Here's the speech I gave last night at the DC Road Runners Annual Banquet, when I was selected by the club to be the next DCRRC president.
I stand before you honored and humbled to be following up on the wonderful work of the outgoing President of the club, Ed Grant, and the sterling work of all the past Presidents of the club, and also the strong efforts of the outgoing board. I look forward to working with the new Board to continue this priceless legacy.
My first true association with the DC Road Runners Club was in the summer of 2005. I had been a club member for a few years, doing a little volunteer work at races once or twice a year, and running one or two club races each month, including the club’s monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K, a race which dates back to the 70s. But I had never truly taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by being a member of such an outstanding and renowned running club as the DC Road Runners. I’m not talking about the 10% discount offered to club members at Georgetown Running Company, Fleet Feet or Gotta Run (actually 15% there) and other local running stores, I’m talking about getting to know the people who make up the club.
I had been running since the year 2000 when, overweight, lazy and disgusted, I went out to the curb one morning when I was in my late 40s, sighted in on the end of the block, and ran to it. And walked back. One block! It was a start!
I was so proud of myself that I went to work that day and told all my workmates about my run. I didn’t know New Jersey Ed at the time, because he might have told me a thing or two in his inimitable fashion about the people’s perception of such a paltry beginning, but I did know someone from Long Island at work. Like fellow Board member Ian Clements, I’m from Staten Island so us Staten Islanders have a natural antipathy towards Long Islanders. And vice versa. To them, we’re provincial. To us, they’re stuck up.
This workmate looked me over after my announcement about my running feat and asked if I lived on the world’s longest block.
"No," I said, "it’s a regular block." Already, I didn’t like the way this conversation was going.
"What did you wear for this run?" she inquired.
I said, "I wore my white cotton t-shirt, a pair of hiking shorts, and some old Jimmy Connors tennis sneakers I found in the back of my closest." I didn’t tell her about the droopy white tube socks with the blue band around the top that I dug out of the back of my dresser drawer.
I think I sounded defensive.
She looked me over and said, "You got dressed for that?"
She was my best friend. What she was telling me was–Run More. Keep it up. Improve upon it.
And I did. I ran for 33 days straight, until my knees started hurting and Shawn Fenty up at Fleet Feet just shook his head when I came in there for shoes and said, "Throw away those old leather tennis shoes from the eighties, man!" He sold me a pair of Asics. Which I still wear. Not the same pair, but Asics nonetheless.
By 2005 though, running solitary, I had plateaued. My race times were going up and my motivation was going down. I took advantage of my DC Road Runners membership to revive my running. I joined the 10-Mile Training Group Program that summer.
I’ll never forget that day. That’s where I first met two people who have been honored here tonight, appropriately so, both examples of what makes our running club great. Two dedicated, bustling persons, Susan Hage and Ed Grant.
Susan was the President of the club at the time, and she was at the first meeting of the 10-Mile Group at the Lincoln Memorial on that sweltering July morning She addressed us, the nervous crowd of newbie runners, the wannabe runners, and she challenged us that day to keep coming back in the oppressive heat, Saturday after Saturday, until we met our goals. And many of us assembled there listening to her were inspired to do just that, and become active, different, people as a result.
Ed was also there, as a coach. He too spoke, don’t you know!
Ed spoke about what we were going to do, and how we were going to do it, and when, and how he had been there for an hour already to check on that day’s route, and how he had run around Roosevelt Island beforehand to make sure it wasn’t too muddy.
From this I gathered we were running around Roosevelt Island. ALL the way around Roosevelt Island.
I didn’t even know how to get to Roosevelt Island from the Lincoln! I didn’t think you could get there without a car. Now this man with the booming voice was telling us that not only were we going to run TO Roosevelt Island, and AROUND Roosevelt Island, but we were going to run back from there, too. I thought I was going to throw up.
Susan seemed nice but I was I was afraid of Ed! What would happen to me if I couldn’t keep up? Did Ed have a SAG Wagon waiting in the Roosevelt Island parking lot?
Incidentally, I have searched my memory for this detail and can’t remember exactly, but it’s likely he threatened to report anyone wearing headphones, even then!
Although I’m poking a little fun based upon my first impressions of them, these two wonderful, dedicated leaders were both truly impressive from that very first day. Susan was very supportive of the 10-Mile Training Program, which was new to the club thanks to Kristin Blanchat’s efforts, efforts which earned Kristin well-deserved recognition that year as club volunteer of the year.
By the way, I think I remember Kristin discretely slipping her earplugs out of her ears when Ed was speaking that first day.
Ed was a bulwark in coaching us that summer. He gave us impeccable training advice and ensured our safe, injury-free progression through the weeks of the Program as we built up our base, both on the training runs and at the track workouts. And my own growth, as a runner and as a responsible club member, started right there, thanks to those two, and others I encountered that day like Kristin, and Paul Ryan my coach, and Matt Pyle, another coach of mine.
I got to know Ed and Susan better as the years went by. I worked with Ed when he succeeded Susan as club President, and he entrusted to me the task of directing the 10K and 10 Mile Programs when Kristin gave over those duties in 2007. He came to some of the training runs and offered encouragement and valuable advice.
I worked with Susan in bringing guest speakers in to the Programs to motivate and inspire the novice runners we had. Actually, I worked with Susan in bringing ONE guest speaker to the Programs, as she had an inside track to one of the most famous runners in the area, the first back-to-back winner of the Marine Corps Marathon, local legend Jim Hage. Her husband, by the way.
Jim was so accomplished that I was afraid of him, too. But whenever I emailed Susan to ask if Jim could possibly come some Saturday morning to speak to the assembled runners, she always emailed me right back with, " Oh sure, He’ll be there."
She might have even asked him, although her responses were so quick that it hardly seemed possible she had time to ask him first.
I worked with Susan again at last year’s Turkey Trot race where she taught me a lot about putting on a big race. I worked with Ed last year as a Vice President on the Board and always marveled at how accomplished he was in running the club in a time of tremendous growth and change. Membership now stands at almost 1300 persons, and he has overseen a rapid and ongoing transition to modern race-timing equipment and internet applications.
I also benefited from getting to know at least two past club presidents, Paul Thompson and Bob Platt. Last year I went to the 50th RRCA Convention in Cincinnati where both of them were, Paul as the club representative and Bob as the RRCA representative from Virginia. To the best of my ability, I tried to pick their brains to tap the fount of knowledge they both have about the club. They too are knowledgeable and dedicated proponents of the club.
I learned much from my friends in the club, especially all of the Board members who helped me so much this past year. I am sorry to see some of them leave the board, but I am excited to welcome the newcomers to the Board like Mike Collins, Elizabeth Humphrey, my friend Kevin D’Amanda, and Sasha Sibert, who has always been a reliable and trusted coach in the Programs I direct.
In essence, I stand before you now as the recipient and the bearer of the sum of knowledge of all those past leaders who have gone before me, such as Paul and Bob and Susan and Ed, who have set such a high standard for me to try to maintain or even, God willing and with the help of a dynamic board and my many trusted friends, improve upon. Unlike the recent political process where the prevailing message was Change, I am trying to build upon the good work of those who have gone before and left such a valuable legacy.
I will work towards making the club even better during my tenure, building upon a solid foundation of past good works, and I look forward to your support as we all strive for this together. Thank you for the dedication you have all have shown for the club, and for the trust you have all placed in me.