FRIENDLY FACES FRIDAY

Danny Grimes of Pocatello Idaho was the Men’s Long Distance Running Chair when I joined the organization back in the mid 90s.  He was retiring and the new kid on the block was a Fleet Feet owner from Louisville KY., Jim Estes.  He was also Race Director for  Papa John’s 10 Mile, sponsored by his buddy with the same hometown.  Papa John’s would end up hosting our men and women’s 10 Mile National Championships.  In 2003 I sent a fit as a fiddle  James McGown,  he scored a personal best 49:55, good enough for 19th overall.

Jim Estes was on another arc though.  The USATF National office had just created a new position, LDR Programs Manager.  This in response to the recognition that long distance running was woefully under served.  I had written a letter of recommendation for my old buddy Terry Drake, former Race Director, Hospital Hill, now Saucony rep extraordinaire.   Jim ended up with the position and has been excellent in my humble opinion.

It was always with ease that Jim and I worked together.  For over 10 years he and I ironed out  kinks from our LDR National Championships program.  Helped me fight for my personal pet, the Association Athlete Development Program.

AADP was founded in 1993 by Carol McLatchie and George Regan, Race Director of Freihofer’s Run For Women, our women’s 5K National Champs.  LeeAnn Meyer was the first program chair, 1993-1996.  In 1996 Carol asked me to take LeeAnn’s place.  I was floored and honored and giddy as I accepted.  I remained in that capacity until 2002 when I replaced Joy Smith as the WLDR National Champs Chair (2002-2009).  AADP fully blossomed during that time as I crafted language, with Jim’s blessings, included in our national championships bid, “winning bidders will agree to host at least one male and female athlete under the Association Athlete Development Program”.  When I left my position it was one of my proudest achievements that all 11 of our road champs were participating and that some events like the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K actually provides for 3 male and 3 female athletes.  Elite Athlete Coordinator Greg Meyer does as much or more for American athletes than any other cat on the circuit and that is why the former Boston Marathon winner is my old buddy.

Jim and I made one international trip together, my second trip to Japan, this time the Yokahama International Ekiden in 2006.  It was on this trip that it dawned on me just how high Jim’s star had risen.  Mr. Tanaka-San himself, President of the Japanese Amateur Athletic Federation, hosted us to one of the most memorable dinners of my life.

He was there when I founded the USATF Nebraska Assoc. LDR program.  Took my side with an aye vote when I founded Team Nebraska as one of the charter members of the Elite Development Club program.

Not too much of a stretch to say that Jim and I have been through some wars together.  He’ll be lending an ear built on 20 years of mutual appreciation and support to my plea on behalf of Zach Hine.  He, if anyone, knows of my commitment to US athletes.

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Things are on hold at the moment as Jim is in China for the World Cross Country Championships.  He 2nd from left, to the far right is Fred Finke.  Fred is the former LDR Divisional Chair, he and I were the USA Team Leaders for the 2000 World Championships Half Marathon in Vera Cruz, Mexico.