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August 23. 2014 8:54PM

Any Schachat's Andy on the Run: Solutions offered for troubled NH Grand Prix race series


 

"Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions."That was a favorite expression of the general manger of a radio station that I used to work at, words he uttered every time a complication arose at the station.

Those words have been ringing in my ears for the past week since emails began circulating among members of the New Hampshire road race community. The subject of those emails was the New Hampshire Grand Prix Series. On Aug. 10, 109 runners and walkers took part in the Epsom Old Home Days Four Mile race, the latest stop on the 2014 NHGP Series schedule.

Because of the small turnout, there was concern about the state of the series. As one of the emails questioned: "What are we doing here?"A history lesson is in order. The NHGP Series began in the mid-1990's as a competition among the New Hampshire running clubs that were associated with the Road Runners Club of America.

Each year seven races are designated as series events with each club having the option of picking a home race. In the early years there was widespread participation among the clubs and interest was high. As the years have gone on, some clubs have ceased to exist while others have seen their involvement in the series dwindle to very small numbers.

Currently a few clubs seem to have much interest in the series - the Gate City Striders, Great Derry Track Club, Upper Valley Running Club, and Granite State Racing Team. Even among these four clubs, the level of participation ebbs and flows.

Which brings us to the present.

When the results of the Epsom race became official the emails started. The theme of the emails was to ask why the interest in the series had gotten as low as it has. No question there was a problem.So, what is the solution? I offer a few ideas.Invoke the Serenity Prayer: The Serenity prayer starts with the line "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." The organizers of the NHGP Series are going to have to accept certain realities about the current state of the New Hampshire running scene.

Unlike other race series in the Granite State, series that are very popular, the NHGP Series requires a lot of travel. A number of clubs have to travel at least one hour every time a series race pops up on the schedule. There was a time when that much travel was acceptable, but not anymore.

There are so many races in this state that runners can satisfy their racing needs by staying close to home and there seems to be no end in sight of that trend. That means the NHGP Series organizers are going to have accept that the amount of travel required to compete in the series is going to be a strong deterrent.Series organizers are also going to have to accept the change in attitude that has occurred in recent years.

Gone are the days that New Hampshire runners, and runners all over the country, are made of mostly of those who see races as serious competitions. Today it is more about participation, not competition. The declining interest in competition is going to mean less interest in competitive races like those that make up the NHGP series.

Mega Cheerleaders: Clubs that have lost interest in the NHGP Series will get that interest back if members of those clubs work very hard at reviving interest. Those clubs are going to need one or two individuals who can "pump up" membership to the point that members will get excited about the series, whether its emails or more active recruiting methods, and very strong effort is going to have to be made to increase club involvement.

Part of the cheerleading effort may have to include incentives. Subsidizing entry fees or paying bonuses for performance may entice club members to participate in a NHGP event.Change the Scoring System: The NHGP Series scoring is done by matching a club's overall performance against the other club's overall performance.

Each age and gender category is scored separately, then the points are added up for each club.

The NHGP Series should consider what the New England Grand Prix Series does, eliminate overall club points. The NE Series only tracks scoring by age and gender categories. That gives small clubs an incentive to put together a team that may only be strong in one or two categories without worrying how they will match up against larger clubs.

With that kind of scoring system a team that is strong in one category can get excited about competing in its division.Pick More Desirable Races: This has been a bone of contention for me for years when it comes to the NHGP Series.

For many years many of the series races have been small. The idea was that small races would become bigger because runners would show up to compete in the NHGP series. It hasn't worked out that way.

Small races aren't popular to begin with, which is why they are small. Runners have already said no to these races and that won't change because they are now part of the NHGP Series.As the saying goes, "there go my people, I must get out in front of them so I can be their leader."

The NHGP Series organizers should select races that are already popular. If that's where the runners are then go to them.Running shorts. ...Once again, we sing the praises of two New Hampshire female triathletes, Concord's Amber Ferreria and Intervale's Meghan Skidmore. Three weeks after winning Ironman Lake Placid, Ferreira was second at Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Canada.

On the same day Skidmore won the Tri For Preservation sprint race in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. ... Using timed finishers as the measuring tool history was made on August 14 at the Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race.

There were 5,632 finishers, making it the largest road race in New Hampshire history. ... Looking ahead, a great 5K takes place on Labor Day, the St. Charles Children's Home 5K in Portsmouth. It offers a medal for anyone who runs or walks a "PR" or personal record. No other New Hampshire race offers that kind of reward.

Andy Schachat's column appears everuy other Sunday in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at achachatt44@gmail.com.


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