Why I ran RnR Philly and how I will deal with CGI in the future - Patrick Rizzo
I've been getting a lot of flack for the past few weeks for my decision to stick to my plan and race Rock'n'Roll Philadelphia half-marathon after the announcement the Competitor Group was cutting elite support. Please allow me to share some of my thoughts as to why I raced it and why I feel I made the right decision.
First off, I had planned my marathon build-up months in advance. I knew what I wanted to be racing, or at least when I wanted to race and over which distances, for at least 4 months. Anyone involved with elite racing knows that in a lot of cases it takes that long to facilitate plans and deals on what races fit in, getting in touch with race directors, coordinating travel, lodging, in my case work as well, and about 100 other elements that go into place with training plans, peaking, etc. My agent had done the leg work to get me into the race, finalize the planning, and communicating with necessary people to know when I was arriving in Philadelphia, who was getting me at the airport, where I was staying, and what the costs were. That's a lot of work down the drain if I pull out of the race, not to mention I have to alter the training build-up for my ultimate goal of Twin Cities Marathon next month.
Two weeks before I was to be racing Philly, Competitor announced that they were cutting elite funding...to be in effect IMMEDIATELY. That isn't much time to alter plans. I was in New Haven for the 20k championship when the news broke and I was in close contact with my agent from the first hours of the announcement going public. I decided then there were a couple approaches I could take to the decision and I had to weigh out the options.
On one hand I could boycott the race, restructure my marathon training plan, or find another race that weekend. On the other hand, I could act equally selfishly and stick to my guns, looking at the broader picture that lies in front of me with greater goals attached. I chose to stick to the plan, run Philadelphia half and get what I was looking to get all along, a solid fitness test 3 weeks out from a marathon.
More than just my own personal motivations to achieve broader goals were the personal relationships involved with running Philadelphia half-marathon. I have worked with the crew of Elite Racing, Inc. for about 5 years, running various RnR races from Seattle to Chicago to Philadelphia. They have been nothing but fair to me and those guys deserved nothing but the same treatment from me. Matt Turnbull and Tracy Sundlin have spent years bending over backwards for athletes, getting them the best of treatment with the resources they have had available. I felt I owed them my presence as a thanks. It's important to separate the person from the company he works for in this case. Matt and Tracy are great men caught equally off guard by their employer. They shouldn't have to be equally insulted by the very people that they've spent over a decade helping, serving, and building relationships with.
In my view, if all of the elite runners don't show up because their parent company made a decision, we (elite runners) were proving their points that our entire motivation was the money all along. I want to prove that the elite runners DO have an influence and a role outside of—as Scott Dickey of Competitor Group put it, “just showing up, racing, and leaving town.”
For me, the money has never been my motivation to stay in the sport of running. If that were the case, I've been an utter failure. I don't measure my success by how much I'm making. I measure my personal growth on personal bests, people I've influenced, and increasing my joy and experiences in life. Sure, business is a BIG part of what I MUST do in the sport and I think that's often an overlooked aspect of what elite runners do at races.
Josh Cox recently wrote a blog about the business side of Competitor Group's decision to cut elite racing benefits. He was dead on with certain points. First off, each of us athletes operates as an independent business. We have our own “brand,” if you will. Our fiduciary responsibility is to build that brand and increase its value, partner with other brands, and make it successful and lasting. Josh does a great job because he understands that. It took me a while to truly understand that. In my case, I have responsibilities also to Runners Roost and Mizuno USA as my supporting partners to Patrick Rizzo, LLC. We all should be working together to build a bigger brand of each of us, using each other as tools for growth. Competitor doesn't feel that elite runners have helped to do that for them.
It's a shame that the higher-ups at Competitor Group couldn't quantify the volunteer hours given be me and other elite runners to their races, both the ones that we run and the ones that we don't. In my case, I've volunteered for the last 3 years at RnR Denver marathon alongside of my Runners Roost teammates and co-workers. We get up at 3 am, set up a water station starting at 4 am, lugging heavy wooden tables down the street from trucks, dragging trash cans filled with 50 gallons of water to our tables, and filling cups, some years in the freezing cold. We also man the VIP port-o-potties all morning. We do it as an exchange for the support that Competitor Group gives us in other venues. This is our return on their investment in us.
I'm not sorry to tell you that next month and in future years, I will not only NOT volunteer to work these water stations and port-o-potties, I will actively discourage my co-workers from volunteering as well. After all, didn't Scott Dickey say we were “not a value” to his company? I'd like now to prove to him and his like-thinkers that in many cases, elite runners volunteer, recruit volunteers, and provide various other services that do, in fact, help the bottom line of his for-profit company. If he feels the athletes are not valuable, he really has failed in his utilization of the athletes as part of the Rock'n'Roll event series. I've met numerous people while traveling the expos, many whom I still keep in touch with and share advice with...you guessed it...AT Rock'n'Roll expos and races. I've helped his organization fill needed positions—VOLUNTEER (read: unpaid!) positions—to allow those events to go smoothly. No value is found there?
Perhaps we can evaluate the dozen or so Rock'n'Roll expos I've set up and worked either with Brooks or with Runners Roost. I know for a fact what Competitor charges for a 10'x10' and a 20'x20' booth at Denver and Chicago expos. Perhaps that explains the lack of profitability for any vendors that has resulted in a mass exodus of vendors from their expos (save Brooks, who has their own deal as title sponsor). I just may make the decision not to help there either this year, though that hurts my employer, Runners Roost, more than it does Competitor as we've already booked the spaces we'll be using. And do you think I won't use every tool in my shed to try to dissuade our company's participation in the event NEXT year? Think again, Mr. Dickey. Now that you've driven out the couple shining lights, Turnbull and Sundlin, from your organization, I feel no loyalty to your business at all. Again, there's the personal side of things.
These are just some of my thoughts and feelings as to why I DID run Philadelphia and won't continue my participation in any capacity with future Competitor Group events. I, unlike Competitor, felt a need to complete my contractual agreements outstanding BEFORE I cut my support. Ethics...stupid me.