Soulstice Run

Runners prepare to cross the finish line Saturday morning at the annual Soulstice race in Flagstaff.

Benji Shanahan, Arizona Daiy Sun

For the community running organization that welcomes all ages, abilities, and interests to the sport, strategic planning for the new year is a case of back to the future.

During 2017, Team Run Flagstaff streamlined its board, which will look familiar to people who have been part of the organization over the past 12 years. Mike Smith, who was the founding coach in 2006, is president. Vice president Vince Sherry and secretary Erin Strout, who have been involved as coaches and in many capacities during TRF’s formative years, join treasurer John Comer.

Executive director Stephen Haas is starting his fourth year at the helm, and insists that he and those four want to use TRF’s strengths to grow in its second decade.

“They’ve seen a lot of different aspects of TRF, where we’ve grown, where we’ve had setbacks, just a lot of experience,” Haas said in an interview just before Christmas. “I don’t think there’s five people that know more about running than the five people we have.”

In a running-crazy town such as Flagstaff, there are plenty of ideas and opinions about how best to grow. Many of those decisions are still to be made, but Haas provided a glimpse of what to expect in 2018.

Devotees of the Snowbowl Road Climb, which had become a mid-July favorite until it was discontinued last year, shouldn’t expect the race to return in 2018, Haas said. TRF focused its resources into dramatically increasing the participation and interest in the Downtown Mile on the Fourth of July.

TRF wants to build on the overwhelming success of the 2017 mile, Haas said.

“We put our energy into a growth event,” he said, adding that the road climb was difficult to scale up because of the cap on the number of runners allowed in that space.

Haas said Sherry is set on building the elite division of the mile. “Vince wants to make it a big national event, not just a local event,” Haas said.

That gets me thinking about great holiday running traditions such as the Peachtree Road Race, also on the Fourth, or the Bolder Boulder 10K over Memorial Day weekend. Those are my words, not Haas’. But it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

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As far as creating and developing new races, Haas said it would have to be a good fit. And it’s hard to find a niche, given the large number of opportunities around the region for runners year-round. However, Haas did say there is discussion about a small trail series sponsored by Under Armour, along the lines of the informal Hot Summer Nights races at the Flagstaff Nordic Center two years ago.

Haas acknowledged that membership was down in late 2016 and early 2017, but as of last month TRF was close to its highest total ever with more than 300 members. While some Kids Run Flagstaff members left to join the Runners on a Mission (ROAM) club, Haas said he expects KRF will rebuild and be part of an organizational goal of 500 members.

In the short term, as the weekly workouts resume on Jan. 16 and the weekly strength-training workout series is expected to be announced soon, Haas is confident that the core of TRF will remain strong regardless of what new bells and whistles are added.

“We’re focusing on the experience at the Tuesday-night practices,” he said. “The new board, our mission is not just to focus on what we’ve done in the past, but have opportunities for runners in town and look to the future,” Haas said. “What’s cool that we can do five years down the road? We want to make everything we do a good experience for all members.”

Myles Schrag is coordinating editor for High Country Running. He invites submissions on any aspect of the local running scene. He can be reached at myles.schrag@adinapublishing.com.

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