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RRCA Successfully Hosts First In-Person Running Industry Conference in More than a Year

04/26/2021
Over 127 Attendees Gathered in Orlando, Florida for the 63rd RRCA National Convention

ARLINGTON, Virginia – Thirteen months after the 2020 RRCA National Convention became one of the first major running events shut down by COVID-19, the 2021 RRCA Convention became the first in-person running industry conference in more than a year.

From April 15-18, 2021, over 127 attendees and sponsors from across the country, consisting of club leaders, race directors, RRCA volunteers, and coaches gathered in Orlando, FL. The three days consisted of a full schedule of events, including education sessions, networking functions, the RRCA Hall of Fame and National Running Awards breakfast, a two-day Coaching Certification Course, and the RRCA Annual Meeting of the Membership.

The Convention was the culmination of months of careful planning by RRCA staff and leadership to establish necessary COVID-19 related health protocols, and to ensure that attendees felt safe. Masks were required for indoor gatherings, and the rooms for all indoor sessions were arranged and spaced to accommodate social distancing. Extra time was built into the schedule to allow for cleaning and ventilation of meeting spaces after use, and some networking events, including receptions and meals, were moved outside.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 and its impact on the world, as well as the running industry, was a common theme for many of the education sessions. Orlando-based events company Track Shack Events shared detailed information on how they have successfully hosted in-person races, including a 2000-person event, over the last year. Education sessions also covered many other relevant topics such as strategic planning, understanding the permitting process, and fostering a culture of leadership in younger running club members.

“It was important to hold the RRCA Convention this year to demonstrate that, with careful planning, foresight, and cooperation, we are at a place where in-person events are possible for the running industry,” said Jean Knaack, RRCA CEO. “The challenges presented by COVID-19 and the overdue reckoning of building a more inclusive sport that empowers everyone to run meant giving people a place to discuss these important topics in person was more imperative than ever in 2021.”

At the general session on Saturday morning, RRCA Vice President Lisa Rippe moderated a panel discussion entitled Empowering Everyone to Run: A Conversation about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the sport of running. Participating in the panel were RRCA President, George Rehmet, Running Industry Diversity Coalition Co-Chair Alison Désir, National Black Marathoners Association Co-Founder and Executive Director, Tony Reed, and double amputee World Record marathon holder Marko Cheseto. The conversation outlined important concepts and focused on the challenges faced by non-white runners and opportunities to collaborate with running clubs/groups that appeal to BIPOC runners. The session built on ongoing discussions that began last summer and was recorded to be used as a resource for RRCA and its member clubs and events.

At the 2021 Meeting of the Membership held on Saturday April 17, members approved updated Bylaws for the organization. The updated Bylaws included elevating the Executive Director position to become the Chief Executive Officer for the organization and also grants the RRCA Board of Directors the ability to implement online voting to improve voting equity and access for RRCA members.  The following board members were elected:  Lionel Adams (At-Large Director), Lisa Rippe (At-Large Director), Betsy Boudreaux (Southern Region Director) and Stephen Wright (Western Region Director).  They join George Rehmet (President), Barb Jewell (Treasurer), Sue Brown-Nickerson (Central Director), Blaine Moore (Eastern Director), and Samantha Collmar (At-Large) to comprise the 2021 RRCA Board.  The RRCA thanked long-time board member Goody Tyler for his years of service to the Board as he rotated off.

About the RRCA: The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the oldest and largest national association of running organizations and runners dedicated to growing the sport since 1958. The RRCA champions the development of community-based running clubs and events that serve runners of all ages and abilities in pursuit of health and competition. The RRCA’s vision is to see an organized running club established in every community in the U.S. To learn more, including membership benefits, visit: www.RRCA.org

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