Thinking of my “running family” on Family Day in Ontario. How about you?

February 21st. It’s “Family Day” in our neck of the woods today, and combined with the mass of running and running news all over the globe, it’s had me thinking. To some ardent converts to a healthy lifestyle, running is “a new religion”. To many of us, it’s definitely a “way of life”, something that changes lives, and builds so many friendships at home and abroad that it becomes an expanded “running family” for us. 

What does running mean to you this “Family Day”? Has it changed your life? Have you built any new friends through running?  Please let me know, if you have a moment!  

Eric Gillis & Tommy Lecours in shorts, lead out their group in yesterday's Tune Up Training Run for Sporting Life Toronto 10K.

As I noted in my earlier 2010 Year In Review, the current running boom seems to have become a tsunami, and with running EVERYWHERE, I know my running family and friendships have grown in Toronto and around the world. 

Remember the Alamo! The historic site in San Antonio where I bought a Davey Crocket 'coon skin hat for our CRS team-member Davey "Crockett" Gilchrist!

 My week just gone by really seems to have underscored this. It began in San Antonio, at the annual Running USA Conference. It’s an industry conference, with 500 of the best people, best minds, the industry leaders in running in North America. It’s not just races, it’s shoe & clothing companies, medals manufacturers, timing companies, IT & Social Media marketing folks. From 6:30am until 10pm, Sunday thru Tuesday, we were in sessions and networking. Surrounded by “eagles” with ideas that soar, and pump us up to constantly strive to improve Canada Running Series. And they are also friends, part of MY running family that I spend MANY hours each year with, at their events as well as ours: Marty Wanless from Vancouver. Brant Kotch and Steve Karpas, General Manager from Houston Marathon, who will be hosting the US Olympic Trials next January, and confirmed he and his running buddies ARE coming back to run Scotia Toronto Waterfront on October 16th. Steve came in 2007. All his running mates who came with him got under 3  — Steve ran 3:01, to he’s on a mission to change this! John & Stacey Conley & Michelle from Austin were there, incredibly, with their Austin Marathon just a few days away! John had to leave suddenly though, to go home to deal with a sink-hole on their course!! We hung out with Patrice, Dee and Pete from Pittsburgh, and visited the Alamo Historic site with Lake Tahoe RD, Les Wright. I spent time with Jim Estes and Fred Finke from USATF — two long-time friends with whom I’ve shared experiences on the back of more than a few VERY wet Press Trucks. Can you believe it… as if the racing scene isn’t adrenaline enough, Fred had jumped out of a plane for “skydiving fun” since I saw him last! Then there was my good friend Arturo Linaldi, based in San Antonio, but head of South American sales for IPICO timing systems, Adrian Soria from Marcate, the #1 MyLaps timing company in Mexico, and Alejandra Alanis from SportTravel in Mexico City.  “What’s the latest from Mexico and across South America,” I’m eager to know. “Tell me about the BIG Half marathon in Quito and the Sao Paulo Marathon? I’ve been invited to both in June — as a speaker in Quito.” Adrian has a new company organizing races now, as well as just timing them; Arturo is taking a romantic couple we know well — Edilberto Mendez and Karina Perez who live and train together in Tlaxcala, to Milan and Virgin London Marathon this Spring. I’ll see them again then. I may see Adrian in Torreon, Mexico in 2 weeks for Maraton Lala, Mexico’s top marathon in a small, industrial city in northern Mexico. It’s a place Inge and I have come to know and like well over the last 6 years we’ve visited and made friends there. Lala is Central America’s #1 milk company with HQ in Torreon. The marathon is their gift to the city. Several of the execs have studied at U of Guelph [Ag/Vet colleges], and we even have a thriving, “Arbol de Canada” in the Bosque Venustiano Carranza park at the Finish line that we planted with Don Germán Gonález Navarro in 2007. 

Inge & I planting "Arbol de Canada", with Don Germán Gonález Navarro, in Bosque Venustiano Carranza, Marathon Lala Finish area, March 2007

 Needless to say, a bunch of our time at Running USA is spent with fellow Race Directors, and one of THE BIG discussions last week was led by Boston RD, Dave McGillivray, on “How to Manage Sell-Out Races”. This was a super session, with us participating with the likes of NYC RD, Mary Wittenberg, Steve K and the Houston folks, Peachtree [RD Tracey Russell], Falmouth, and a packed room.  This came 2 days before the BAA announced their plan to re-vamp their system and standards for Boston entry for 2012/2013. It was great to be part of the leading-edge industry discussion, and Dave is a GREAT speaker. (If you haven’t read The Last Pick, it’s definitely recommended!). 

One of Dave’s key points was that “whatever system you adopt, it has to be based on your objectives — you have to know who you are. And at Boston we are about ‘the pursuit of athletic excellence.’” What followed… “Boston toughens standards!” shouted the headlines on Wednesday!  I got several Facebook and other messages from you folks, that all seemed to be in favour. “About time!” from Adam Wellstead was typical…   LOTS of chatter on this topic

What do YOU think about the changes? 

From San Antonio our CRS “Running Family” scattered in true “diaspora” fashion, to be part of an AMAZINGLY hectic weekend with running and our friends EVERYWHERE! 

The Conleys went back to Austin where they staged a super Livestrong Austin Marathon yesterday, complete with Lance himself, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Runner’s World CRO Bart Yasso and a “sell-out” crowd. 

Adrian went back to Mexico where he timed the Guadalajara Half marathon yesterday, won in  62:33 and 1:11:23. Can we beat that in Montreal on April 17th at our National Championships, Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal

Jim Estes avec shades at NACAC in Trinidad on Saturday. VERY cool, Jim!

Jim Estes was heading home to Indianapolis on Wednesday, then onto Port of Spain, Trinidad for the NACAC XC Championships with team USA. And of course, Jim and Team USA were going up against a bunch of our other friends on Team CANADA! Congrats to our Junior Men’s and Women’s who claimed the titles, to Kate Harrison who WON the Senior Women’s race and Cam Levins who was 2nd in Sr Men’s in a tough battle to the line. Also Kate Vaughan and Natasha Wodak who were 10th & 11th in the Sr. Women’s race. Both of them ran with us at OASIS ZooRun 2010, and we’ll see Kate again soon at 21K de Montreal on April 17th

Mary Keitany wins RAK Half on Friday in new WR, 65:50

 Further afield, I spoke to Ian Ladbrooke on Friday night — the guy who works with me to put together the professional athlete field for Scotia Toronto Waterfront. I tracked him down in the bar at the Al Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah, The Emirates.  “We’re excited,” said Ian. “Fantastic! We’re tired, but really, REALLY pleased. We knew we had a great course. It was just a matter of the weather and getting everything right on the day. It was amazing!” Of course, they had LOTS to celebrate, as Friday morning, Mary Keitany had just run 65:50 for a new Women’s Half marathon WORLD RECORD at the RAK Half, where Ian also assembles the elite field. Just like STWM, he was riding around on his motorcycle for the race, and another old friend, “Stan” aka Simon Tonui was Mary’s pacemaker. He’s helped us with pace-making at STWM for 3 years now, and was also one of Reid Coolsaet’s pacers last Fall when Reid ran his 2:11:23 — the fastest marathon by a Canuck in 24 years! And finishing 4th at RAK in 69:04 was Rose Kosgei, who made her marathon debut at STWM last September. Bravo IAN, bravo STAN, well done ROSE! [watch 3-minute RAK video. You’ll see Stan pacing at one point, #14 in blue singlet; Ian, the traditionally-built guy in red Saucony t-shirt and backpack giving Mary an hug after she finishes; and old friend Tim Hutchings, RD at Brighton Marathon, on the mike announcing].   

In the other direction, Brett Larner, who worked with us in bringing Team JAPAN to STWM last Fall was checking out the action at the Yokohama Ladies Marathon where Yoshimi Ozaki ran 2:22:56, for victory and — as a lovely piece of trivia — to record the fastest ever women’s marathon in the month of February!! Brett and I are already starting to work on another Team JAPAN to battle Team CANADA on October 16th for the International Team Challenge. 

And me? Well that was the nicest part. I came back to T.O. and home to my own family of Inge Charlotte and Alec, and our local running FAMILY. Thanks to the stars of the Speed River TFC and all of you who came out to Sporting Life store yesterday for our “LAUNCH” Tune Up Training Run to kick off “10 weeks to 10K”, Coach Jenny’s SIX, FREE, online Training Progammes to take us thru Harry’s Spring Run Off, Banque Scotia 21K de montreal, and onto the BIG goal of the Sporting Life Toronto 10K on May 1st. Camp Oochigeas was there. Globe publisher, long-time runner and Captain og the Globe and Mail Team was there. Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis, Hilary Stellingwerff, Tommy Lecours, Meredith MacGregor and Chris Winter from the NB SRTFC were there. And most important, I got to meet many of the 100 or so other runners who turned out for an easy 5K run. Peter Verwood told us about why SLT10K is so special to him — he and his wife have run the event for 6 year’s now in memory of their son who died of a children’s cancer, and they fundraise for Ooch.   [find out how you can get a FREE race entry by running for Ooch]. A romantic couple, Debbie and Matt from East York told us they were doing it for healthy lifestyles and to support the kids. Don from Barrie will be racing on May 1st to try to break 40 minutes “running down Yonge without getting run down”, and wanted to ask Reid Coolsaet for some tips on improving his speed and downhill running technique.    

Watch for some video clips from our Tune Up Training Run yesterday, coming up on the blog here, and on my Facebook page [Alan Brookes] over the next few days — including some Tips from our Speed River speedsters as they answered our questions. 

In the meantime, THANK YOU for sharing your running with me and our family at Canada Running Series.  Near or far; young or old; fast or slow; healthy-lifestyle or charity runners, you are part of our very important “extended” Running Family. Today, especially, we’ll be thinking of you, on your runs and ours, from Tokyo to Trinidad and Ras Al Khaimah, Vancouver to Toronto, Montreal and St.John’s. Running, EVERYWHERE! 

How important is YOUR running family to you? Let us know!          

ps. Let’s keep in touch! Please follow me on   Twitter and  STWM on Facebook Facebook.

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