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Blog from the RRCA Convention

Lakeland, Florida
April 22, 2010 - Day #1

Greetings from Florida, the Sunshine State.  The long-anticipated 2010 Annual RRCA Convention began today in Lakeside, Florida, the home of the 52nd staging of our annual convocation. Today was a day of bountiful Florida sunshine in this city of lakes.  The theme of this year’s convention is “Running Fun in the Sun.”  The convention this year is co-hosted by the Lakeland Runners Club and Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing.  Conventioneers awakened this morning to an early morning run through the streets and over the hills and around the lakes of Lakeland.  Lakeland’s famous swans, said to be descendants of a pair of swans gifted to the City of Lakeland by Queen Elizabeth of England, were spotted by runners as the runners circled the lake adjacent to the downtown area.

After breakfast, many of us, including yours truly, traveled by bus to the Circle B Bar Preserve just outside Lakeland for a meeting of RRCA state representatives from across the United States.  Some were intrigued by the preserve’s name, thinking perhaps that the word “bar” in the title had something to do with alcoholic beverages.  That was not the case, however.  The Circle B Bar Preserve is a nature preserve that affords visitors an opportunity to walk through a grassland forest that showcases some of Florida’s most beautiful vegetation.

For the state reps, the time spent at the Circle B Bar Preserve was strictly business.  Our morning session featured an outstanding slide presentation by RRCA Program Director Eve Mills entitled “State Rep Best Practices.”  Eve’s presentation provided detailed information about many topics that are at the core of the state reps’ work, including types of RRCA membership, membership trends, club member benefits, event member benefits, general liability insurance for RRCA members, RRCA championship series benefits, RRCA national awards and grants, recruitment of new RRCA clubs and events, and retention of current RRCA clubs and events.  At the RRCA, there is a continual effort to solidify and update and improve all of the programs and services that the RRCA provides.  Even the RRCA logo has been streamlined to highlight the male and female runners who adorn the upside down triangle below the RRCA name.

Later in the morning, Sarah Ratzlaff, Sales Manager with Disney Sports Attractions, gave a presentation concerning the new Disney Endurance Series (“DES”).  This exciting new program offers many benefits to the members of RRCA running clubs that participate in DES events, including discounts on Disney races, specially-priced accommodations at Disney resort hotels, specially-priced admission tickets at Disney theme parks, event transportation, group rates for post-race party tickets, and two guaranteed paid race entries for each race during a Disney race (subject to standard entry fees).  All agreed that the DES will have great potential value to runners who would like to combine a road race with a theme park visit.

Just before lunch, RRCA Executive Director Jean Knaack gave the state reps an update on new developments at the RRCA, including the establishment of an exciting new partnership with Weight Watchers International, Inc. and the development of two new RRCA programs:  a course of instruction for race director certification and an initiative for identifying runner-friendly communities in the United States.  Jean also gave the state reps a guided tour of the new and improved RRCA website.  She ended her presentation with a proposal to provide state reps with a portable RRCA booth, complete with props and materials, that could be set up at expos at prominent road races across the country in an effort to expand the RRCA’s stature among runners

After lunch, the state reps from the RRCA’s four regions—Eastern, Southern, Western, and Central—met with their respective Regional Director to brainstorm about ways to improve the RRCA’s operations and the state reps’ ability to spread the RRCA mission.  The breakout sessions produced many excellent suggestions that were duly noted for follow-up by Jean and Eve.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Jean thanked the state reps for their dedication and hard work in the trenches in promoting the RRCA and the sport of running at the grassroots level in their various states.  All the state reps then boarded a bus for the return trip to Lakeland and the evening’s main event, a welcome reception at the Gym Sports Bar in downtown Lakeland.  The reception was well attended by the state reps and convention delegates.  Attendees mingled with Lakeland Runners Club members and were treated to two complimentary wine/beer cocktails and a buffet of hors d’oeuvres.  Dinner in downtown Lakeland followed.

To say the least, it was a very exciting and informative day for everyone.  There will be much more to report from the convention tomorrow.

Keep climbing that mountain and have faith.

Mitchell Garner
Central Region Director

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