Candidate Statement: Keith Knipling
I’ve been a member of the VHTRC since 1999, and have participated in most club events, either as a participant or volunteer, since then. Lots of things have changed over that time. I can remember signing up for MMT the day before the race. Montrail, Inov8, and Hoka didn’t exist. But the on the whole, most things are the same. It’s still about putting one foot in front of the other while trying not to trip on the rocks.
I’ve been around long enough to understand the VHTRC’s heritage, and my objectives as board member are to maintain the club’s low-key, welcoming nature while promoting trail running through our three marquee races, numerous informal runs, and volunteerism. I am not necessarily interested in increasing our membership (which currently numbers around 500), but I am interested in increasing member involvement and exposure in the D.C. community. I think our races are some of the best in the country, but there are areas for improvement. And we need a better way to keep track of our stuff.
Increased exposure in the Washington area community
Many of our members live in the metro D.C. area, but many of our informal training runs and volunteerism is done in the Massanuttens and Shenandoah Mountains to the west. Let’s bring some of this closer to home.
Rock Creek Park, with 2000 acres and more than 25 miles of dirt trails, is a real gem in our backyard. The VHTRC should support regular weekend training runs in Rock Creek Park. Low-key. No prescribed route. No RSVP form. Just show up at 7 a.m. at Peirce Mill and run. Maybe grab brunch afterwards. Many of us do this on our own, but it would be nice to institutionalize these as regular, informal club events. These runs used to be more common, but it has been some time since I’ve been to one.
The trails in Rock Creek Park are maintained by volunteers coordinated by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC, the same group that maintains most of the trails in the mountains and part of the Bull Run Trail). The PATC’s Rock Creek Crew organizes somewhat regular trail maintenance outings that are posted on its Facebook page. I would like to encourage a stronger club presence at these events as well.
Better swag at club races
The VHTRC has a well-earned reputation of putting on high-quality races. Low entry fees, excellent aid stations, comprehensive course marking, thorough event organization, and enthusiastic volunteers are hallmarks of VHTRC events. Nobody does these things better. But race swag — the awards given out to entrants and finishers at MMT, Bull Run Run, and the Women’s Half Marathon — has historically been hit-or-miss.
Each of our races should feature high-quality, technical, runner-functional swag. Think Patagonia or The North Face. Having helped with the swag at past VHTRC events, I know that the difference between a technical fleece and a cotton sweatshirt can be less than $10 per runner. While I genuinely appreciate the low entry fees of our events (especially when the general trend in our sport is otherwise), we should strive for races that are a good value rather than cheap.
Other races (notably Stone Mill) offer entrants the option of deferring race swag for a reduced entry fee, which we should also consider at our events. Finally, for those who find an increased entry fee burdensome, the VHTRC should continue to sponsor entry fee scholarships for Bull Run and MMT (the club currently sponsors four for BRR and two for MMT).
While I am a advocating quality, name-brand I apparel, I also respect and agree with the VHTRC’s official club policy on corporate sponsorship. We can have good stuff without selling out.
Storage and management of club equipment
The VHTRC has a lot of stuff — water coolers, ice coolers, shelters, clocks, timing system, generators, signs, and the like — all of which is necessary to pull off the three major races, numerous training runs, and other events and parties throughout the year. But we currently lack a good way of storing and keeping track of it all.
In the past the club has relied on the generosity of Kerry Owens, storing much of our stuff at her property in Front Royal. This had some advantages, as many of our events are out that way, and Kerry had a lot of space. And not least, it was free (as in beer). But keeping tabs of the whereabouts of all this stuff was challenging, partly because Front Royal is not particularly close to where many of us live. Nor is it convenient for our other events like Bull Run Run, the Women’s Half, and Redeye that are closer to the District.
Without direct oversight or accountability, club property is free (as in speech) to migrate. Case in point: since the Women’s Half, I’ve had two ice coolers in the back of my car that will be dropped off at Kerry’s the next time I am out there. Perhaps MLK weekend?
I propose that the club rent a storage unit that is centrally located between our three club races, with access given to board members, race RDs, and other event volunteers. Manassas, Va, near I–66 and Rt 234 (Sudley Rd) fits the bill, and is on the way for most people driving out to the mountains.
Those that need it will have convenient access to the equipment at any time. And by implementing a strict check-in/check-out policy for club equipment — perhaps on a physical whiteboard in the storage unit or online in a Google Docs spreadsheet — and by limiting access to a select few, we can keep better accountability of our stuff.
The downside, of course, is that this is not free. The going rate for a suitable storage unit is $150–200 per month. But the club has grown up. The VHTRC will be 21 in 2014. Bumming Milwaukee’s Best is cool and all, but we have the means to buy our own Dogfish Head now.
Thanks for reading this far. I hope to see you on the trails soon.