[This article was contributed by club member Len Goldman]
The 56th annual Road Runners Club of America Convention was held May 1-4 in Spokane, WA. Attending from LMJS were Karen Andrews, Kathryn Dernham, Len Goldman, and Allegra Kim. This was the first convention for both Kathryn and Allegra, the 5th for Karen and the 14th for Len.
The convention is an opportunity for club members from throughout the U.S. to meet and exchange ideas and participate in seminars led by subject matter experts and hear inspirational speeches by running legends. There were about 300 runners in attendance. The convention kicked off with a welcome reception on Thursday night May 1 which both Len and Karen attended and it was followed by a "dine on the town" on your own. Karen and Len were joined by our fellow runners from the East Bay Front Runners; Simone Adair and Allyssa Lamb, plus two runners from the Maine Track Club.
On Friday, it was an early wake-up call for a group run of 5 miles along the banks of the Spokane River with a spectacular view of the falls. Since food is a constant theme with runners, there was a continental breakfast at the host hotel, The Davenport Hotel, followed with the kick-off of the conference. The kick-off included a group of Native Americans and they performed some ceremonial dances.
The first seminar, held for all attendees was insurance and risk management. The runners then broke into groups by region and held an exchange of ideas and brainstorming session. The Friday luncheon speaker was Olympic medalist and American record holder Bernard Lagat. Friday afternoon featured a choice of three seminars to attend including speakers on injury prevention, networking with running specialty stores and keeping events safe. At the conclusion of the Friday seminars, the RRCA held its annual business meeting with club officers and others in attendance.
That evening the convention attendees were bused to a local winery, Arbor Crest, located in the hills above Spokane for a buffet dinner outside, but under a tent for protection from the elements. The convention meals are a great time to network with runners from other clubs and learn about best practices.
On Saturday morning, there was another group run of about 3 miles, also along the river but a slightly different route than the previous day. The run ended at a nearby downtown cafe where a very nice continental breakfast was served. The highlight was "home baked" pastries. All day Saturday, there were a variety of seminars to choose from depending on your interest and the topic.
Lunch that day featured Olympian and the Bloomsday race founder, Don Kardong. Don competed in the 1976 Olympic marathon and finished in 4th place. Don related how the medal for 4th is wood and years later when the Berlin Wall came down the extent of doping of East German athletes was revealed. The race was won by an East German and his "victory" was never overturned despite the evidence that he had been doping to improve his performance.
After a short respite from the last Saturday seminar, the convention attendees gathered for the gala awards banquet where the annual RRCA top performers in various categories were recognized. Before the awards were presented, Simone Adair introduced the featured speaker for the conference, Deena Kastor, an Olympic medalist and American record holder.
The finale for the convention was the Bloomsday 12K race on Sunday morning. Fortunately, we got to sleep in a bit as the race didn't go off until 9:00 a.m. and the start was just a few blocks from the hotel. This race is one of the largest in the U.S., around 50,000 runners and one that is on many runners "bucket list." It features the "Doomsday Hill" which is about 3/4 of a mile long with an average grade of 6%. Since the race is so big, runners are assigned into about 7 starting groups of 5,000 to 8,000 runners per group. Those of us in the convention were assigned to the 3rd starting group with about 7,000 runners in front of us. As it turned out, this was like running into a moving wall for the first several miles of the race, with much weaving in and out to get enough running space.
The race course scenery varies from Downtown Spokane buildings, to residential areas and some fairly rural areas too. It is as you would expect a very well supported race with water stops every two miles, bands playing music along the course and a scattering of spectators along the way, but especially at the finish. It seems like the entire region turns out for the race as most of the participants are from Spokane and the surrounding area.
The race finish features a post-race celebration area with vendors giving out refreshments and selling them. There is also entertainment since the final finishers don't get done until 1:30 p.m. It's great to see so many people come together for this race and how the whole community gets behind it.
The 2015 RRCA Convention will be held in Des Moines, Iowa on April 23-26.