Since 1971, the RRCA has honored dedicated individuals for their outstanding service to the RRCA and the sport of distance running. We are delighted to announce the 2019 National Running Award recipients. These outstanding contributors to our sport, along with the 2020 RRCA Distance Running Hall of Fame inductees, will be honored March 21, 2020 at the RRCA National Running Awards Banquet in Portland, Oregon. We encourage all RRCA members to join us for this event to celebrate these contributors to the running community.
Browning Ross Spirit of the RRCA: Jeff Darman, RRCA Past-President
Jeff Darman served as RRCA president from 1977- 1979. He actively engaged women in leadership roles and worked hard to provide more running opportunities for women. When Jeff became president, there were 60 RRCA member clubs. During his tenure, that number grew to 150 clubs and 33,000 runners, a testament to his ability to secure the RRCA's position as the voice of the nation's community-based running clubs. Jeff has remained an advocate, advisor, and important ally for the RRCA. His steady presence and belief in the mission of the organization has helped shepherd the RRCA through multiple challenges over a 40-year span of time. Jeff's work with Road Race Management and the annual Race Directors' Meeting has provided valuable resources for RRCA member event directors and helped to shape the development of the RRCA’s Race Director Certification Course. Jeff is a fundraising steward for the Roads Scholar fund and continues to be a champion for this long-standing program. As a running event director himself, he has helped to fight for gender equality in the sport, and advised countless others on elite athlete coordination, marketing, and media relations.
Outstanding State Representative: Simone Adair, California – Eastern
Simone Adair has been the state rep for Eastern California for eight years. During that time, she has represented the RRCA tirelessly attending races, expos and club events. With her easy-going and engaging personality, Simone is seen by running clubs as an ambassador for the RRCA and her impact on the Northern California running community is almost impossible to measure. Simone is an active member of her home club, the East Bay Front Runners, and can be found frequently hosting social events for members and participating in organizational activities. In 2019, she represented the RRCA at seven championship events, including helping to co-host a state meeting for Northern California members as part of the RRCA National Championship Presidio 10. Simone’s regular in-person and written communications with clubs have allowed her to be seen as a valuable resource. Perhaps most tellingly, Simone also is a powerful force for inclusiveness in running, strongly advocating that runners of all genders, races, sexual orientations, and physical abilities have a place in the sport.
Outstanding Club President of the Year: John Brust, San Francisco Road Runners Club, San Francisco, California
John Brust has served as President of the San Francisco Road Runners Club (SFRRC) for three years. In that time, he has shown a strong ability to lead a large and diverse urban running group. John is committed and passionate about SFRRC, inspiring others to become involved by actively networking and opening doors in the running community at large. Through innovative measures like seminars at a local running store, camps, a fall member retreat, and even a book club, John has helped SFRRC’s membership increase by more than 25% to over 500 members during his tenure. John’s contributions to SFRRC extend beyond member engagement and recruitment, he is a true executive leader, actively seeking and encouraging input from members, and delegating duties. John has strived to diligently update the club's mission statement, bylaws, and operating policies. While doing all of this, he is an active and encouraging presence at weekly group runs and club workouts.
Outstanding Volunteer of the Year: Scott Stauske, Badgerland Striders, Wisconsin
Scott devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to the Badgerland Striders in 2019, while working a full-time job. The Badgerland Striders serves runners in Southeastern Wisconsin and is one of the larger RRCA member clubs in the US. Scott serves on the club's Road Race Committee as VP of Road Racing, and he is the race director of the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. The Lakefront Marathon is known as a race for runners by runners and it managed by volunteers of the club. Scott volunteered at almost every one of the club's 17 races, helping with activities ranging from race announcing to finish area clean-up. Scott was instrumental in moving the club’s website to an improved platform, powered by the Driven Race and Club Solutions. At club meetings and fun runs, Scott can be seeing seeking out the new members and making them feel welcome. As race director of the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, Scott recruited elite runners for the 2019 race and made a major improvement in the runner experience by moving the finish area to the lakefront festival grounds.
Outstanding Challenged Athlete of 2019 – Daniel Romanchuk
As result of Spina bifida, Daniel Romanchuk competes in wheelchair racing. He began training with an adaptive sports program in Baltimore at age two, and showed an immediate proclivity, setting age-group records and participating in national competitions. In April 2019, at age 20, Romanchuk became the youngest winner ever of the Boston Marathon’s wheelchair division, as well as the first American man to win that race since 1993. His finishing time of 1:21:36 is the fastest ever for an American in the wheelchair division. In that same month, with his victory at the London Marathon, Romanchuk also won the World Para Athletics Marathon Championship title. With that win, he locked-in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series XII title. On July 4th, he broke the Peachtree 10K record. Later that summer, he won the Utica Boilermaker 15K. At the Chicago Marathon, Romanchuk not only won the race but qualified to represent Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. In November, he repeated as the New York City Marathon Champion. Later that month, he capped the year at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, winning the 800 in a championship-record time of 1:32.81.
Road Runner of the Year, Open Male – Leonard Korir
In November 2019, at the Amsterdam Marathon, Korir ran the fastest debut marathon ever for an American, finishing in 2:07:56. While the race marked a high point in the year, Korir’s performance throughout 2019 clearly demonstrated a breakthrough race at that distance was possible. In March, Korir took second at the 15K Gate River Run, finishing in 43:42. In May, he improved on that showing, finishing first at the USATF Half Marathon Championship hosted by UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 1:01:52. Korir followed that race up by winning the September USATF 20K Championship hosted by Faxon Law New Haven Race in 1:06:47. Korir was the highest point earner at the USATF Running Circuit, earning $30,500 in the series.
Road Runner of the Year, Open Female – Sara Hall
A prolific and successful 2019 for Sara Hall peaked in September at the Berlin Marathon. There, she finished fifth in 2:22:16, the sixth fastest marathon time ever for an American woman. Showing off her versatility, just one week later, Hall won the USATF 10 Mile Championship for the third year in a row at the Medtronic TC 10 Mile with a time of 53:11. Overall for the year, Hall raced three marathons, two half marathons, and five races between seven miles and 25K. Other notable performances included first place at the USATF 10K Championship NYRR Mini 10K in 32:27, first at the USATF 20K Championship Faxon Law New Haven Race in 1:06:47, and second at the USATF Half Marathon Championship UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 1:11:04. Hall was the highest female point earner for the USATF Running Circuit earning $54,000.
Road Runner of the Year, Male Master, Bernard Lagat
In July 2019, at the age of 44, five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat ran 2:12:10 in the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, giving him the fastest time ever for an American over 40,. The performance bested the previous mark of 2:12:20, set by Meb Keflezighi at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Perhaps most impressively, the time made Lagat the fastest American Male over 40 at every distance from the 1500m through the marathon.
Road Runner of the Year, Female Master – Roberta Groner
In April 2019 at the Rotterdam Marathon, Roberta Groner, ran a 2:29:06, becoming just the third American woman to break 2:30:00 in a marathon after turning 40. Her performance was even more remarkable considering she had given up running for much of her 20s, returning to the sport only about a decade ago as a way to de-stress. If a 2:30:38, at the 2017 California International Marathon flashed her potential, 2019 marked a breakthrough. In September at the IAAF World Marathon Championships in Qatar, under brutally hot conditions, Groner finished in 2:38:44, the top American woman and sixth overall.
Outstanding Youth Running Program of the Year – Humboldt Redwoods Running Association for Youth, Arcata, California
Program Director Jack West launched the Humboldt Redwoods Running Association for Youth (HRRAY) nearly a decade ago in connection with the Six Rivers Running Club in Redwoods, CA. As of 2019, there are over 300 hundred kids participating in the program in a given year, with thousands of kids in total having completed the program. HRRAY is open to kids from Kindergarten through eighth grade, and specifically targets participants that may not have a running program (or any physical education) available at their school. The program runs all through the school year and concludes with a race ranging in distance from a ½ mile to a 1.5 miles.
Outstanding Beginning Running Program: Gulf Winds Track Club Beginning Running Program, Tallahassee, Florida
Headed by Chika Okoro and Sarah Shuler, the Gulf Winds Track Club (GWTC) Beginning Running Program prepares new or returning runners to complete a 5K. The environment is welcoming and friendly, and coaches work with participants to help them find the best routine and strategy to meet their fitness goals. Countless members have completed the beginning training program then proceeded to join the club on a full-time basis, becoming regular runners with more ambitious objectives. Chika’s annual leadership of this program, including managing various pace group leaders, has been nothing short of exemplary. She quietly exudes excellence and humility, and the beginning runners admire, love and respect her.
Communications Excellence: Northstar Running Club, Maple Grove, Minnesota
Northstar Running Club is a very active club in the Minnesota running community that demonstrates consistency in member communication by sending a quarterly TruNorth newsletter and weekly Week Ahead bulletins to their members. They actively use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among other social media platforms in creative ways to keep existing and potential members engaged, informed, and excited. In addition, Northstar Running Club’s website is current and updated as needed so that information is pertinent to those that are looking for a run club to join. Featured information includes a calendar of events, team store for promotional items, a racing schedule, highlights of members and race results, online membership portal, and contact information.
Excellence in Running Journalism – Erin Strout
Erin Strout is a freelance writer, and contributing editor at Women's Running Magazine. In her near decade of covering running, Erin’s writing and reporting has focused on a multitude of topics. Her stories have ranged from profiles of the sport’s top athletes to how-to/service pieces on best strategies related to training, fueling, nutrition, and injury prevention. In 2019, some of Erin’s top stories included a recap of Brigid Kosgei breaking the world record at the Chicago Marathon and revealing interviews with Sara Hall and Desiree Linden. Erin also offered in-depth coverage on the fall-out of Alberto Salazar’s four-year ban for violating anti-doping rules, and Mary Cain’s revelations of abuse while training at the Nike Oregon Project.
Road Race of the Year: Cajun Road Runners Al Comeaux LA 10 , Milton, Louisiana
The Cajun Road Runners Al Comeaux LA-10 (mile) takes place in Picard Park in Milton, LA and is both a celebration of Louisiana hospitality and a road race with a flat and fast course, taking place along a scenic route. In 2019, volunteer race directs Christina Simon and Damien Chaisson offered countless hours of service to the successful delivery of the race. Strategically placed on the area race calendar in late January, the event is the final event in the Triple Crown Challenge, which includes an 8k race, 10k race, and the Al Comeaux 10 mile race. The race serves as a warm-up event for runners training for spring marathons and half marathons. In 2019, the race served as the RRCA Southern Region 10 Mile Championship, a designation enthusiastically embraced and celebrated both in the lead up to the event and on race day. Following the race, finishers are treated to a post-race scene that includes a live band, beer, and Cajun cuisine. The fun carries over to the awards ceremony where participants stay to eagerly and graciously cheer on award recipients in all age categories.