Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview with Bob Fleshner- RD of the American Odyssey Relay

Bob and I at the finish of the AOR 202
As many of you know, in April I ran the 202 mile American Odyssey Relay as a solo participant.  Quite possibly the most difficult physical feat I have had the good fortunate to complete, it was made easier by dealing with the director of the entire event, Bob Fleshner.  Bob and I had become acquainted over the past few years and when I was choosing a race to run solo in this fashion, I knew Bob’s race would be the one to try.

After I learned he was going to go for a Boston Qualifying time at the Philadelphia Marathon (Bob needs a 3:45 as a 55-year old male) I asked him if he minded if I sat down with him after the race and interviewed him.  He agreed and the below is what followed:

Dane Rauschenberg: Bob, great to be talking with you.  Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.  So let’s get down to brass tacks.  Philadelphia Marathon.  Did you get the BQ?

Bob's BQ at Philly!
Bob Fleshner:  I did. 3:39:39. As you know, every once in a while, it all comes together!  I had told Phyllis (Bob’s wife) the night before that if everything went absolutely perfectly, I might slip in just under 3:40. I made it with 21 seconds to spare!

DR:  This is not your first marathon.   What was?
Marine Corps Marathon in 1981.  This was my 25th marathon in my lifetime.

DR: What is your marathon PR?
BF: 3:13 when I was literally half my current age!

DR: What race distance is your favorite?
BF: 1/2 marathon.  You feel like you've worked at it, but there's virtually no recovery period.

DR: Did you play other sports growing up?
BF: Basketball and a bit of baseball.  I was on a league championship basketball team in HS. 

DR: How about in college?
BF: Just intramurals--basketball and softball.

DR: Switching from running a race to actually running a race, what made you want to the be the director of American Odyssey Relay?
BF:  My running group and I ran Reach the Beach and The Relay.  I'd never had so much fun running as during those events.  I had the good fortune to be in a position to change careers and being a relay director seemed like a natural given my background.  The logistics, permitting, meeting with people out on the course and interacting with team captains, etc. are all great things for me.  

DR: Are you happy with its growth?
Just a few of the many participants of AOR.
BF: Yes, very much so.  We had 1300 runners in our first year with over 1500 this year.  We fully expect  to have 2000 in 2011.

DR:  What has been the most difficult part of being the RD for the race?
BF: Worrying about the safety of so many people for a 36 hour period.  I feel responsible for them, even though I know that I can't control their behavior or that of others out on the course.

DR: The American Odyssey Relay website shows a link to the Reno-Tahoe Relay race. What is your affiliation with the Reno ace?
BF: The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey was founded be Eric Lerude.  Eric is a minority partner in, and a significant contributor to AOR.  He's been very helpful to me in directing the race.

DR: This past fall you added a race in Georgia as well.  Do you wish to expand to other locales?
BF: Our goal is to make our relays as close to perfect as possible.  For that reason, we have no plans to expand beyond three at this point.  We take a personal approach to our races.  We try to meet as many of the runners and townspeople as possible and put our imprint on the race.  You can't do that if you expand too rapidly.  Then it becomes a cookie-cutter approach, which we aren't interested in.

Bob and I again.  Both happy I am done.
DR: When I approached you to run the race solo, what were your thoughts/biggest concerns?
BF: As you remember, you actually asked about it during our first year of the race and we determined it wouldn't be wise to try to add you with our relatively little experience with the race. For year two, my initial thought was, "Geez, he's back again, he must be serious!"  Putting aside thoughts of how insane you are to do it, my biggest concerns were with respect to logistics and support.  It was clear to me that you'd be running while we were doing set up and check-in, so we could offer little to no support.  You also might be out there before our signs were up--though that didn't turn out to be the case. 

Also, I didn't want to be distracted from taking care of the 1500+ runners who were arriving.  So, we agreed you would need to be totally self-supported and you were.  That was huge for a second year race.  If we were in our tenth year we could have put volunteers out there for you, but we're not there yet.  


Dr. Stephen Bui said...

Great interview! Are you going to run the AOR in 2011 solo again?

Good job and congrats, Bob, on your accomplishments.
Looking forward to AOR in 2011.


Dane said...

No Stephen, I will not. Like the 52 Marathons in 52 weekends the challenge was to see if I could do it. Now, I am off to challenge myself in different and unique ways!