Running Together: Highlighting Raleigh, NC’s efforts in going the extra mile

This past Friday, August 7th, more than 2,000 people went to Meredith College’s track to show their support for the Sir Walter Miler – a community based, running event. Why is this important? A local group, including Sandy Roberts, Logan Roberts, and Pat Rice, created an event, which began with only having one participant, and developed into something amazing by engaging the community in just two years. Robert Putnam’s bestselling book “Bowling Alone,” discusses how the nation has become increasingly disconnected with its communities, but that was not the case for at least 45 minutes in Raleigh, North Carolina that Friday night as thousands of people cheered on elite and local athletes.

Raleigh has a strong history for supporting running events; perhaps my personal bias skews this perception. The city hosts a variety of running events for local residents, high schools, and colleges, often getting national attention thanks to the success of North Carolina State University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Old Reliable Run brought many elite runners to the area, but this event no longer holds the prestige that it once held. My 3rd place showing in the 2007 Old Reliable Run provides evidence to this opinion.  In reality, the running community does not compare to the size of those found in Eugene, Oregon or Boulder, Colorado.

Yet, on that Friday night, Raleigh’s community made a statement by flooding the track, cheering on athletes as they set personal records and world leading times in the mile. Most notably is Steph Garcia, leading three women under 4 minutes 30 seconds, with a 4:28.04 time. The environment is like non-other. Individuals formed a barrier surrounding the track, giving off a much needed, high-intensity environment, supporting and helping the runners achieve their goals.

Meet directors Sandy Roberts, Logan Roberts, and Pat Rice made this event possible by engaging the community. Sandy Roberts stated that he wanted to see the “community coming together in this movement, called Sir Walter Miler … feeling invested in the product.” Leading up to the main event, a series of 5 “Pop Up Miles” were held, allowing participants to run fast miles, set personal records, or an opportunity to earn a spot in the elite race. This was the foundation of developing an invested community, drawing 30-40 people to each of these events. Participants and supporters would spread the word about their experience, building speed for the movement. The Race Directors also incorporating active community outreach efforts by speaking to local running groups, high schools, and organizations about the event and their goals. Social media was also a main component for community outreach efforts since many of the elite participants live across the nation. Social media users were given an opportunity to interact with participants using Twitter and Facebook.

A key component of the event that demonstrates community buy-in, is providing elite runners lodging through a host family. Families, with and without a running background, opened up their homes for these athletes, providing shelter and meals.  These strangers were given an opportunity to become friends, creating more investment with the event and was more personable for the host families as they cheered on the athletes.

This blog post only touches some of the key highlights of Sir Walter Miler as a community event. The Race Directors put in a lot of hours in making it successful. The event got the immediate attention of large running and sports agencies such as Letsrun.com and Sport Illustrated, which highlight how important this model is for the future of running events. Yet, it doesn’t have to be limited to running events. This was not for profit, it was fueled by an idea and passion. This can be applied to a variety of areas that can bring a community that was once alone, together again. I cannot imagine what the future holds for Sir Walter Miler.

2015 Sir Walter Miler Results

Women’s Elite Mile

  1. Steph Garcia 4:28.84
  2. Amanda Eccleston 4:29.06
  3. Heather Wilson 4:29.39
  4. Morgan Uceny 4:34.02
  5. Christy Cazzola 4:39.70
  6. Emily Lipari 4:46.33
  7. Victoria Voronko 4:47.29
  8. Andie Cozzarelli 4:47.92
  9. Sarah Pease 4:52.39
  10. Ericka Charles 5:00.21

Men’s Elite Mile

  1. Robby Andrews 3:57.38
  2. Kyle Merber 3:57.97
  3. Jack Bolas 3:58.83
  4. Lex Williams 3:59.40
  5. Brandon Hudgins 3:59.67
  6. Ford Palmer 4:00.47
  7. Donnie Cowart 4:00.48
  8. Isaac Presson 4:00.86
  9. Cory Leslie 4:01.66
  10. Craig Forys 4:01.79
  11. Joe Stilin 4:02.12
  12. Jake Hurysz 4:08.04
  13. Kyle Graves 4:09.88
  14. Christian Brewer 4:10.32
  15. Jake Edwards 4:12.22

Additional References:

http://www.sirwaltermiler.com/

http://www.si.com/more-sports/2015/08/07/sir-walter-miler-usa-track-and-field-sandy-roberts-robby-andrews

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