In response to December 13th’s blog, TEAM USA ARIZONA Receives Grant from 2011 Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, I received the following e-mail. Rather than place it in the comments section, I thought it deserved a post of its own. While I have railed quite consistently on this blog about the need to re-address the sporting aspect of running in light of the fun-run tsunami which has swept over the hinterlands in recent years – not in the sense that one should be sacrificed at the expense of the other, but in a win-win way – race directors like Arizona’s John Reich and Steve Taggert, along with Maryland’s Steve Nearman have actually begun putting words into action. This then, from John Reich:
Partnership Between Professional Race and Elite Athletes Highlighted
One of the first posts on this blog WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE HALF MAKES MAJOR AMERICAN PLEDGE outlined race director Steve Nearman’s plan to assist the development of emerging U.S. distance runners with a $1. per entry contribution from his October 2nd Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. Today, Nearman made good on his pledge. announcing that Team USA Arizona would be receiving a grant of $3668 from the WWB Half presented by WillPower Sport & Wellness.
In his press release announcing the grant, Nearman explained the impetus for establishing his fund, and his innovative use of the strength of the masses of new runners to help groom Olympic and World Championship distance runners. In addition, his race offered American-only prize money and a $1,300 bonus for any American qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials next month in Houston.
In response to Nearman’s offer, Team USA Arizona sent Jordan Horn and Danny Mercado to Virginia, where the two young American runners qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon.
“When you really analyze the sport, there are just a few Ryan Hall’s and Meb Keflezighi’s in distance running who can focus solely on running and not working other jobs to support themselves,” Nearman said. “Our sport is so hampered by this, which is a huge barrier of entry into the profession of elite distance runner. You don’t see the thousands of professional Baseball, Hockey, Basketball and Football players working second jobs to afford being a professional athlete.
“What I am trying to achieve is a partnership between race and training camp. So often, your invited top athlete(s) get injured and withdraw during the week or two before the race. In our approach, Team USA Arizona sent their healthy, race-ready professionals to our race and they both benefitted greatly. While professional teams have contracts with their players, our sport does not, except for appearance money for a very few who already have made it in our sport and have sponsors. Our partnership comes closer to the major sports model, with race directors committing money to the training camps which send them competitive athletes who then enhance their races. We totally support the efforts of Team USA Arizona and are excited and proud to have some horses in the Olympic Marathon trials race.” Continue reading
Minimal, broad-based funding has long been a useful mechanism to advance the cause of sports in the USA. In the late 1970s and early `80s runners had to join The Athletics Congress (precursor to today’s USA Track & Field) in order to run the Boston, New York City and Columbus Marathons. Today, a similar mechanism is utilized by USA Triathlon where every competitor must purchase at least a one-day license ($10) in order to participate in sanctioned events. Running USA, itself, was stood up in 1999 in part with funds provided by then New York City Marathon director Alan Steinfeld who pledged a $1 per U.S. entry to the fledgling organization. That funding gave rise to Team USA California in Mammoth Lakes which developed Deena Kastor’s bronze and MebKeflezighi’s silver medals at the Athens Olympic Marathons in 2004.
While the mandatory TAC membership model fell away in the 1980s as more and more fitness runners came into running, and the governing body proved unwilling or incapable of providing services for fees, and RUSA withdrew its support for Mammoth Lakes at the end of 2009 as the trade organization turned it focus inward toward servicing industry members rather than outward toward the sport, the minimal $1 per entry practice was resurrected this March by race director Steve Nearman of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon scheduled for October 2nd in Alexandria, Virginia WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE HALF MAKES MAJOR AMERICAN PLEDGE.
Nearman’s funds will be used to support America’s distance running training camps. Several other events have since joined the Dollar For Distance Development pledge, and USA Track & Field Foundation continues with its own program “to attract and guide funds to new and innovative track and field programs, with an emphasis on providing opportunities for youth athletes, emerging elite athletes, distance training centers and anti-doping education.” USATFF generates its funding from donations from its Board of Directors and from generous fans of track and field.
Yesterday, Team USA Arizona coach Greg McMillan revealed that he has received a contribution from Tagg Running of Tucson from its July 4th Freedom Run. Continue reading