His career as a runner, coach, author and journalist is unique…Now Tom Derderian adds a political wing to his CV. Last Sunday September 23rd the long-time Greater Boston Track Club coach, Boston Marathon historian, and sub-2:20 marathoner was elected new president of the USATF New England chapter. I have known Tom over 30 years, and his passion for the sport of running is as great as anyone I’ve ever met.
In response to a column I wrote last week, “YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT”, Tom wrote the following: “We will have no sport if we let the free market do only whatever it needs to for its own business survival instead of the survival of the sport.”
In that regard, with the presumptive sale of The Competitor Group and its vast stock of Rock `n` Roll Marathons to the owners of the Tour de France, the link between love of the game and hunger for the gain has been stretched farther than ever before.
Consider that when Tim Murphy founded Elite Racing in 1988, he did so because he loved the sport and thought he could put on races which other runners would support. First he gave us the seminal Carlsbad 5000, the race which introduced the concept of the 5K to road racing. Then his idea for the Rock `n` Roll Marathon series germinated when Tim found himself all alone slogging along Friar’s Road through the final miles of one of the old Heart of San Diego Marathons.
The event started in Coronado, and finished in Mission Valley at Qualcomm Stadium. Wouldn’t it be nice, Tim thought, to have some support out here in the middle of nowhere. And slowly the Ah-HA idea – rock bands along the course! – took form. But he wasn’t thinking as a businessman, he was thinking as a runner who identified a primary need. Only later did his runner-born ideas turn into a lucrative business. (He’s got another one cooking again.)
When Murphy sold his business to Falconhead Capital in December 2007, everyone knew how such capital investments worked. Five years is the out-marker lifespan for such capital investments, and thus when word leaked that CGI was for sale, it made all the sense in the world; 2012 was the obvious time for Falconhead to cash out and move on.
Attracting business people into running is a good thing, but their goals, understandably, are purely market driven. That’s why we need the custodians of the sport to maintain a semblance of focus on the sport’s heritage while developing its future. Yes, the next quarter’s spread sheet is important, but not more important than expanding interest in and the fan following for the actual sport itself. Tom Derderian understands this distinction. Here, then, is his view of what running needs in its oldest, and most ardent region. It’s this view which led to his election last Sunday. Continue reading