Thoughts on fitness, health, good nutrition ... and running.

Welcome to Bald Man Running, a blog launched by Frank Murphy on January 1, 2015.

In March, 2013 I was selected as a contestant for the sixth season of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner. Through this amazing program, I learned about good nutrition, sound exercise and accountability. By October, I would lose over 88 pounds (almost 37% of my original weight)! One of the many things I acquired through FWSW was a love for running. You can retrace my weight loss journey and discover how I became a runner by reading those entries labeled "fwsw" ...

Note: Many of the blog entries on this website predate 1/1/2015. Prior to launching BMR, I had written articles for various projects, and I have imported many of them into this blog (labeled "retro").

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Event Report: 2017 RRCA Convention

Event: RRCA Convention (Road Runners Clubs of America)
Detroit, MI

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 59th Annual RRCA Convention in Detroit, and it was awesome!

In the interest of full disclosure, please know that I have long loved the city of Detroit. I’ve been a hardcore Lions fan since 1980 (run, Billy, run!), and I have lived in Michigan for many years. I would have enjoyed this weekend in Detroit if it were a knitting convention, but when you combine Detroit with running, well … let’s just say that I was excited for this weekend long before I ever left my house.

I went to the convention with Jonathan Gottshalk, a fellow board member of the Fort Wayne Running Club (which is a member club of the RRCA). I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Jon and confirmed my initial impression of him: he is indeed a cool guy.

Our objective was to learn as much as we could and bring that knowledge back to the Fort Wayne Running Club (FWRC). While I can’t tell you what Jonathan learned, I can share my own thoughts and experiences.

We left Thursday afternoon and got to Detroit that evening. There was a short “meet and greet” reception and we got to chat with several vendors. Unfortunately, we registered too late to stay at the convention hotel, so we had to stay at a less-than-posh place about a half mile away. We had to make the back/forth trek several times each day. It was often chilly, but not unbearably so.

The real festivities began Friday morning with a group run at 6:30 am. Over 100 convention attendees ran along the Detroit Riverwalk for a nice four mile out-and-back. Whatever you’ve heard about downtown Detroit is most likely outdated. They’re working hard to revitalize that part of town, and it shows. Detroit is making a strong comeback!

The first Friday session was about insurance. A few years ago it would have been way over my head, but now that I work for an insurance company, I understood almost everything they said. I knew what the meant by “D&O* coverage, aggregate limits, etc. There were several fascinating stories about unusual claims and how to avoid those problems. Surprisingly, volunteers getting hurt account for a large percentage of claims, so we spent a lot of time discussing how to keep them safe. This was an informative session.

Next, I went to a session called “Managing the Complexities of the Detroit Free Press Marathon.” The Race Director discussed how to coordinate with various local entities such as law enforcement, border agents, sponsors, etc. This is the only marathon in the world that features two international border crossings (into Canada over the Ambassador Bridge and back into America through the Windsor Tunnel). You must have a valid passport to register for this race! Organizers have to do a lot of unique work that is not necessary for most events. I was fascinated to see how much work a Race Director has to do. I’ve never seriously entertained the idea of being a Race Director, but this is something I just might consider in the future.

A highlight of the day was not only meeting Barb Bennage (Executive Race Director), but I also got to meet Ed Kozloff. He ran in the first Detroit Marathon in 1963 and has been a race director for hundreds of races since then. Through these races, he has raised over $40 million for charity! It was a real treat to chat with Detroit running royalty. I took a pic with them and shared it to Facebook using the #RRCAconvention hashtag. When I got home, I discovered their social media team found my photo and shared it on the official event FB page. I guess that makes me a minor celebrity!

Sidebar: One neat thing about the city of Detroit … about a hundred years ago there was a cool guy who had been a mayor, governor and then a Supreme Court justice. His name? Frank Murphy. One of the well-known landmarks in Detroit is a courthouse named after him, the Frank Murphy  Hall of Justice (FMHOJ). I am frequently asked by Detroiters if I am related to him. To my knowledge, I am not, but I don’t mind sharing a name with this highly respected person.

I jokingly told Barb (we’re friends now, so I can call her Barb) I was waiting to run the Detroit Marathon until they changed the route to go by the FMHOJ because I wanted a race pic of me in front of that building. She told me this was my lucky year because the starting line was being moved right next to the building. Guess who is now really wanting to run Detroit this year?

Over lunch, the keynote speaker was Doug Kurtis. He holds the record for most marathons completed under 2:20. He qualified to run in the Olympic Marathon Trials from 1980 to 1996, and is still very active in the Detroit running community (directing races, representing the RRCA, etc).  He had a ton of interesting stories about his experiences, and he was as humorous as he was encouraging. I’ll mention Doug again a little later…

My next breakout session was with the Hanson Brothers. You might be thinking of the musical group (“MMMbop!”) or the hockey goons (Slap Shot), but they’re neither. Luke Humphrey, one of their star athletes, was also on hand. They have developed an advanced marathon training method used by many elite runners as part of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. My primary reason for selecting this session was to see if they would be suitable speakers for the FWRC Banquet. They were knowledgeable, warm and engaging. They made an excellent presentation; however, I’m not sure how many of our members would be interested in the Hanson method. That’s not a criticism, but an observation. They are quite candid about the fact that their method is not for everyone.

Friday’s dinner was an informal hangout at the Detroit Historical Museum. It was a cool place I’d never visited; however, I left disappointed. I wanted to find an exhibit stating that “Frank Murphy was a great man” or something to that effect. No Frank Murphy exhibit = No Frank Murphy happy face.

Saturday morning, there was another large group run. This time the route went through the heart of Detroit. We passed numerous landmarks, and it was one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve had in a long time. I got to run a little while with the aforementioned Doug Kurtis, and that was an amazing experience. We chatted a little and I asked if he’d ever run an indoor marathon (which I had done the previous weekend). He said that sounded crazy, but also he seemed impressed. It wasn’t even 7:00 am, and my day had already been made! To get a compliment by someone of his stature was supremely flattering.

Sidebar:Two of the convention sponsors (Leslie Jordan Apparel and Ashworth Awards) rewarded those who did the morning group runs. Each day, you got a piece of apparel (a tech shirt or a running jacket) and a nice medal. They’re hoping that those race directors doing the group run would be impressed with the products. I certainly was impressed. Everything was high quality and prominently featured Detroit. I will proudly show off my new Detroit-themed goodies.

Two of my Saturday breakout sessions were about developing new programs within a running club, such as Youth teams, Masters teams, or a Speed Walking team.. I was fascinated by the material, but I don’t think these teams fit well within the FWRC. The investment of time, effort and money would be substantial, and I don’t think there’s enough interest to be successful. At least I now know many of the factors that must be considered when adding new programs.

For each meal, I dined with a different group of people. I wanted to meet as many different people as possible, and got to visit with folks from Virginia, Texas, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, Colorado, and even Alaska. During the Saturday lunch, I met someone from New England, so I told him that I would be in his area in the fall for a work-related conference. I also told him that I was planning on running a race in Rhode Island. He asked which race, and when I told him, he replied that he was the race director! He also mentioned there were only six slots left (he’d just checked earlier that morning), so I signed up on my phone right then. I would have been disappointed to miss out on the Anchor Down Ultra simply because I didn’t apply in time. It is considered one of the most beautiful courses in the county … no matter where you are, you’ve got a nice view of the ocean … sounds cool, eh?

The keynote speaker over lunch was Craig Virgin. He’s an accomplished distance runner with an Olympic resume. To be candid, he was my least favorite speaker. Every other speaker gave me something that encouraged, inspired or equipped me. Craig’s message seemed to be about his accomplishments and I just didn’t get much “take home” with him. Perhaps it’s just me, but he struck me as arrogant, and I wasn’t that impressed.

I went to a session on how to be a race director for trail/ultra events. Loads of information in a checklist format! It was very informative. I’m still not sure if I’m ever going to be a race director. At least I realize there’s a lot to it, and this is the kind of stuff I would need to know in order to do it right. Even if I never direct a race, I’m now better equipped to help those who do.

My final breakout session was “22 Ways To Calculate Results for Your Race.” As FWRC Points Coordinator this couldn’t have been more relevant to my specific duties. Quite informative and interesting. I doubt we’ll make radical changes to our procedures, but it was cool to learn how others are doing what I do.

Saturday night featured the National Running Awards Banquet. The main speaker was Desiree Linden. She is currently one of the top female marathoners in the world having competed in several world majors and multiple Olympic games. She will be running Boston in a few weeks. She was a great speaker and I appreciated her humility and candor. I would love for her to speak at the FWRC banquet. Her story has a little something for everyone, and I think our members would love her like crazy. It was a privilege to shake her hand and get a quick pic after the banquet.

Another great speaker at the banquet was Dave McGillivray, the race director for the Boston Marathon. He was being inducted into the RRCA Hall of Fame. Not only has he ran the Boston Marathon 40+ times,but he’s also completed several triathlons and ultras. Furthermore, he has ran across the continental USA like Forrest Gump. In his speech, he was quick to deflect praise onto others and his words were truly inspiring. He is another person I’d love to invite to the FWRC banquet.

The rest of the banquet featured awards being given to people that I didn’t know who had done things that I was unaware of (categories like “best article in a local club newsletter”). I’m glad they acknowledge these hard working folks, but it gets tedious sitting through these types of awards.

The final day of the weekend Jonathan and I ran the Corktown Races, which are part of an Irish-themed festival complete with a parade, food trucks, etc. Between 8,000 - 10,000 people complete one of the run/walk events, so there’s a huge turnout. We signed up for the 1 mile and the 5k events.

I took a little warm-up jog and when I got back to the start area, I heard the announcer say there was just one minute until the start. I didn’t realize I had so little time, but I managed to get into the starting corral just as the horn sounded. I took off and was moving along pretty well. After about 50 yards I realized that I was a lot taller than everyone around me. I was surrounded by kids that were mostly 3-5 years old. That’s when I realized that I had inadvertently jumped into the Kids Run (a quarter mile event for little kids). I was too embarrassed to slip off the course, so I went ahead and finished the run. I was hoping they would assume I was a parent (several parents were out there with their kids). If I hadn’t pulled up a little, I think I could have won the Kids Run. Fortunately, I made it back to the starting line in time for the events that I had actually intended to race, and I was quite satisfied with how I ran.

Overall, the entire weekend was a ton of fun. I got to meet several running celebrities. I ran with runners from around the country. I hung out with Jon. I got a lot of neat swag. I got a taste of the renaissance in downtown Detroit. I felt like an eight year old kid on Christmas morning.

I learned a lot too. Interestingly, very little of the content was about making me a better runner … the material was not focused like that. It was intended to equip me to help others become a better runner. For example, I learned a lot about the inner workings of directing races and working behind the scenes in a local running club. I’m extremely thankful I had the opportunity to do this!

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