RRCA Annual Convention
March 28-31, 2019
New Orleans, LA
I had the pleasure of attending my third conference (after Des Moines, IA in 2015 and Richmond, VA in 2018). I have found all the meetings to be interesting, informative and inspiring.
It's wonderful to exchange dialogue with running clubs from around the country, and of all different sizes. Our 300 members make us larger than many, but several clubs are close to 1,000 strong. But large and small clubs have many similar objectives and swapping ideas was very productive.
What follows are summaries of the different speakers and sessions I attended at this conference.
Insurance & Risk Management for Clubs & Events
This presentation occurred during the continental breakfast, as it has before. The members of two insurance companies talked about actual claims made to RRCA caused by mostly club races but sometimes group (fun) runs.
They spoke about the need for a club who organizes a large race to speak with them (via RRCA) about the exact insurance needs to protect the clubs from liability and runners from unexpected medical expenses.
These sessions are usually lively, with questions coming from the entire body of runners (it's the only presentation at the time). But so many of the responses were hypothetical in nature, and often ended with the need for direct conversation with the insurers while an event was being organized.
Increasing Sponsorship in a Soft Market
This session was not what I expected. The speaker was the race director of the Louisiana Marathon. Their race sponsors were donating $50K and above. He talked about paying for a Canadian consulting group to estimate the value, to a potential "named sponsor," of having their name part of the event as the event was marketed in all forms of media. The estimated value was around $150K and the charge to the eventual named sponsor was around $130K. Clearly not what AARC will ever be considering.
I tried to absorb the meeting's content with the idea of scaling it down to our size and situation. It seemed that the different sizes of our two clubs, with completely different business models, made it difficult to translate their ideas into our two races.
Luncheon featuring Golden Harper, Co-Founder of Altra shoes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altra_Running)
Quite the interesting story of a young man who studied the anatomy of runners and the causes of many foot injuries, leading to the development of a new shoe called Altra.
Elevating Your Race Experience to Attract Participants
I tried to attend this meeting, but the room was overflowing. What little bit I saw/heard involved massive spending for things like radio and billboards. Clearly, they were talking about marketing budgets that greatly exceed ours.
Marketing Strategies for Promoting and Growing Your Events
The speakers gave different ideas for increasing the size of a race. Many of these ideas included marketing, such as social media and even creating a new hashtag on Twitter. (We use Facebook, which is great. We should make it a priority to respond quickly to any questions or comments from runners, to make us look more engaged).
Other ideas for increased race size included the ideas of costume contests (I think I saw one penguin, other than ours, at Frostbite. Not sure how many want to wear any costume during the heat of Phils).
Another idea was the concept of team entries, which is something I have raised to the Board. I'd like to pursue the concept of high school teams. Maybe I can work with the athletic directors who have been helpful in selecting scholarship recipients. We need to understand the rules surrounding awards, etc., when high school athletes are involved.
Luncheon featuring Michael Wardian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Wardian)
Mike ran his first marathon at 9 years old. Among his many achievements was lowering the total time record for 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. His times hovered around 2:45 to 3:00.
Creative Concepts to Engage Runners in Your Group Runs/Training Programs
This session didn't offer many ideas that we don't already use. We already meet at "fun" places to socialize after the runs, notably Fireside and Starbucks. I consider the weekly fun runs to be very successful at bringing runners together on a regular basis. Tuesdays used to (or maybe still do) have pizza and beer every 2-3 weeks at NWRC. And the traveling runs have also been great for motivation people to run then socialize afterward.
As always, after three conferences, I found them to be very informative and good for stimulating ideas that might help AARC.
But, in a classic case of "checks and balances," Madam Treasurer Kristy asked me point blank, is the conference worth the expense ($2,000). I didn't give a clear answer immediately, as I wanted to weigh several factors.
I'm now better prepared to answer Kristy (and maybe other Board members). Many of the conference sessions applied to much larger races than ours. And many of the clubs in attendance are not just larger than AARC, but they also organize many more races (in some cases 2 or more each month). This later fact made me think that these "clubs" are really more like "organizations." Top leaders are paid, maybe even as full-time employees. When people tell me their club always sends the President, VP and Treasurer to RRCA meetings, I suspect they always budget money in the Income Statement for those expenses, and that money is probably viewed as part of their compensation.
AARC is truly a "club," defined (in my mind) as a group of people who come together to engage in a shared interest. That shared interest is first, running, and a close second, socializing about running. At times I wonder about growing the size of the club, then wonder why that's necessary.
Are the conferences worth the expense? It was a nice "perk" to go as President two years in a row. I'm very thankful for those opportunities. However, given our mission to "promote the well-being of the community," the money spent on the conference could be put to better use, specifically, increased scholarships (quantity and/or amount) and beneficiary donations.
Jeffrey Lofton, AARC President