Road Runners Club of America RRCA: Club for All Runners with Jean Knaack

On this episode of Run To The Top, we speak with Executive Director of Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), Jean Knaack.

An executive director who practices what she preaches – running!

Jean is an avid runner herself, who has completed several marathons and countless road races and triathlons and also holds an undergraduate degree in Nutrition. She finished the inaugural Ironman Louisville race in 2007, and finished Ironman France in 2009 and Ironman Coeur D’Alene in 2010. She is the proud mother of two young children and she has been married for seventeen years.

Jean Knaack RRCA

She regularly counsels running club and event leaders around the country on various topics of importance to the running community. Through her work with the RRCA she is a fitness advocate promoting running as healthy exercise and a competitive sport on a national scale. She served on the coordinating committee that developed the first National Physical Activity Plan for the United States.

A national running organization since 1958

Formed in 1958 as an alternative to the then current governing body, the Amateur Athletic Union, to provide a more open organized running experience, the RRCA is the oldest and largest national association of running organizations in the United States, dedicated to growing the sport of running. RRCA encourages and supports the development of community-based running clubs and events that serve runners of all ages and abilities in pursuit of health and competition and strives towards organized and active running clubs in every community.

Operating mostly behind the scenes, RRCA helps races provide safe events and mitigate risk whether during races or club weekly runs.

An important, yet not obvious, service RRCA provides is extending liability insurance for over 10,000 events per year, and Jean further explains this in our conversation.

RRCA protects volunteers from liability issues and establishes nation-wide standards for organized events

RRCA provides support to over 40 programs through grants, serving over 23,000 children around the US via school-based running programs as well as offering two levels of coaching certification to help runners achieve their goals and help coaches maintain and expand their knowledge base.

Today, Jean talks with us about what the RRCA is all about and how it accomplishes it’s goal of bringing running to every community. After listening to this episode, if you’re not already part of an RRCA club, you may decide to join one. Or if one doesn’t exist near you, you may just be inspired to start one on your own.

Questions Jean is asked:

3:26 What is the RRCA about?

6:55 Are volunteers also protected from legal action?

9:06 What are some of the other programs that RRCA offers and supports?

11:51 Can individuals become members of RRCA in addition to running clubs?

12:34 What are the benefits RRCA provides for individual runners as well as those in running clubs?

13:34 Are individual members included in the annual Convention and what can you tell us about the convention?

17:43 Where is next year’s convention?

18:20 What is the RRCA Coaching Certification Program?

22:17 How do people learn about and sign up for the coaching programs?

24:43 What is the history of RRCA?

28:27 What is the mission of the RRCA?

30:08 How did you become involved in RRCA?

33:04 Do you have a lot of different responsibilities and Executive Director?

33:53 What are the Distance Running Hall of Fame and the National Running Awards?

38:20 What else should we know about RRCA?

41:50 Final Kick Round:

  1. What is your favorite local training run (location, starting point, parking, distance, terrain and safety issues)?
  2. Favorite running book(s)?
  3. Words of Wisdom or Humor?
  4. Who or what would you like to have featured on the Run To The Top podcast?

Quotes by Jean:

“A lot of times a 60-year old organization will have ‘Mission Shift’, where they’re kind of chasing a trend. But if you look at the original mission statement for the RRCA that was proposed back in 1957, it’s not very different today.”

“We’ve gone to some places we’ve never been to help serve the needs in underserved communities that have a great need for increasing physical activity in their community. Some of the towns in states that really struggle with obesity issues, we’ve made it a priority to get into some of those communities.”

“Our coaching program is really geared towards a coach who is interested in working with adult runners, typically beginning runners to sub-elites. We really do focus on the physiology, we also focus a lot on the psychology because a lot of running is psychological.”

“Volunteers can be the leading source of claims on (an insurance) policy, not because they’re doing anything wrong, but they’re actually more likely to get injured than a participant because they’re the ones who are setting things up, moving things around, the likelihood of maybe a box getting dropped on somebody’s foot.”

“We’re really trying to work with schools, boys and girls clubs, after-school YMCA programs, we’ve given grants to homeless shelters that are really finding that youth running programs are a great way to help reduce stress in children who are at their facilities.”

“When you realize people have shared challenges, it can make those challenges not seem so difficult.”

Take a Listen on Your Next Run

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Mentioned in this podcast:

Run To The Top Winners Circle Facebook Community

RunnersConnect Facebook page

RRCA homepage

RRCA Coaching Program

RRCA 2019 Convention

RRCA Programs

Washington and Old Dominion running trails

National Mall, Washington DC

Rock Creek Park running trails

Book: Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor

Follow RRCA on:





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