Last year Portland, Oregon trained Matt Tegenkamp won the U.S. Road 10K Championship in 28:25, but only finished sixth overall in the AJC Peachtree Road Race. Flagstaff, Arizona’s Janet Bawcom took home the women’s USA title with her 32:45 clocking, but only placed eighth in the international field. This year the winner of the race will also become the USA champion.
The Atlanta Track Club announced yesterday that they were upping their prize purse some $40,000 to a round $100,000 for the 45th running of the Peachtree Road Race this July 4th. What’s more, the entire amount will be awarded to American athletes vying for the USA 10K Road Championships. First prize for each gender will be $15,000.
Though this will be the sixth time Peachtree has hosted the men’s USA 10K Championship (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013), and the second straight year it will serve as the women’s championship, 2014 will be the first year the event will a U.S. only showcase. This is the ATC’s first major announcement since the arrival of Rich Kenah as its new executive director.
I reached out to Rich to ask when the idea for an American-only format took form.
“It was not in the works before I arrived,” Rich replied via email. “In my second week here, I challenged our staff to come up with a strategy to better leverage our investment in elite athletes. Focusing on our commitment to the men’s and women’s USA Championships is where we came down. The idea of promoting homegrown stars in a USA Champs title race on the 4th of the July just feels right.
“But if we do this correctly, there are ancillary benefits to Atlanta Track Club beyond staging an exciting AJC Peachtree Road Race. In return for an enhanced prize purse for American athletes, we will ask for a commitment from select athletes to help us inspire, motivate and encourage our membership and the kids in our youth focused, Kilometer Kids program throughout 2014. That piece of this puzzle is still a work-in-progress, but I can’t think of a better way for an American Olympian or World Championship athlete to spend his or her Fourth of July than to lead 60,000 people down Peachtree Street.”
This February 5th, the 50 year-old Atlanta Track Club announced the hiring of the 43 year-old New Jersey native and Georgetown grad as their new executive director.
A two-time World Championships bronze medalist at 800 meters, Rich came to Atlanta via Boston-based Global Athletics & Marketing where he had worked since retiring from competitive racing in 2000. At GAM Rich helped manage athletes like Olympic champions Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, and Jenn Suhr and Aries Merritt of the USA. As VP of Marketing, Kenah also assisted in staging international track meets like the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston and the outdoor Adidas Grand Prix in New York City.
“Two years ago Aries Merritt was one of the break-out athletes from the London Olympics,” said Rich in an interview I conducted in February in Boston. “He won the gold medal in the 110 meter hurdles and set the world record. He was from Marietta, Georgia, just outside Atlanta, and said he wanted to go back home and share his medal with people.
“I called the Atlanta TC, and set up a meeting with Aries and Kilometer Kids, the club’s youth program. I like the idea of marrying the elites with real runners of all ages, especially kids. There are many genres to running, and a healthy organization exists in all those genres.”
Kenah, who is married to former middle distance stand-out Cheri (nee Goddard) with whom he has 10 year-old twins, remembers his own start in running, and connects the dots from there.
“I ran my first race with my cousin without ever training. It was the Newark Distance Classic, a four-miler. I was six, my cousin was seven or eight at the time. We just did it on a whim. I was so far back that my dad found a policeman in a car to go find me. Point is, you don’t win your first race. It took me 24 years, but in 2000 I made the Olympic team. In Atlanta there are six year-olds just like me who, if you give them a taste, will come back for more. And who knows where that can lead?”