New Year, New President
By: Robert Jones
Hi there! If you’ve paid your dues (a shameless reminder to do so) and are still on the club email listserv, you’ve probably seen some random emails from me. Some of you may have been like “oh hey it’s RJ!” others might have thought “Who the heck is this Robert Jones person?”. Well to those who I haven’t met it is time for a formal introduction and to catch everyone up on some administrative changes; I feel usually we would have this at our year end banquet but I don’t have to tell you why that was not a possibility this year.
But anyway, recently the Upper Valley Running Club President Jim Burnett stepped down from his role and I have been honored to take up reigns as the new UVRC President! It was actually a fierce battle on the Peak of Mt. Washington. For two days and two nights we fought (as is tradition for the assumption of the UVRC Presidency) and those below thought the peak was enveloped in lightning and thunder. And in the end though victorious I was gravely wounded and faded from thought and time, but I have been reborn as RJ…the President (I hope there are some Tolkien fans out there, if you haven’t seen or read Lord of the Rings, maybe make that a 2022 goal).
All jokes aside I truly am honored and privileged to be entrusted with this role and the legacy of a great community that comes with it! I hope to keep the success of my predecessors going with the help of all our awesome membership! We have a great base built in the Upper Valley and I’m of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. But while that may be true that doesn’t mean we can’t add to it, cause modularity is the future! So I have some ideas and goals for the club that I'll get into but first a bit more about myself.
My name is Robert Jones but if you see me out and about please call me RJ. My father’s name is Robert, his father’s name was Robert, my Uncle’s name is Robert and his father’s name is also Robert, so I decided to nix all those pesky extra syllables and save everyone some time. But if you must address me formally please use my full title: Robert Jones, Like Fifth or Sixth of his name, Wearer of Bright Clothes and Running Shorts with Sharks on Them, Father of too Many Shoes, the Sweaty Man, That Guy, Keeper of the Club Instagram Although he Doesn’t Completely Know How to Use it, Tied for His Mother’s Favorite Child, Baker of Cookies, Occasional Dungeon Master, Maker of Cool Strava Run Titles, Executive Vegetarian, He Who Doesn’t Mind Putting an Exclamation Point at the End of Every Sentence in an Email Even Though it Makes Him Sound Manic! I’m originally from Phoenix, Arizona and have been in the Upper Valley since 2014, which seems like ages ago now, and I came here as a researcher at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (just a mile North of Dartmouth!). And now my deep dark secrets: I’m actually fairly new to running and I used to haaaattteeee it. I’m talking a deep loathing and I referred to it with the hyperbole that comes from youth as being “the absolute worst/god’s punishment on humanity”. Obviously I had some growing up to do when I said that but I also didn’t know what I know now which is that if you don’t find ways to make something enjoyable it isn’t likely to just happen on its own. And if you’re trying to do something you aren’t necessarily good at, if you don’t set yourself up for success, of course you won’t enjoy it.
For example, whenever I did dip my toes into running it was a one off or a short stint where I tried to go faster than I was ready for because I assumed that I “should” be at a certain level of athleticism probably from a certain amount of naive masculine pride, felt it was too hard, unfun, didn’t see improvements in what really was an unrealistic time frame and gave up. It wasn’t until I got introduced to the UVRC that I started seeing running as enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, at first it was still a physical and mental struggle. In my first Saturday morning runs I was the often the last person up a hill, gasping for breath while trying to hold a conversation, and on the verge of death after a mile. But I was also learning from talking to people. Learning that others had just started running later in life and were amazed at their ability to still do so. I was meeting people who were like me; disliked running at first but took it slow, got into it, and now were running competitively. And perhaps the most important in getting over the hurdle into enjoying running, I was being embraced by a community and being actively encouraged. People I barely knew slowed themselves down to talk to me just so I wouldn’t have to run alone. I made friends in the club that kept encouraging me to come to TNT and more runs so much that it became a habit. I had my first 5k ever and there were total strangers out on the course shouting encouragement at me as I was clearly struggling. I’ve learned that this community is rad as heck and so full of kindness and support, it’s unbelievable. Which is chiefly why I want to give back and hope that I'm in a position to do so!
So on to my ideas or goals rather. I think the great thing about being the President of a club like this is that it is, for the most part, not an actual executive title. We don’t control the purse strings, we are not the end all be all decision maker, and we are not alone. In fact we have a very involved and very caring board of members that lead the club (which you could be a part of too!). This is all to say I think the President is just a starter and pusher of ideas but we as a group work together to make them happen but honestly in case you were curious, your Board is a total democracy. And as I said, we have a great foundation between our different programs and activities but we can always do more.
For one my goal is to help increase our membership and member activity. I think now, more than ever, we owe it to ourselves to be on top of our mental health and being physically active is a great way to do that so much the better when you can be active with other people. Again we have an incredibly friendly running community and I want to share it with more of the Upper Valley. So you may see an increase in emails encouraging you to come out and run and to bring your friends! While we of course have bills to pay and associated costs with running a club, we have historically been pretty chill about people coming to activities without actually being dues paying members yet. I think that like any service you should at least have the opportunity to try it out before you commit, so seriously, bring your friends along to a track workout or a saturday morning run so they can get a taste, you won’t see us checking membership cards at the door and I have faith that people will join by virtue of how awesome the club’s members are.
Secondly, in talking to our membership it sounds like there is a good quadrant of inbetweeners. People who are not necessarily new to running but are still striving to meet their pace or distance goals. Which while I’m here let me reiterate some our club’s mentality. There is no, nor will there ever be, a pace or distance requirement to be part of or participate with the Upper Valley Running Club. Our goal is not to make everyone elite runners, though if that happens woo well done! Our goal is to promote running and physical activity in the Upper Valley and to get our community members comfortable with running whatever form that may take. Pace and or distance are helpful metrics to set goals but they do not define you as a runner or as a person. Given that, I’d like to start an additional social run to accompany TNT, Saturday Morning Runs, and our Couch to 5k Program, specifically more geared to community members that are looking improve their endurance by running at a predetermined set pace. While it’s still in the works, including a catchy title, the plan is we would meet in the Hanover area during the week (probably Wednesdays or Thursdays so you can continue to do TNT!!) and run at a stated average pace, or paces depending on group size, something between 10 minute miles to 9 minute miles (progressing faster as the season goes on BUT SLOWLY) for 3 to 5 miles. While I want to reiterate sincerely that every activity that we do as a club is open to all people and all paces and that no one in the club is here to judge anyone by their skill level, I also understand that traditional workouts and social running can be a bit intimidating without having the confidence that may come with base building because I’ve been there. When it comes to physical activity you have to start somewhere and my goal is help more people build up the confidence to tackle their running goals. But as I said it’s a work in progress so stay tuned and I’m open to feedback!
Which speaking of feedback, my third goal is to hear more from you! My predecessors have done a tremendous job reaching out to the community and I want to keep that going. What are things that you want to see in the club? Are there things you think we should be doing more of, or less of? Other activities we can try perhaps! The Board is always open to suggestions and has really upheld a “let’s just try it and see” mentality so really no suggestion is off the table! All of us want to make this a club that serves the community so we want to hear your needs and do what we can to address them. While you can always email me (email@example.com) I also made an anonymous (if you like) suggestion box if you’d like to drop something in to let us know your thoughts: https://forms.gle/WuBWVc2bosVX8MB19.
Alrighty I have definitely written more than I intended but that’s because I am excited! I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to be part of this running community and the opportunity I have to be a force for continued growth and improvement. And I can’t wait to interact more with all of you and look forward to your input on how we can help this running community grow! See you around UVRC Fam!