As you may or may not know, Run Tampa’s club president in 2015-2016, Carla Nolan, and our event director, David Yancey resigned, simultaneously last week with zero notice. Since I didn’t have any warning, I had to hussle to get everything covered and maintained. No worries, though. I started Run Tampa many years ago, first starting this website, then I started hosting group runs, then I started coaching, then I started the club and newsletter. Back then, I did everything, including hosting every group run, all the coaching, managing destination races, arranging parties, this website and the Facebook group. It was a full-time job, and I devoted almost all my time to it until the club grew to 350 members. I then brought on Coach Maria Williams, and later, a board.
They did an amazing job for a year and grew the club to 450 members, but then things started to change. I won’t pretend I understand what lead to their abrupt departure; I likely will never know, but I’ve set my sights on returning Run Tampa to my original vision, as it got into a bit of a detour during the years when I had stepped aside. Some may not have understood why I brought on a board when I so loved the company I had built and the club I had started that brought so many wonderful people into my life. I now realize many of the original members left during that time.
I had devoted 5 solid years to growing Run Tampa, and while that was fulfilling, it wasn’t a living, and in 2014, I realized if I wasn’t ready to retire from earning a living, I needed to put someone else in charge of Run Tampa. That would give me some time to devote to Mojo for Running, my podcast. Plus, my dad was dying, and I was dealing with other personal crises as well. I could not continue to lead during those years.
I took a dozen of the most active members to dinner and explained that in order to have time to develop Mojo for Running and have time for my family, I needed to either make Run Tampa just a Facebook community or bring on a board to do what I’d been doing. Everyone, was vehement that I must keep the club, and a few volunteered to be on the board. They assumed I’d be chairman of the board, but I said, no, that if I did that, I’d never really have much more time. I knew I had to completely turn it over to a board.
They agreed, and we formed a C Corp so they could be entirely in charge of the club’s finances. We agreed they’d pay me a 10% licensing fee, and I would still manage the website which would remain completely separate, except that I would still devote 90% of the marketing the website provided to the club and to Maria’s coaching, and I would have the payment buttons for the club and the coaching hosted on the site, although they would be connected directly to the club’s account. Everyone thought it was a good arrangement.
Our agreement was that we would recognize the board as a complete success when I could be in a position of either attending group runs and board meetings or not, that it would be a success when I could completely depend on them to run everything and I would be able to be like a club member. I even had hoped to travel with my husband. After all, I could manage the website from anywhere. All the board members were in complete agreement and super enthusiastic.
As time passed, it wasn’t easy for me to see the direction of the club change, but I wasn’t in a position to take over again, myself, and because the membership was still growing, I felt like Run Tampa was still serving the running community, even if it wasn’t serving the same population. So I stepped further and further back.
Different runners have different goals, and while I was gone, the club became much more competitive, much more focused on marathon training and racing. Nothing wrong with that except that it wasn’t ideal for the people who didn’t want such an intense atmosphere, and eventually, because sometimes those training for marathons trained at different locations, that created a rift in the group.
It’s been a year, now, an interesting one. Before they split off, I knew I didn’t enjoy the group runs as much; even I felt like an outsider, but I was unaware there were so many who felt the same. When I looked at the membership list, I realized that the majority of my friends had left and others attended only sporadically.
I can happily report, now, that the club is returned to its original family feel, comfortable and welcoming to runners of all levels, focused more on camaraderie and support for one another than anything else. While we have all speeds and abilities, people training for Boston and winning races, we are also a home for people running their first miles, all feel like they belong.
I’ve returned to coaching, and it’s been rewarding to have people return who’d been in my program years ago. At this time I feel like the future is unlimited for Run Tampa, and once again, my favorite times are the ones I spend running alongside the amazing members of the club, introducing them and witnessing the birth of great friendships. It makes my heart full, and I feel incredibly fortunate that I found my way back, even if it wasn’t according to plan, to lead this group again.
I so appreciate all the people who’ve stuck by me and helped me return Run Tampa to its beginnings. I’m super proud of it, and I know you are as well because you are Run Tampa. It’s populated, now with great old friends and equally great new ones, united around a common love of running.