Kennett Run welcomes new faces, new ideas
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
J.J. Simon has already participated in 25 marathons, as well as a number of triathlons and Iron Man events, so it is safe to say that the miles he has logged in competition allow him to separate a good race from a bad race.
The Kennett Run, he said, is a good race - a very good race.
Simon, who was named the new race director for the 27th annual Kennett Run last fall, said all it took for him to come to that determination was to stand with Nadiene Ringler-Friedrich, his predecessor, at the start of last year's race.
"The word 'Community' is a good way to describe the Kennett Run," Simon said of the annual event, which will take place on May 14. "I was looking around trying to get a feel for the race, and I saw that there was a lot of community support and several local sponsorships. I saw that the race went through neighborhoods, not past warehouses, and that the board and volunteers all seemed to work together in harmony."
Born in Australia, Simon was raised in Chile and France, and then moved to Canada, where he spent 31 years in the Canadian Air Force. He got to travel frequently for his job, and on one of his deployments to Cyprus, he met a few British ex-pats, who introduced him to off-trail running. Now retired from the military, he lives in Unionville with his wife Jacquelyn, also a competitive runner, and continues to compete.
When he saw the posting of the race director position at the Kennett Area YMCA last year, Simon felt it would be a great way of melding his love of running with an opportunity to become a part of the Kennett Square community.
"I didn't know who the board was, I have never participated in the Kennett Run before, but I was new to the area, and I wanted to be a part of it," he said. "I want to make this the best race for this town, because it's worth it. It is a privilege for me to do this."
Simon's aspiration for the Kennett Run are met by his new business partner, B. Christopher Daney, who was named as the new president of the Kennett Run, replacing Matt Genereux. Together, Simon and Daney have spent the last few months meeting with Kennett Run board members, volunteers, local schools and organizations -- all in an effort to do what the Kennett Run has already proven to do very well: Utilize the strengths of their neighbors.
"Over the years, you get to understand what needs to be done in order to get races put together, from the standpoint of implementation, marketing and finding sponsors," said Daney, who has helped organize racing events in Delaware, Pennsylvania. "You begin to understand the business of it by looking at the big picture and allowing all of the components to click together, to allow for a super event."
Since its inception 27 years ago, Kennett Run Charities has raised and contributed over $1 million in donations to dozens of schools and organizations in the Kennett Square vicinity, and last year, it gave back just under $38,000. Keeping these contributions at a high level relies heavily on being able to recruit competitors in an increasingly crowded field of events.
"There is a lot of competition for these types of running events, and at times during the year, there are as many as four or five running events every weekend in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland," Daney said. "We've got to put together a really unique race day, in order to draw runners and competitors for the PoweRun."
Inheriting an already well-oiled machine that is about to kick off its 27th year can, on the surface, give off the impression that the mission of the management is to leave well enough alone. While giving full credit to Genereux and Ringler-Friedrich for their many initiatives over the last several years, Daney and Simon are creating new ways of improving the template.
Simon has increased the Kennett Run presence on social media, by posting daily messages on Facebook, while creating links to businesses and organizations who are associated with the Kennett Run. He has also made several changes to the event's website, including clarifications to race day maps and various races.
The Kennett Run recently set up information tables at the Kennett Area YMCA, where they registered more than 150 participants, and will patrol a registration tent at the Kennett Square Winterfest on Feb. 27.
"Chris and I have managed to reach out to new contacts who are eager to help out in ways that they first didn't realize they could," said Simon. "There's a fresh energy that Chris and I are bringing that's required for every race, and in a few years when we step down, there will be a new team who will be able to take what Chris and I have done a little further."
Daney has participated in the Kennett Run several times, and each time, he is amazed at the large crowds that gather yearly along the race route. His favorite image of the event, however, is always at the finish line at Anson B. Nixon Park, when he sees young children finish a FundRun.
"They're all wearing their 'Number 1' on their shirt, and crossing the finish line, and for many it may be the first race of their life, or the only one they will run that year," he said. "Being there when they cross that finish line, you get to see their faces, and that's what the Kennett Run is really all about."
The Chester County Press, a media sponsor for this year's Kennett Run, will be providing additional information about the event leading up to the start of the race on May 14, including a supplement in its April 27 edition.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
The 27th Annual Kennett Run
Saturday, May 14, 2016
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.: Race packet pick-up in Kennett YMCA gym
7:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m: The Joe Hector PoweRun competition, a separate event run by the Kennett Area YMCA, is held in conjunction with the 5K & 10K Run. The PoweRun biathlon involves skills of strength and endurance, measured by a combination of weight-lifting and distance running. Men and women 14 and over are eligible to compete.
8:50 a.m.: Pre-race meeting
9:00 a.m.: 10k run, 10K PoweRun, FundRun
9:25 a.m.: 5k run, 5k PoweRun Wave 1, FundRun
9:27 a.m.: 5k run, 5k PoweRun Wave 2, FundRun
9:30 a.m.: 5k Run Wave 3, FundRun
9:35 a.m.: 1 Mile Run/Walk, FundRun
For more information and to register, visit www.kennettrun.net