Interviewed by: Kevin Brandon (12/12/16)
Ross, welcome! First, thank you for everything you do to support PRTC and the larger Philadelphia running community. For the few of us who may not know who you are, could you introduce yourself to the group?
Hello, I am one of the owners of Philadelphia Runner. I also coach Team Philly Race Training and work with the Philadelphia Marathon and Broad St as elite coordinator. I’m retired from racing, but I used to run a lot!
Running has obviously had a large impact on your life. What first drew you to the sport? Did a specific event compel you to become a runner?
I started running as a freshman at Haverford High School. The first practice all of the girls dropped me on a 3-mile run and I have no idea why I went back. I eventually found I loved racing and seeing improvement.
Once you began running, how did your career develop? Can you take us through day one to today?
After that first day of being dropped, I was lucky to see a steady improvement for the next 15 years or so. I was good for my HS team but not good enough to even know what recruited was. I walked on at St Joes and spent two years struggling to keep up on every run before something clicked and training started to be more fun. My teammates were dedicated, but my junior year I started working for Bryn Mawr Running Co. and was surrounded by professional runners and super dedicated runners. After college, I moved around a bit before coming back to work at Bryn Mawr again. We had a great group of guys to work out with, most of whom were a lot faster than me. I had a breakthrough race at Boston’s Mayor’s Cup one year and placed 6th. After that, I had some great Broad Streets and some good halves but never hit OTQ for the marathon. (2:23 at a windy Boston was the closest I came). Qualifying was a ‘soft’ 2:22 back then. While I ran for Bryn Mawr, we started getting together with the Philly Track Club guys for long runs, and when I started at Philadelphia Runner that became my training group.
I believe you were one of the founding members of PRTC. For those unfamiliar, what is the club’s origin story? How did you go about starting a track club?
I actually joined quite a few years after the club was started, I ran for Bryn Mawr and we were friendly rivals. We even started a ‘Battle Royale’ XC race to help us all get ready for club nationals. The club started as the Surekill Track Club (I think!). Brian Gallagher (a sub 4 LaSalle guy), Bill Frawley (2:17 marathoner who now owns The Running Place) and Matt Byrne (2:20 marathoner and World Mountain Running Team member, now owner of the Scranton Running Co.) were the founders of the club. It became the Philly Track Club and later Philadelphia Runner Track Club.
A look at PRTC’s record board shows the club quickly reached impressive heights in terms of running accomplishments. To what do you credit PRTC’s early success?
They had a dedicated group that hammered Sunday long runs. I used to have to get a warm-up in beforehand so I wouldn’t get dropped right away.
Can you share a favorite memory from your days of training with and racing for PRTC?
So many good memories! Some of the best are going out after races with everyone, but the Battle Royale races were probably my favorite. Win or lose, they were always fun.
PRTC in 2016 has retained a similar self-starter ethic as the 2000 crew must have had, but in other ways, we are now a much different group. What do you hope to see the club accomplish next and how do you see us getting there?
Philly is a great place to train and I love seeing PRTC become a hub for runners in the area looking for someone to train with. Training with a group is so important to improving and the more people the better. We had a message board back in the day – but social media and a few dedicated people keeping things together will keep the team growing.
When you began Philadelphia Runner, did you envision it becoming what it is today? What sort of goals do you have for the company going forward?
So much has changed since we opened! I don’t know if anyone could have envisioned all of the different running groups in Philly that have been thriving. There is now a big intersection between elite runners, casual runners, new runners that weren’t there ten years ago and I love that. I hope the store can continue to help these groups grow and turn more Philadelphians into runners. And I hope the more competitive runners find their way to the track club.
These days you seem to enjoy working with Team Philly. What is it about this group and their mission that you find appealing?
Seeing people of all levels find that they can love running and training the way an elite does is really inspiring. Running and exercising is so important for a happy life. I’m glad I can help nudge people along.
Lastly, outside of running, Philadelphia Runner and your other various running involvements, what sort of activities do you enjoy? Any hidden talents or interests?
I’m still looking for a hidden talent! I tried to learn guitar a few years ago and that definitely isn’t it. I love to read, but the books are piling up a lot faster than I can read them.