Tuesday, January 18, 2011/lk
Go a block or two in Hood River and the odds are you will see one: A runner moving along on the sidewalk or side of the road.
A group of local residents wants to harness the power of one of the area's biggest hobbies to educate the local running community and expand opportunities for young runners.
Steve Wrye, a volunteer coach with the Community Education middle school programs, sees both an increased need for educating older runners and a need for volunteer coaches at the younger lever.
He believes a Hood River running club could accomplish both goals.
Wrye said he sees numerous runners around Hood River who "don't know how to run" and are not only risking potential injury with poor form, but also taking the joy out of the sport.
He also sees it as an opportunity to expand a coaching base for a middle school and grade school program.
As runners get educated about the sport, they can help coach the younger generation. Wrye's hope is that instead of having just a few volunteers who need to make significant contributions of their time, there can be many volunteers having to commit to only smaller periods of time.
He hopes that offering runners a community and further education about the sport will help the club in getting volunteers.
"I think if we offer people something in return we'll be much more successful," he said.
The dues from the club will be used to play the cost of the club and then use the rest to help Hood River Community Education to help pay for expenses during the middle school cross country and track season.
The middle school cross country programs had 63 runners out in the fall, and Wrye believes it could double in the coming seasons.
With all those runners, Wrye believes having additional educated coaches is essential to keeping the programs going.
"I want to make sure we get volunteers and that we can teach them the basics for two events," Wrye said. "I'd like us to be able to rotate volunteers."
Wrye said the club intends to partner with numerous local businesses and organizations, including Community Education and Healthy Active Hood River County to help young runners adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Brian Shortt, owner of Shortt Supply athletic store, is also working with the club and said he would like his store to serve as a "meeting hub" of sorts for runners.
"We're connected to the region's coaches and the athletes who come in to the store," he said. "We have contacts with companies like Nike and we would like to be part of a monthly speakers forum where we could bring people from companies like Asics and Mizuno."
Shortt added that he also wants the store to collect information on regional running events and to put out a calendar so that local runners will know what is coming up and that organizers will not cross over onto each other's events.
Wrye said he would love to see a collaboration between area running clubs, chambers of commerce and cities so that many cities in the Gorge have events of different focus going on each weekend.
He said he saw such events while spending time in New Zealand, and believes the Gorge area, with its recreation-oriented culture, is a perfect place to try such a collaboration.
At the start though, he just wants to bring together enough runners to further enhance the running culture and to get the next generation to love the sport.
"I think we can give back," he said. "There is no reason this town should not have a state champion every year."
To get involved in the club or to get more information, contact Wrye at firstname.lastname@example.org.