For those that are members of the Birmingham Track Club, you should have received the August issue of The Vulcan Runner. As some of you may know, I have written an article in the monthly newsletter for a couple of years. My article is always at the back of the issue where it belongs. I agreed to write the article as long as I could choose whatever topic I want. I did not want to have to write every month about a specific topic. That is not my strong suit and I knew it would get tiresome and boring for me quickly. Plus, that would be a sure way to lead to “writer’s block” for me.
Up to now, my articles have been published exactly as I have written them, grammatical errors and typos included. Since I have never claimed to be a good writer, I figure people get what they get when I write something. It is the same way with this blog.
This month, however, someone decided they needed to edit my article. In doing so, they included incorrect information. I received the mass email from the BTC at 2:01pm notifying the members that the August issue was available on the website. At 3:55pm, I received an email from someone telling me that I incorrectly credited Danny Haralson as being the Race Director for the Vulcan Run 10K in 2007. I never included a year when I mentioned Danny taking over as race director. To be clear, in case there are others that want to make sure that my facts are correct, the year was added by whomever decided to edit the article. For those that want to make an issue over this matter, please know that it was not something that I submitted. The edits were done without my knowledge or consent. I was not even given the courtesy of being allowed to make my own edits.
Because it took less than two hours to ruffle some feathers, I would like to make it clear that this error was not mine this time. Of course, I did find where I left a word out but I always find something like that once the issue is published. The irony to me is that some people seem to think that everything is always about them. Well, my article was all about four gentlemen that have made a tremendous contribution to the Birmingham running community I attempted to point out, to the best of my knowledge, ways that these men have selflessly gone above and beyond for the benefit of those that went before us as well as those of us that are still running. I have personally never heard one of these men ask for recognition for their efforts. The intent of my article was to show my appreciation for what they have done for all of us.
I had already planned to repeat my article here in my blog after The Vulcan Runner was released. I wanted to express my thanks for these men to those outside the BTC too. Since the published version of my article includes incorrect information, I have chosen to post the article as I wrote it here:
We Should Honor People While We Can – A Tribute
As we saw in last month’s issue of The Vulcan Runner, the Birmingham running community lost another icon. Dr. Arthur Black was highly regarded as one of the founders of the Birmingham Track Club. (He was the first President of the BTC in 1976 and he served a second term in 1979.) The BTC was an offshoot of his belief that exercise had value and could lead to a long and healthy life. Apparently, he knew what he was talking about since he lived 93 years. Even in his later years, he was said to be seen walking around Vestavia Hills picking up trash along the road. He obviously took great pride in our community. Needless to say, Dr. Black will be missed. (If you have not read the article in last month’s newsletter, I highly encourage you to do so.) In the last year or so, we also lost other prominent members from the earliest days of the BTC such as Versal Spaulding (a Vulcan Run founder) and Les Longshore (a BTC charter member). Although I never had the opportunity to meet these men, I always heard them spoken about with high regard by everyone that knew them or met them.
Reading the tribute to Dr. Black last month also got me thinking about how we tend to honor people after they are gone. It is obviously an appropriate thing to do. I just wonder sometimes why we so often fail to honor people while they are still with us. I guess we take them for granted like we do so many other things. The BTC is blessed to have so many wonderful people who have done so much for our local running community. I wanted to take this opportunity to express appreciation for a few of these individuals that we still see and hear from on a regular basis.
For those of us that have only been running for the past six or seven years, Al is known primarily for leading the Sunday morning group that trains for the Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon each year. In addition to that running group, many of us also know Al for his blogs (runningwithal.blogspot.com and trainingwithal.blogspot.com). This past year, Al turned the reins of the marathon/half marathon training group over to Natalie Ferguson and the BTC. Of course, he stayed involved with the group and continued to post regularly to his blogs. His posts are not just interesting and entertaining, but provide a wealth of information to help all runners get better by learning from his experiences. What experience you ask? According to his blog, Al’s running resume includes over 140 marathons and ultramarathons. His marathon PR is 3:03. He has also run over 100 miles seven times! For fifteen years, Al was a coach for Team-in-Training, which is a running program that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For those of us that read his blog regularly, we know he has ankle issues and those issues have slowed him down a tad. However, you will still find Al and his running partner (Moha) tackling trail races all the time. Al also still covers the ultramarathon distances, even with bad ankles. It does not matter if the terrain is hilly or flat. Al finds ways to stay out on the trails. Al was the recipient of the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award in 1996. In addition, Al was just the second person to receive the BTC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
If you have not been involved with the BTC for very long, you may only know Danny as the Race Director for the Vulcan Run. But he is so much more than that. Through his Run University program (RunUniversity.com), he has trained literally thousands of runners from the couch to a 5k or 10k. In many instances, those runners have gone on to conquer half marathons, marathons and beyond. I know because I am one of those runners. Moreover, I am not alone. I would challenge you to run with almost any group in Birmingham and not find at least one (probably many more) runner that started running through Danny’s program. Almost everyone in my regular group started with his Running 101 (also known as “Couch to 10k”) program through Run University. The thousands of participants that have gone through his program would be impressive enough. However, Danny’s involvement in the local running community does not end there. Over the years, Danny has served the BTC in a number of positions, including Club President from 2004 through 2006. His introduction as Vulcan Run Race Director was a fire by baptism. When the previous Race Director resigned, Danny (with help from his wife, Micki) agreed to take over as Race Director for the next year. He has graciously stayed on and made the Vulcan Run the premier race organized by the BTC every year. A couple of years ago, the BTC recognized Danny’s significant contributions to the club by adding his name to the annual award now known as the Randy Johnson/Danny Haralson Annual Service Award. The club gives this award each year at the annual party to “a ‘newer’ member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and freely given of his or her time in a volunteering capacity in ways that help further the mission of the BTC.” Danny and Micki jointly received the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award in 2004.
For years, you could find Rick just about every weekend timing a race somewhere in the Birmingham area. In addition to timing races, Rick also certified racecourses. I would argue that no one else has worked at timing as many road races as Rick. In addition to working races, Rick was an active member of the BTC for many years. I still remember him at board meetings reminding us about the history of our club. He always stayed true to the mission of the club in every way. His fingerprints are all over the BTC, even today. As I researched, I kept finding Rick’s name attached to something within the BTC. Our most prestigious award given each year is the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award. This award is “our oldest award and is annually given to the most outstanding club member over the past year or for continued outstanding leadership and service to the BTC.” In other words, this the MVP Award for the BTC and it has Rick’s name on it. Rick himself won this award in 1980 and 1986, which makes him the only two-time recipient. In addition, the club honored Rick in 2012 when the Peavine Falls Run officially underwent a name change to become known as the Rick Melanson Peavine Falls Run. This was done to recognize his many years of service as the Peavine Falls Race Director. That same year, Rick became the first to receive the BTC Lifetime Achievement Award.
Charles Amos Thompson
If you were to attend a BTC board meeting today, chances are you will find Charles there with his stack of papers. Personally, I have no idea what is in that stack but he has them with him at nearly every meeting. Charles’ reach into the Birmingham running community extends far beyond our club’s road running. You will also find Charles at track meets and other races working finish lines. He may be at a high school track meet one day at a local school then working a collegiate indoor meet at Birmingham Crossplex the next day. I overheard Charles tell someone once that he has participated in over 2,000 events as a runner or official. That is incredible to me. Those that run from National Bank of Commerce (formerly Brownell Travel) on Shades Creek Parkway near Jemison Trail can thank Charles for providing the water and hydration drink on the brick wall each Sunday morning. Charles also puts out the materials about upcoming races at the base of that wall. I have had the pleasure of working the finish line with Charles on a couple of occasions. The first time was the Southern Conference track championships when Samford used their new track for the first time. I had never been to a track meet, much less work at one, but Charles was patient and taught me what to do. On another occasion, I worked the finish line with him at the BTC Classic. Although this event was much less tense, Charles took his job just as seriously as he had at Samford. Working with him, I saw that he has a real passion for running and creating an environment where runners can have the best experience possible. Charles received the Dr. Arthur Black/Rick Melanson Annual Service Award in 1987.
These are just a few examples of the people that we still have running with us today that have made significant contribution to our running community and the BTC. I include myself when I say that we should try harder to show our appreciation to these folks, and so many others, while they can still hear us. I certainly understand the importance of honoring people when they are gone. It is the right thing to do. How much more right is it to honor them while they are still here? Without these early founders and long-time members, the BTC would not be where it is today. For anyone who has ever worked with a volunteer organization, you know it is often a thankless job. Let us try to make a more concerted effort to show our appreciation to those that have made significant contributions to an activity that we all love so much.
That’s it. I hope Al, Danny, Rick, and Charles know that many of us truly appreciate what they have done for us and all runners in our community. Without these men, the BTC would not be where it is today. Birmingham running would not be what it is today either. More of us need to take their lead and do our part to make running fun and inclusive. Although I was not there, I think that is what Dr. Black and the other founders envisioned when they started the Birmingham Track Club so many years ago.