Tuesday was unexpectedly fun. I met up with the two masterminds behind the Rock Hall Half Marathon + Rock City 5K for an informal interview of sorts. I really wanted to pick their brains and ask the nitty gritty — the who, what, why, where, how, when, whats — of all that goes in to planning such an epic race as the upcoming Rock Hall Half.
Meet Geoff and Bill. Two ordinary guys. Both runners. Both local to Cleveland. Both interested in making the Cleveland area running community stronger and offer fabulous events to the community.
For our meeting, I headed to Bill’s store, Second Sole of Mentor, Ohio. I got a brief tour of the store, which was pretty amazing. It’s small but packs a lot of punch. Bill told me about the building’s history, too, which was pretty cool. As any home rehabber or builder knows, remodeling turns up both the strangest and sometimes most annoying issues. With luck, Bill fortunately didn’t uncover any issues while remodeling a couple years ago, but did come across some several decades worth of linoleum. Underneath all the linoleum revealed a treasure trove of newspapers from the late 1920s and early 1930s. It appeared whoever the owner was had lined the floor with newspaper before laying down new flooring. The layers of linoleum preserved the newspapers and 80+ years later, the newspapers were in impeccable condition.
Now hanging on the walls of Bill’s impressive and newly restored Second Sole are two newspaper clippings featuring prominent runners — one, Jesse Owens. The other, Jack Lovelock, setting a world record.
After getting the tour, we headed to lunch. They took me to this awesome place called Local Tavern. The food was delicious and the company was fab. Plus I made them pose with a rooster. Official business.
|This is what happens when you agree to meet with a blogger. 🙂|
Over cobb and house salads, we discussed how they started off (by chance for Bill with a running camp), how they met (at a little race in Concord, Ohio — now known as the Hill Yeah! Half Marathon), and where they saw the business going in the future (Cleveland-area takeover!).
In all seriousness, Bill and Geoff have their hands full and ambitions high. They are the brains and man power behind Greater Cleveland XC, the local parent company that brings us annual races such as the Johnnycake Jog, the 20-Mile Drop, and the Northern Ohio Marathon (among many others).
I asked the guys why and how they came up with the idea of the Rock Hall Half Marathon. Their answer? Simple. A national production company pulled a race out of Cleveland mere weeks before it was set to run, and Bill and Geoff decided they’d had enough. Why should area Clevelanders pay sky-high premiums to run a race when there’s no local, vested interest? They realized they could put on the same race — a better race — for a fraction of the price. As such, the Rock Hall Half Marathon idea was born.
As an ambassador for the Lake Health Running Series and subsequently the Rock Hall Half Marathon, I’ve been asked many times why they chose August. What are the common things I’ve heard?
“It’s so hot in August.”
“It’s too humid in August.”
“August is a bad month for running in Cleveland.”
When I pressed Geoff for answers to these push-backs, he gave it to me straight. He said, “Look — there are a ton of fall marathons starting in September and leading into October. Some even in November. You’re telling me you’re not going to run in August for a training run if it’s hot and humid?”
I happen to be a rare breed of runner that enjoys running in the heat and humidity. So to me, a half marathon in August is no big deal. But any other runner knows Geoff is right. Because any runner training for a fall marathon (or any marathon, for that matter) is already dedicated beyond a doubt and will therefore, be training in August. So why not use a half marathon as a training run? Plus the early start time of 7:15 am ensures runners won’t be out in the heat of the day.
What draws me most to the Rock Hall Half Marathon isn’t necessarily the date or the post-race entertainment. The biggest draw for me is definitely the course. Greater Cleveland XC saw the need for an east side race, and they’re filling that need.
So what’s the long term goal for these guys? They’re runners. They just want to have fun, put on good races, and keep things local. They want the guys from Chicago to put on good races in Chicago, and they want to be the Cleveland guys who put on the good races in Cleveland.
In sum, I had a great day spending time with Bill and Geoff. They’re both super awesome, friendly guys. We talked shop (training, coaching, shoes), and racing (what works, what doesn’t work). They gave me an idea of what’s to come for the Rock Hall Half in terms of post-race food and entertainment. They answered all my questions and then some, and I’m grateful we have local runners, racers, and entrepreneurs committed to keeping things local. It doesn’t get much better than that.
If you’re local to Cleveland or in the Mentor, OH area any time soon, stop in to Second Sole – Mentor, and say what’s up to Bill (and Geoff!). And if your race calendar isn’t full, add the Rock Hall Half to your list. Not feeling the half marathon? Join us for the Rock City 5K.
Will you come join me for what’s sure to be an epic inaugural event?