Andy Schachat’s On the Run: RRCA-NH failing to catch on
Twenty-six members of the Greater Derry Track Club were among the 219 finishers in last Sunday's Granite State 10 Miler, the finale of the 2012 Road Runners Club of America-New Hampshire Grand Prix. And when all the times were recorded and the age-division standings sorted out, all 26 GDTC runners were among those scoring points toward the RRCA-NH standings.
Those points were enough to clinch Greater Derry's second state grand prix title in three years, culminating one of the most dramatic championship runs in the history of the series, which originated in 1994.
The GDTC and its slightly fewer than 200 members entered the Granite State 10 Miler trailing the 400-member strong Gate City Striders by three points. Greater Derry made up the margin and then some, out-pointing its Nashua-based rival 153-117 in the race, which started and finished on the campus of NHTI in Concord.
Unfortunately, competition such as that between Greater Derry and Gate City is all too rare in the RRCA-NH Grand Prix, which includes 10 clubs and seven races.
While Greater Derry and Gate City had point totals of 862 and 829, respectively, the Upper Valley Running Club finished third in the standings, with a respectable but distant 448. The Concord-based Granite State Racing Team placed fifth (313), with Manchester's Athletic Alliance Running Club sixth (183). Far, far back were the Coastal Athletic Association (35), Rochester Runners (7) and White Mountain Milers (3). Neither the Lakes Region's Club Northeast nor the Monadnock Region Milers registered a point in the series.
There's some irony in all this. In regional series around the state, participation in series races is booming.
Runners have been coming out by the hundreds for the Seacoast Road Race Series and Will Run for Beer Series, which comprises events in southeastern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts. The Capital Area Race Series, with races based in and around Concord, has resulted in its races breaking records for entries. In Greater Manchester, the inaugural Millennium Running Series has attracted some of the biggest fields in the state.
Why hasn't the New Hampshire Grand Prix flourished in similar fashion? I am reminded of a lesson I learned during a career in the radio industry. If you want people to participate in a promotion or competition - in this case, a road-race series - meet two criteria: Make the prize desirable, and make the prize easy to obtain. Unlike the other New Hampshire series, the New Hampshire Grand Prix has not, and probably never will, achieve those goals.
As is the case with other series in the state, the RRCA-NH Grand Prix offers prizes, jackets and shirts. No problem there. But the easy-to-obtain part? That's another story.
RRCA-NH member clubs are scattered all over the state, and each gets to pick a 'home' race, which means runners must travel all over the state to fully participate in the series. Based on attendance at Grand Prix events, clubs have not been able to get their members to do that. For example, one race was based in Lebanon, another in Nashua, and the two seacoast-based clubs, the Coastal Athletic Association and Rochester Runners, did not participate in either race.
Unfortunately there's no easy solution. The geography of the Granite State is not going to change, and there isn't likely to be any mass migration of Granite State runners toward one central location. Seacoast runners are going to run with Seacoast clubs and do most of their racing in Seacoast events. Likewise runners in the White Mountains, the Upper Valley and the western part of the state.
What's the answer? Maybe the excitement of Greater Derry winning it all at the last state grand prix race of 2012 will get some other clubs thinking the long drives are worth it.
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RUNNING SHORTS: Individual winners of the Granite State 10 Miler were Greg Hammett of Chesterfield and Megan Call of Wilmot ... I used to train on the course that was chosen for the Horne Street 5K in Dover, a race also held last Sunday, so I can attest that is one hilly course. That's why I especially admire Matt Silva and Ella Kennedy, both from Dover, for taking top honors. ... There were 377 finishers at the Oct. 13 UNH Homecoming 5K, with Steve Monsulick of Dover and Mary Garrity Klene of Manchester, a UNH alum, winning. But I think there's a more interesting story about this race, which continued its steady growth by attracting its biggest field yet. That growth has coincided with increasing attendance at UNH's Homecoming football game, and I think the football team's success - it has the longest streak of NCAA Football Championship Subdivision tournament appearances in the nation - has a lot to do with that ... Looking ahead, the Queen City will rock next weekend with the Manchester City Marathon, Half Marathon and Relay. With a generous prize money package (by New Hampshire road race standards), a strong field should be in attendance.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com..