BLOG| Russell to leave Atlanta Track Club after Peachtree

4:01 PM, Jun 21, 2013   |    comments
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11Alive Julie Wolfe blogs about life on the run. 

ATLANTA --When you hear the words "Running Revolution", you might think about our dads that grabbed nylon shorts, cushy white shoes, and became American joggers.

Wake up. We're in the middle of a much bigger running revolution. In 2012, 1.85 MILLION people finished a half marathon. That's a 4.9% rise from 2011(which still pales in comparison to the 24% jump between 2009 and 2010). 

Fun runs are popping up faster than I can count them: Color Runs, Glow Runs, Zombie Runs, Muddy Runs. No big deal, you say? WRONG. The Color Run is now considered the most successful running series. Ever. In 2013, they'll hold races in 130 cities around the world. In the years to come, they plan to expand to dozens of countries in Europe. 

Even the shoes we desperately embraced are now barely recognizable. Low heel-to-toe ratio, minimal running, chi running, barefoot running. And, I'm calling it now: look for a wave of "fueled by plant" runners. Scott Jurek's Eat and Run book might have encouraged the no-meat movement, but runners were already well on the way to taking a closer look at the foods that fuel our runs. 

It is a crazy, strange, exciting time to be a runner. Just because we've always done it that way is no guarantee we won't buck the trend... to cheers and jeers. 

It was in the middle of this revolution Tracey Russell took the helm at the Atlanta Track Club. Under her six-year leadership, annual sponsorship revenue doubled (during a recession), 15 new running and youth events were added to the ATC calendar, and membership numbers tripled. Those are the statistics touted by the ASICS LA Marathon in a press release this afternoon.

They stole her.

Why on else would she leave a city that loves her?

I've interviewed Russell more times than I can count. The curly hair and easy smile were an assignment I always enjoyed. She always had time to talk, and after the interview, as I wrapped up my lights and microphones, we often talked about running. What races I had coming up, what was new in the running world, how local runners were handling changes. 

Through these conversations, and thousands of others I've had with local runners over the years, I can tell you this: Russell will leave the Atlanta Track Club with the one thing every leader hopes to pass along. 

The ATC is better because of Tracey Russell. 

Sometimes track clubs, and this includes the ATC, gain reputations as being "running snobs". I think this has less to do with the organization and more to do with new runners not being comfortable running with competitive, amazing athletes. 

Under Russell's leadership, the ATC has added events aimed at kids and new runners, including programs to help first time runners cross a finish line. They reached out to runners of all abilities and INVITED them in. To entice elite athletes and encourage new joggers at the same time with the same event is a tough job. In her always-unflappable manner, Russell lead the team that straddled the line beautifully. 

As I wait for a ransom demand (which I fear is not coming), the Atlanta Track Club is forming a search committee to find a replacement. Russell has agreed to stay until after this year's AJC Peachtree Road Race. 

As soon as I read the announcement, I requested a sit-down interview to talk about her leaving and starting the new job. And, for the first time ever, she said no to an interview with me.

Actually, a spokesperson said no, not yet. She said Tracey won't be talking about "this news" until July 5th, after the Peachtree, but that my request was noted. 

I have some doubts on if that interview will happen on a Friday after a holiday when Russell has likely been awake for 48 hours straight. But just in case, I'm gathering small, unmarked bills to make the ransom drop. 

You can read Julie's Blog at Atlanta Running Reporter. And follow her on Twitter @JulieWolfe.

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