The Staten Island Runner

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October 16, 2000 

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.


The column this month will deal with a very different subject than it usually does, presaging a considerable change in its future.

As one of the founders and the very first chairperson of the New York Road Racing OmbudsAssociation, I have tried to advance the agenda that was the original reason for its founding in 1996—the need to have a runner-centered, rather than an official or sponsor-centered, organization addressing some of the troubling trends in the sport. NYRROA was founded to encourage fairness and efficiency in event administration, to provide information and guidance for those looking to put on these events, to push for reform with a combined and effective voice, and to do this independently, without being beholden to any of the sport’s many competing club, sponsor, or marketing interests. (The name was taken from ombudsman, the official in many parliamentary democracies charged with being the advocate for the private citizen in the halls of government.) Though the association is, and probably always will remain, a small one, I think it has had an impact far out of proportion to its size. It has been involved in issues ranging from pushing USA Track & Field to reorganize administratively in a manner that would place long-distance running/road racing on a par with track and field, working for the end of arcane and arbitrary rules regarding cross-gender pacing in events, encouraging that road racing organizational behemoth, the New York Road Runners Club, to recognize wheelchair athletes in the signature New York City Marathon, as well as urging it to come up with fairer marathon entry policies for its members. These are all areas in which we have had a certain degree of success, and I am proud that these efforts under my watch have born some fruit, although it would be premature to think that these issues are entirely settled. Besides, there are still many other issues that need attention, both on the local and national levels.

While the joke has always been that I got to be chair because I rose from the nominating meeting to go to the bathroom at exactly the wrong moment (and couldn’t object to being chosen), it was a decision that was arrived at by consensus. It was never my intention to hold on to the chair for this long—our policy is to have an annual review—but I continued on (with consent, of course) primarily because no one else was available to devote the amount of time and energy to the position that was necessary. Now I, with a young son and a job that requires a seven-day a week commitment many months of the year, have reached the point where other demands on my time have increased to the point beyond which I feel I can do the best job. Accordingly, I will be stepping down from the chair at the end of this month (though I will remain a member of the executive committee), to be succeeded by another original founder, Arnas Cula, who I am sure will prove an excellent successor. The executive committee will also feature new member Daniel Gussman, who, in a bit of an irony, replaces his sister Devorah, who is moving to California. (Daniel, who started out as the most skeptical of recruits to the ombuds-concept, seems to have come to the conclusion over the past few months, as we originally did, that the kind of work being done here is necessary enough that he is willing to devote an increasing amount of time and effort to.)

What this means for the future direction of NYRROA is fairly clear; not much will change. What will change is the nature of this column. It was written as the voice of NYRROA (though obviously it contained a considerable amount of my own opinion) with the association’s consent, and I am proud of the body of work that was produced over the last several years. (I am also very thankful to Richie Re for allowing me the use of his website as a forum; many of the outlets in the “traditional” media were apparently afraid to take on the column, as it (I) would freely criticize any running personality or organization we felt merited it. I imagine Richie has gotten some flak from some of the more august personalities that we have thrown brickbats at in these lines; it is to his credit that he has steadfastly ignored it and kept the website a place where all can be heard.) It is fairly certain, too, that what has appeared in this column (which has, on occasion, been picked up and carried in other outlets—and, judging by some of the responses I get, has a wide-ranging readership, including incoming RRCA President Freddie Carlip) has had an impact. I don’t know if I could claim it was the direct cause of any of the reforms or changes that NYRROA has advocated for, but by timing alone (and the feedback I have gotten) there seems to have been an effect. Nevertheless, with my leaving the chair it would not be right for this column to continue to be the “voice of NYRROA”; moreover, the job of researching and writing a bi-weekly, and then even a monthly, column has proven more demanding and time-consuming that I ever thought it would be. Accordingly, this will be the last monthly “NYRROARS” column; I will continue to comment on issues of interest to the running community, under my own masthead, as time and Richie’s space permit. (I do not think that Arnas will take over writing the column under the “NYRROARS” heading; he is a Bronxite and always felt that my column had a little too much of a Staten Island emphasis. Go figure. Besides, while he likes Richie’s handling of the site, his disdain for the know-nothing-and-proud-of-it provincialism of many of the other local readers and writers that pervade it is well known, and something we are in agreement on.) I would like to thank all those of you who have read, commented upon, and provided information and ideas for this column over the years, and I promise to continue to write when I can (and when it is most assuredly necessary)

Glenn Ribotsky/NYYROA

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