who had never beaten me before. For the first time, I rode the 2.5 miles to the race's starting point from my workplace on a SmartBike, saving lots of transit time.

The race has been directed for the past decade by a friend of mine who is a club member very active in running affairs. This fellow is prominent within my club, and many people have an opinion about him. Issues relating at least tangentially to him have consumed a significant portion of my time as club president. I think it's true that a club official can spend 90% of his time dealing with issues impacting 10% of the persons in the club.

At the interminably long and fractious board meeting I "ran" in the very first week of my tenure (what an eye-opener and learning experience that was!), the Board voted to terminate the club's long-standing sponsorship of this very old and venerable race, for some very good reasons that I won't get into here. It fell upon me to inform the race director, my friend, of this. He took it well and came up with several creative approaches to keep the race going in it's current form. It chilled our friendship though.

The race director held a pow-wow with the assembled runners minutes before the race to discuss the recent events and possible solutions. I found myself speaking in an impromptu manner to a group of angry 3K racers when the race director thrust a microphone into my hand and said I'd explain the club's position. For a couple of minutes I got to practice the art of political speaking as I understand it, Speak but say absolutely nothing.

I think I did that part okay, because I haven't heard any attributions or lingering recriminations about the club's action since then. This being president is not as much fun as you might think.


NC Kate said...

Good thing you have a passion for running! ;) Hang in there, and know that the other 90% of the club appreciates your hard work!

Susan said...

Goodness gracious! Sounds like you got a part-time job that doesn't pay NEARLY enough.

I am sure that the masses appreciate you very much. The pesky few can jump in the river!

Just_because_today said...

I know exactly what you mean. I was president of my club for 2 yrs. 2 yrs I spent bringing it back up and rebuilding and cleaning the damage of previous board members only to find now, 2 years since my term ended that it is back at where it was!.
Interesting that doing your job chilled your friendship with a RD.
And yeah,, I know all about speaking and not saying much. I'm not so good at it.

Dori said...

Yikes! I hope things even out. It sounds like a thankless job.

Sunshine said...

Seems like you got elected to a high position of administration, due to your love of running and encouraging runners.
Good luck choosing your battles, and eventually getting back to less listening/talking and more running.

Petraruns said...

Having to make necessary but unpleasant decisions is very uncomfortable in any area of life. Being the bad guy is no fun. Sounds like you're handling it with a great deal of skill and diplomacy though - they're lucky to have you.

jeanne said...

you and your crazy red text! man, those folks need to get a life. at least you're posting something!

so you did your first brick workout! bike, run. awesome.

too bad about the club terminating the sponsorship of tidal basin. i think being president has got to be one tough job. good work.

Rainmaker said...

Wow, that's a bummer to hear about the 3K sponsorship changes, I didn't realize that. Hang in there though, I know you're doing good work!