August 2020, the Road Runners Club of America Executive Director Jean Knaack proudly celebrated her fifteenth anniversary in the position. When Knaack began her tenure, the RRCA was in a precarious position financially and reputationally. Under her leadership, the organization has not only survived but thrived and prospered, and now she is effectively managing the RRCA through the disruption to the sport brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most tellingly, since Knaack took the helm, RRCA membership has grown by 300%. This progression speaks to not only to executive stability, but also to her shaping of RRCA services into an essential component for those involved with running. Through negotiations, Knaack enhanced the general liability insurance program offered to RRCA members and has maintained cost over the years while also pioneering the group music licensing programs.
Programs that Knaack inherited have also seen exponential growth. The RRCA Coaching Certification Program, which had 100 coaches in 2005, now hosts an average of 35 courses annually, certifying more than 1,000 coaches a year and counting more than 10,000 certified coaches in total. Additionally, the RRCA Championship Event Series now regularly tops 250 races per year, with over 350,000 participants, while the Kids Run the Nation Program curriculum has been revised and revamped to impact a wider, gender-inclusive audience designed to inspire young runners.
The Kids Run the Nation program also demonstrates how Knaack has worked hard to expand the RRCA’s impact on all facets of the sport. In 2007, she established the Kids Run the Nation Grant Fund, which provides financial support and educational materials to community nonprofits hosting youth running programs. Since the KRTN Grant Fund’s inception the RRCA has granted more than $286,000 to deserving youth programs around the U.S.
Other successful RRCA programs launched under Knaack’s leadership include the RRCA Race Director Certification Course, developed in conjunction with Road Race Management, which recently certified its 400th race director. Knaack also developed the Runner Friendly Community program, which has recognized over 60 communities in 25 states. Furthermore, Knaack oversaw the RRCA taking over the operation of RunPro Camp in 2011, enhancing the organization’s ability to support young and promising American distance runners. At the Olympic Trials – Marathon in Atlanta in February 2020, 10 of the top 50 women finishers (20%) and 13 of the top 50 men (26%) had ties to the RRCA through RunPro Camp or the Roads Scholar Grant program.
Knaack’s purposeful and innovative leadership has also been on display this year as she has helped to steer the organization and the sport as a whole through the challenges presented by the COVD-19 pandemic. The RRCA was quick to provide insurance coverage for events going virtual. She worked Randy Accetta, Coaching Education Director, to seamlessly pivot the Coaching Certification Program to an online setup. RRCA also continues to offer ongoing information and educational resources for clubs and events on best practices in the current environment.
Knaack is forever grateful to the support and continued service to the RRCA by the outstanding team supporting the work of the organization. Thank you to Randy Accetta, Director of Coaching Education, who is celebrating eight years of service. Thank you to Andy Smith, Program Manager who is celebrating seven years of service. Thank you to Erica Gminski, Youth Program and Coaching Program Manager who is celebrating five years of service. Thank you to Membership Manager Mike Webb who is celebrating 4 years of service.