By Dave Hunter
Founded in 1958, The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the oldest and largest national association of runners and running organizations dedicated to growing the sport of running. The RRCA offers a variety of programs for aspiring, talented road and track athletes who can benefit from some education about professional running, some direction navigating the sport, and some financial assistance to pursue their dream.
The importance of the support RRCA provides and how it benefits and is appreciated by the participating athletes is best understood by an examination of how these programs have worked, not only in the past, but also leading up to the 2020 USA Olympic Team Marathon Trials:
- Run Pro Camp. In recognition of the difficult transition that often encumbers promising collegiate distance runners attempting to compete on the professional level, the RRCA has in place RunPro.com to provide athletes with a comprehensive overview of what it takes and what is involved in becoming a professional distance runner. To that end, RRCA's RunPro Camp – a two-day seminar, typically held in July, connects 15-20 aspiring professional runners with the resources necessary to pursue a professional running career. The Camp has a focus beyond simply honing your craft on the road or on the track. “Among other things, the Camp addresses topics such as working with the media, how to make connections in the industry, how to manage your income on a tight budget,” explains Andy Smith, RRCA’s Program Director. “RunPro Camp helps athletes understand how to stay in the sport for the long term, as most distance athletes see success the closer they get to their thirties.”
- Roads Scholar Program.Since 1996, the RRCA has awarded significant monetary grants “to assist American post-collegiate road runners who show great promise to develop into national and world-class road-running athletes.” Annual grants of $5,000 are awarded to six to eight promising U.S. citizens recently graduated from college who are pursuing an elite distance running career and earning less than $35,000 annually. “The grants are really seed money in a sense,” notes Smith. “The funding is for runners that show potential but maybe haven’t quite succeeded to the point that they can be self-sustaining." While aiding many, the Roads Scholar program has provided grants to Deena Kastor, Kate (O’Neill) Tenforde, Amy (Yoder) Begley, and Alexi Pappas –
all who went on to become Olympians.
- Elite Grants. In support of athletes training for the 2016 Olympic Team Trials Marathon in Los Angles, the RRCA started its Elite Grant Program to provide $2500-$3000 in financial support to about 15-17 athletes that demonstrated authentic Olympic Team potential. Grants were given to a mix of previous Roads Scholar grantees along with athletes that had shown significant progression in their professional running career. At the LA Trials Marathon, RRCA supported athletes finished 4th, 5th and 6th. For the 2020 Olympic Team Trials Marathon, the RRCA again have provided $45,000 in financial support to seventeen athletes.
Nearly 50 men and women, who have participated in one or more of these RRCA programs, have qualified to compete in the February 29th USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon.
A significant portion of the starting fields for the 2020 USA Olympic Team Marathon Trials will be comprised of athletes who have been aided in no small measure by the meaningful support of the RRCA. Running a great race at the Trials just might be the best way for those athletes to show their appreciation for the RRCA’s helping hand.
Dave Hunter is an award-winning journalist who is a U.S. Correspondent for Track & Field News. He also writes a weekly column and serves as Senior Writer for www.RunBlogRun.com, and covers championship track & field competition domestically and in such global capitals as Moscow, Birmingham, Zurich, Brussels, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Zagreb, Ostrava, and Doha. Hunter frequently serves as the arena or stadium announcer for championship track & field gatherings, including the Ivy League, the Big East, the Mid-American Conference, the NAIA, the Big Ten, and the Millrose Games. Hunter has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments.. He ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic Era. To find out more about Dave, visit his website: www.trackandfieldhunter.com He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org