The Staten Island Runner

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September 29, 1999  

NYRROArs   by Glenn Ribotsky

An ongoing commentary on issues in the Staten Island and metropolitan road racing community, complied through the auspices of the New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation.


From time to time, these columns receive comments in the form of e-mails and such (yes, believe it or not, some people actually take the time to write in about stuff that appears here—sometimes they even sign their names). One of the more frequent themes has been that this space only speaks about those things that are “wrong” in the road racing realm, and never mentions anything “good” happening in the sport. While this column was originally conceived as a critical look at the sport—after all, NYRROA is an advocacy organization, and advocacy usually involves criticism of an existing situation—we’re not altogether in disagreement that what appears here is usually couched in negative terms, and that can be wearying. Therefore, we figured we’d focus this time on a few recent developments that we feel are positive, and have overall benefit for the sport’s future.

First, the news came down at the annual meeting of the New York Road Runners Club (NYRRC) on September 13 that former New York Flyers’ officer and long-time running activist Julie Geisler had been elected to a newly-created spot on the NYRRC’s Board of Directors. Insofar as can be determined, she is the first candidate to be elected to an NYRRC Board position without the inside backing of a current Board member; in fact, as she out-polled two other candidates with such backing, her election came as somewhat of a surprise to the NYRRC’s administration. (While her election may have come as a surprise to the Club’s upper echelon, it probably came as no surprise at all to the rank-and-file members, who have long claimed that the administration is out of touch with the majority of the Club’s membership; this may be just another example.) Ms. Geisler apparently treated the election like a real campaign, going to races to talk with the runners, and visiting the meetings of a number of local clubs to get their input. Her election certainly cannot have pleased the Club, as she has vehemently and publicly disagreed with the Club’s policies and practices on a number of occasions, most notably the Club’s decision to make Grete’s Great Gallop, a half-marathon that was the longest all-women’s race in the United States, a regular co-ed race. As one of the founders of the Coalition to Restore the Women’s’ Half-Marathon, she and her colleagues produced enough embarrassing race protests and press releases to cause the club to eventually schedule another all-female half-marathon. While I have not always agreed with her on all issues (philosophically, I question the need for all women’s races, as I do all-men’s races; I think separate starts would allow both genders to run in situations in which they could see all their competition without opening running organizations to lawsuits and charges of sexism/reverse sexism), I respect her for her activism, her advocacy of issues important to the actual race participants, and, perhaps most importantly, her approachability—she has always been quite willing to discuss any and all issues. As these are not qualities that have otherwise been much in evidence among NYRRC Board members/Club administrators, I can only suppose that her presence on the Board will help provide better representation for the disgruntled majority. (One issue we do agree on, and for which she has promised to work, is the direct petition nomination and election of future Board members, rather than the current process of gatekeeping by the actual Board itself, in which a Board committee “screens” potential candidates before they can be put on the ballot—NYRROA has strongly advocated that the election should be open to any NYRRC member in good standing.)

On a more local front, the decision by the Marty Celic Race committee to continue in its attempts to make that race as efficient and professional as possible by changing over from hand-scoring to computerized scoring is another piece of good news—the refurbished race had become too large to hand score without huge delays in the start of the award ceremonies. Moreover, considering the proliferation of companies large and small providing race services (and Staten Island is used to controversies engendered by some local service providers), the decision to use Fred Torres’ and his Elite Racing Systems team was a good decision, as Fred is familiar with the local racing scene from scoring a number of other Island races.

His systems are not perfect—I myself have asked him to investigate a software upgrade to allow more flexible overall-place-in-gender team scoring, and not just team scoring by aggregate time or cross-country rules, where only runners who designate a team get counted—but he is efficient and again, most importantly, approachable. Additionally, his presence at the finish line meant the absence of the Pepper Martin committee and contingent, who have been involved in enough road race controversy on Staten Island to allow me the liberty of saying that the fewer races they have a technical hand in, the better.  (The fact that the Brighton Kiwanis, whose membership overlaps that of the Pepper Martin Committee, provides insurance for many racing events on the Island has helped lead to the overly great influence that group has had on Island racing, as few dared to challenge their practices for fear of losing the insurance; it seems as if other players are now organizing events with enough backing not to rely on that one source for insurance—witness the coming Corrinne’s Pride Run—and, to paraphrase Martha Stuart, that can only be a good thing.)

Okay, there you have it—what’s good, for a change, in road racing. (Consider this fair warning, though, that it probably won’t be made a habit of.)

Glenn Ribotsky
Chair, New York Road Race OmbudsAssociation
84 Vogel Loop
Staten Island, NY 10314