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Ambassadors of Running

January 3, 2013 - Erik Brown
Now that we've crossed the 2012 finish line, I want to acknowledge several organizations and individuals who make Blair County and the surrounding region a nicer place to live by making it a better place to run. A drum roll please for our Ambassadors of Running...

*Hollidaysburg Area YMCA* - The Y's annual Community Wellness Challenge Series just keeps getting better and better. With convenient, early packet pickup, pre-race music and instructions over a P.A. system, well-marked courses staffed with enthusiastic volunteers and police officers, chip-timed results, and exceptional post-race eats provided by Sheetz, the races comprising the CWCS have taken on a festival-like atmosphere in recent years. As the name implies, the Community Wellness Challenge Series consists of eight events. In addition to the standard awards for each race, the CWCS features a point scoring system for individuals and teams(!!) culminating in the presentation of overall and age-group CWCS winners. For their attention to detail and dedication to the local running community, I say hats off and thank you to Tina, Mary, Frank, Tom, and the rest of the Hollidaysburg Area YMCA staff and volunteeers who make the CWCS happen for all of us.

*Nittany Valley Running Club*, State College PA - The homepage for the NVRC's website (see the link in the right margin) says: "The purpose of the Nittany Valley Running Club is to establish a sound, continuing program of youth and adult fitness, to promote development and competition for all age groups, and to conscientiously prepare athletes for competition." Rather than elaborate on that. Let me simply recommend that you spend a few minutes clicking through the various pages and links on where you will find a veritable treasure trove of information on upcoming races (club-sponsored and otherwise), training advice, group runs, etc. Kudos to the Nittany Valley Running Club.

*Rails-to-Trails Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania* - The RTTCPA owns and maintains the Lower Trail which follows the path of the abandoned Petersburg Branch of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, running along the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River between Alfarata and Flowing Spring, PA. Wikipedia informs me that the Lower Trail is the only rail trail in the nation that is privately owned and maintained (by RTTCPA), but still free of charge to the public. With its smooth crushed stone surface and beautiful scenery, the Lower Trail is one of my favorite places to train. Thank you RTTCPA!

*Greater Johnstown YMCA* - You always remember your first marathon. For me it was the 1978 Johnstown Marathon. I ran a 3:45 which still stands as my lifetime P.R. (it took me 23 years to get around to running my second marathon). A couple years ago the future of this local, small-field marathon was in doubt. Fortunately, some good people came to the rescue and the Greater Johnstown YMCA treated us to the 37th running of the Johnstown Marathon / 10K in 2012.

*Hollidaysburg Community Partnership* - Under the direction of Hollidaysburg Main Street Manager, Jamie Baser, the Hollidaysburg Community Partnership annually puts on the Sloppy Socks 5K , a European style cross country race at Legion Park in July, and the Hollidaysburg Haul 5K in September.

*Family Services, Inc.* - Family Services provides a variety of services to build healthier relationships and families here in Blair County. They also hold an annual 5K / 10K race at Penn State - Altoona in late spring.

*Coach Douglas Hoover* - U.S.A. Summer Biathlon National Champion, Doug Hoover promotes his sport my organizing and meticulously directing the annual Altoona Summer Biathlon in July at the Altoona Rifle & Pistol Club in Sinking Valley. This unique event combines cross country running and marksmanship, and caters to first time participants as well as experienced summer biathletes. Safety is paramount. Coach Hoover and his knowledgeable staff of volunteers conduct a clinic complete with target practice prior to the race and no, you don't need your own rifle!

*Allegheny Trailrunners, Inc.* - The Allegheny Trailrunners organized and held the first Dirty Kilns Trail Race last spring at Canoe Creek State Park to promote trail running in the region. With its web of challenging trails, beautiful scenery, and hilly terrain, Canoe Creek makes an excellent venue for this event.

*Tim Sheehan,* - Nature abhors a vacuum, and thus it was that Tim Sheehan, observing the barren virtual landscape that was the Blair County running community's presence on the world-wide-web, stepped up to create the AltoonaPaRunners Yahoo group. The group presently has approximately 100, more or less active members, at all levels of running ability, who post race reports, talk training, organize group runs, commiserate about injuries and remedies thereto, and post photos, etc. If you're interested in joining AltoonaPaRunners, see the link in the right margin. Then send Tim a note and tell him to stop ducking me!

*Adam McGinnis* Adam is the proprietor of Fox Trot Runners, a running specialty store in Duncansville, PA, and the running force behind the Fox Trot Runners training group. You could say that Adam "goes the extra mile" to organize group training runs including speed-work sessions at Tiger Stadium in Hollidaysburg. Brand new for 2013, Adam has organized the Fox Trot Runners Distance Challenge. Participants log their training mileage on and potentially earn "sweet perks and discounts" at Adam's store. For more information about the Fox Trot Distance Challenge, check out the Fox Trot Runners Facebook page.

*Our District 6 cross country coaches and officials* - A special thank you to all of these men and women who do so much to promote our sport and develop the next generation of local road and trail racers.

*Bill Harshman*, Tipton Run Club - Bill has an infectious enthusiasm for running, and life in general, that serves him well as he organizes group runs and the annual Tipton Run Club Food Bank Fun Run which collected nearly half a pickup truck load of groceries for the Tyrone Area Food Bank last year. Bill also does a lot to promote the annual Pump & Run 5K (combines bench pressing and running) at the Northern Blair County Rec Center, and volunteers at the Altoona Summer Biathlon.

*Joe Shuta* - Joe is the host of Leading Off, a sports talk show that airs Wednesdays at 6:00 PM on WFBG (1290 AM). Leading Off is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Tune in, and you might be pleasantly surprised to catch Joe interviewing a big name from the world of running. Bill Rodgers, Marty Liquori, Dave Wottle, Dean Karnazes, and Dane Rauschenberg have all appeared on Leading Off. Having completed numerous marathons and six ultramarathons, Joe is an accomplished distance runner in his own right and has coached / mentored quite a few first time marathoners and ultramarathoners, including myself. When I decided to enter a 50 miler four years ago, I sought Joe out for advice and got so much help that I ended up writing a series of blog posts about my experience as a first time ultra-runner. I intend to re-post them in the near future for those who might be thinking about trying their first ultra.

So, who did I overlook? I'm sure there are many others who deserve a nod. Please share your thought by commenting on this post in Facebook or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading Against The Wind! That reminds me... my friend Mike Casper, from the Nittany Valley Running Club, sent me an email this morning to let me know that on this day, January 3rd, 1980, Bob Seger released the song which inspired the name of this blog - Against The Wind. Thank you Messrs. Seger and Casper! I'm still runnin!

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