Monday, August 20, 2012

HARRA Board Meeting Notes - August 20, 2012

I had my first chance in quite some time to attend a HARRA Board meeting.

For those who are not familiar with running in the greater Houston area, HARRA stands for the Houston Area Road Runners Association. It has been around in its current form since the early 1990s when it transitioned from the former Long Distance Running Committee of the predecessor to today's USA Track & Field.

Board meetings are open to all current members. Membership each year is $25 for an individual and $35 for a household and it includes an annual subscription to Texas Runner and Triathlete as well as discounts to many races around the city.

Enough of the primer, I suppose.

My original plan was to write a news article for Texas Runner and Triathlete's web site. However, some events caused me to take a more personal position on some things.

I served officially on the Board of HARRA as the VP, Communications for a little more than four years and then filled in on an interim basis after Mark Fraser suddenly passed away last year. And, as many of you are aware, I continue to serve the running community in a number of different roles.

I think what I'm trying to say is that, even though I haven't been to a Board meeting in a long time because of my business travel, I have a pretty good handle on many facets of the sport.

HARRA's current president is Joe Carey. I was fortunate to witness the genesis of his involvement in our running community many,many years ago. He watched, listened and learned the in's and out's of the sport(s) and got involved not only competing, but in giving of his time and energies.

One of Joe's mottos is to never criticize a volunteer, which I think is excellent.

That being said, though, I think if you can't fulfill what you commit to, you need to step aside and let somebody else get involved.

How to make that happen is the art of diplomacy, of course.

Tonight's meeting saw Texas Runner and Triathlete's Loren Sheffer bring an idea of establishing a Memorium page on the HARRA website for runners in the community who have passed away. He stated that he saw how one of HARRA's affiliated club, the Seven Hills Running Club, did this on their website.

The Board endorsed the idea in principle pending a prioritization of website issues and general redesign.

My take is that this is really low-hanging fruit with high value. Some general guidelines can be put together as to how many words, etc., a picture or two and the information can be received, written and posted soon after a runner in the community has passed on. The bottom line, though, is that somebody has to own it and keep up with it.

The kickoff of HARRA's Fall Series is impending with the Tornados Running Club's HARRA Cross Country Relay. However, there's just a slight snag. Work is being done on a pedestrian bridge that is near part of the course and until the contractor finishes the work and turns it back over to the City of Houston, the Tornados can't get a permit.

So the Tornados came to the Board, as part of HARRA race course requirements, to inform them that they'll likely open registration next week and work in parallel of either having the race in its usual location or at Spotts Park, as an alternate.

It was later brought up that some of the Series races' race directors had gotten lax in coming in front of the Board to ensure that all of the requirements were in the process of being met.

In a parking lot conversation, I went so far as to say to put races on notice that if they don't comply that they can no longer be a Fall or Spring Series race: simple as that. At all of the distances but two - the 25K and the 30K, there is plenty of competition in the community.

One idea that I've held for a long time is that HARRA could provide races with a certification, so to speak, that they met the same road race requirements that Fall and Spring Series events needed to meet. If a race as HARRA-certified, runners would know that races had insurance, EMT's on-site, a toilet for each 70 runners, parking within a half mile of the start line and many, many other achievable standards.

Joe's biggest mission is one that HARRA's original president, Joy Smith, advocated and that was advocacy. I think that Ron Morgan provided a good lead for Joe to follow.

HARRA is in the process of delivering to those parties that are developing Memorial Park's Master Plan things that it expects to see to meet the needs of Houston's runners that use the Park. Joe reported that he and former HARRA president Steve Shepard had met with folks with the Energy Corridor District to get an update and provide input on their West Houston Trails Master Plan.

Joe also indicated that he would be part of a team that would be meeting with Parks By You and the Houston Parks Board to listen about their plans.

Treasurer Gail Webster provided a financial update and Membership Director Bob Schamus stated that membership is currently over 1,700 for the new membership year that started on July 1. The Bayou City Road Runners, the Bay Area Running Club and the Houston Striders were the three clubs that had brought the most members to the organziation.

Party in the Park, one of HARRA's two annual outreach events, was set for Memorial Park this coming Saturday, August 25. At-large member Lisa Fletcher was in charge of putting this event on with significant help from John Phillips.

Another season of Power In Motion is close to getting started and Joe indicated that he met with a couple of folks with the Houston Marathon Foundation about some additional ways to work together on projects that would benefit the running community.

All but two of the 13 Board members were in attendance as well as former presidents Ron Morgan and John Phillips and HARRA's Equipment Manager (and the state's course certifier) Tom McBrayer.

Honestly, if people want and expect something from HARRA, they need to roll up their sleeves and get involved and help make something happen for all runners in the greater Houston community. It really doesn't take much.

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