Category Archives: SEPTEMBER 2016

All the posts created in September 2016

Interview with Robin Clark by Dale Peterson

Robin was born and raised in Willits about 90 miles north of Santa Rosa.  She grew up playing just about every sport that involved throwing, catching or shooting a ball.  By her own account she was a bit of a tomboy and loved the competitive nature of team sports. She played softball, volleyball, and basketball in middle and high school and football and baseball in elementary and junior high.
In high school, Robin started to get recruited by colleges to play both basketball and softball.  She decided to accept a scholarship offer to play basketball at the University of San Francisco.
After graduating from USF, Robin stayed another two years to  earn a her masters degree in Sports Administration/Management.  She got a part time job at a K-8 school in the city while working on her masters degree.  She loved working with children and coaching and started to consider teaching as a career.   Upon obtaining her teaching credential, she started teaching and coaching at the high school level but after a few years she decided she would rather coach the younger kids.  She ended up at Comstock Middle School on the west side of Santa Rosa teaching and coaching cross country, track, volleyball and basketball.
Robin lives in Healdsburg with her husband ( a retired PE/Biology teacher/track and field coach) and her Golden Retriever Amigo.
Robin became a runner after her college basketball playing days were done says that she loves the way running makes her feel and that she loves how she can get lost in her thoughts when running.
Robin is also  very competitive with her running and enjoys seeing her personal gains achievements as a runner.
Robin has qualified for the Boston Marathon twice and has a personal best of 3:29.
Robin says that nothing in her previous athletic experience that compares to running across the Boston Marathon finish line.
Robin would like to be able to run Boston in the future with some of the students she once taught and introduced to the sport of running.
You were quite an athlete growing up, competing in softball, basketball and volleyball.  When did you start running for the sake of running as opposed to as part of your training for other sports?
I started running for the sake of running my first year teaching.  My competitive athletic career was complete when I graduated from college and I knew I had to stay active and running became my sport of choice.  As a graduate student in the city , I started running daily in Golden Gate Park and really fell in love with the sport .  Some of my friends were runners and they encouraged me to sign up for the Bay to Breakers and I was hooked. By signing up for races, it has motivated me to really learn more about the sport and training for races.
You taught and coached at the high school level for four years before you realized that you wanted to work with the younger middle school aged kids.  What is it that draws you to the younger kids?

I taught high school for four years before switching to the middle school.  The younger kids are so excited to learn and have so much energy every day.  I absolutely love their willingness to try new things, get sweaty, and their silliness.  At the middle school level, I get to teach the kids everything for the first time.  I get to introduce them to new games, new sports and teach them how important living a healthy and active lifestyle will be throughout their entire lives.

Your background is primarily “ball sports” – how did you make the transition to coaching Cross-Country and Track?
 I started coaching cross country and track when I started teaching middle school.  At this point in my life, I had been running about 6 years and it was a huge part of my life.  The Comstock cross-country program had four students on the team the previous year, and I felt we could do much better than that.  I decided to take over the program and get more kids involved in this amazing sport.  My husband was a PE teacher, track coach and ran in college at Chico State so he helped me out quite a bit with the workouts and taught me pretty much everything I know about teaching/coaching  young kids.  At the middle school level, my goal is to make running fun  for the kids so they will continue to run in high school and beyond.
Working with 180 kids a day must be tremendously challenging – tell us a bit about that.
Teaching 180 kids every day in my PE classes can be challenging at times, but it is also very rewarding to give the gift of health to my students.  I tell them there is nothing more important than their health and without it they have nothing.  The quality of life is so much more rewarding when you are healthy and can enjoy it.  I make it a priority to do everything I ask my students and athletes to do so they see why working out is important. I feel it is my job to be a positive role model and to not only tell them how to be healthy, but to show them how to be healthy.
Having fifty or sixty kids in a middle-school running program is quite an accomplishment – what do you feel is the secret to getting them and keeping them interested?
I believe the reason we are able to keep fifty-plus kids in the Comstock running program is because we focus on making running fun.  Running to me is not about winning at the middle school level. I never talk to the kids about winning races or championships.  We focus on getting better, setting short and long term goals, making new friends and simply enjoying what running gives to us individually.  I talk a lot about the opportunities and benefits running could offer the kids.
Comstock Middle School kids jumping for joy!
Tell our readers a bit more about your running club modeled after the SRLA running program down in Los Angeles – how does it work exactly?  How do kids earn free running shoes etc?

The Comstock running club was modeled after the very successful SRLA program in Los Angeles.  I heard about SRLA from an administrator who taught in an inner city LA school. He was a volunteer coach for his school and trained a group of students to run/complete the LA Marathon.  I was amazed that 12/13 year old kids could accomplish such a challenging run.  This program in LA has major sponsors, lots of corporate support and volunteer coaches who make it a reality.  I wanted to try to create something very similar to the SRLA program, but my biggest challenge became  the funding to get kids registered in local races and providing my needy kids with high quality running shoes.  We still struggle to fund the expensive race entry fees, but every year we find a way to make it happen.


Comstock Middle School runners off another adventure.
The kids earn free running shoes from me by working hard, having good attendance and showing me they are dedicated to the sport.  Each year, I use my track coaching stipend to purchase 30 pairs of shoes. The kids earn a free pair by showing me they are serious about their running.
Do you keep tabs on your former student-athletes?  How many went on to successful high school and college running careers?


I keep in contact with all of my former student-athletes running in college.  I invite them back to run the half marathon in San Francisco during Christmas break and travel to watch many of them run In college.  The kids give me so much joy and bring so much happiness to my life.  Being able to cheer them on and support them is very important to me.  Last year, my husband and I traveled to Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon, Fresno, Los Angeles and Stanford to watch my former athletes compete.


Robin with Empire standout Luis Luna
Outside of your work at Comstock Middle School, how is your running going these days?  Your 3:29 marathon PR is very impressive!  What are your short term and long term goals?

My running is going pretty well.  I am training to run the Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon in January and two half marathons this year.


Robin Clark – educator, coach and runner.
Long term /bucket list goals for running would be to run Boston again with some of my former athletes, run the New York City Marathon and the Nashville Rock n Roll Marathon.  Running is such a gift and has given me the opportunity to travel, meet new friends and watch my students enroll and graduate from college.
Who has been the greatest influence on you as an educator and coach?
My husband has been the biggest influence on me as an educator and a coach. He has taught me the true meaning of education.  We have been fortunate to be able to help my athletes in a variety of ways, and all I have ever asked in return is for them to pay it forward when they are able to do the same.
Any question you wished I had asked or anything you want to be sure to share with our readers?
Thank you for allowing me to talk about my amazing students and the joy they have given and added to my life!

Brad’s Corner

“First Ladies of Running”, Amby Burfoot, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA, 2016, pp275

A new book landed on my Kindle library a couple of months ago. Actually a few books did but I had lost track of the iPad and have gotten behind in my reading. This particular book interested me due to the content: twenty-two short stories – inspiring profiles of the rebels, rule-breakers, and visionaries who changed the sport (womens running) forever; with a foreword by Shalane Flanagan.  And the author, Amby Burfoot.


Amby Burfoot was an outstanding distance runner (Boston Marathon winner 1968) and is an outstanding writer and editor for Runners World. He has written four other books about running, all well worth a good read. His marathon PR set in 1968 in Fukuoka Japan in 2:14.28 was only one second off the American record at the time.

At the age of 70, Amby continues to run today including the Boston Marathon annually and he has run the Manchester Road Race fifty-four times in a row as of this year. If you have read Runners World you have undoubtably read one of his many articles. Amby is a veritable running historian.

What he has brought to the table in this, his fifth book, is a complete history of women’s development and impact in the running world; our world. Whether your recollection of the history of women runners may be the indelible photo of Jock Semple chasing after Kathy Switzer and attempting to physically extricate her from the 1967 Boston Marathon or equally indelible photo of Mary Decker down on the infield during the 1984 Olympics 3000M and Zola Budd looking back, you will have a complete understanding of the road that has been travelled.

I suspect that many readers of this review will recall the span of time between when women weren’t allowed in road races, through the  first women running in marathons, Title IX with its many implications, to the first women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles in 1984.  Some of our readers were likely impacted by such and may have gotten their running start with the original Avon 10K/Marathon series.  I also imagine there are some women readers who have never heard of Title IX and take running in local and national races for granted (as they should).

Prior to 1928 women were only allowed to run up to 200m by the powers that be (Men!) because it was thought they would injure their reproductive organs. At the 1928 Olympics women were allowed to run 800M. At the end of the race, one collapsed to the track and several looked tired and in pain (as did the men in their race). Because of this it wasn’t until 1960 (Rome) that women were again allowed to run 800m. Then in 1972 the 1500M (metric mile) was added to the Olympic schedule (as a result of women jumping into long road races/marathons in the mid 60’s?). In 1984 the 3K and marathon were added (thanks to the international Avon series). In 1988 the 10K was added and in 1996 the 3K was extended to the 5K. The steeplechase wasn’t added until 2008.  

[Editors note: at this time men and women compete in all of the same standard distances the only exception being the 110M hurdles for men vs 100M hurdles for women]

Yes, you have come a long way baby. Of the many rights that took so long to achieve; voting, equal opportunity to education (college, post-graduate, medical and law schools), to have to fight for the right to be free to run in a road race seems almost ridiculous and at the same time it is an activity, to me, that is basic to life. I am happy that in my life I have had the opportunity to run with and against women in many races beginning at Central Jr High in San Carlos when a young lady named, Roberta ‘Bobbi” Clapham, could out sprint all of the boys. The first real race of my life was in 1970 (Age 15) at the Bay to Breakers where I was passed by many women many of whom were not only better trained but were frankly superior to me. And for the last 45+ years I have looked forward to running with women especially the shared experience of training and racing together multiple times a week.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I think everyone should read it. It is an important part of the history of our sport and lifestyle. The format of twenty-two short stories makes it a book that can be read all at once or over time. It would even make a nice nightly read of one or two chapters but I found that reading it as one story allows for more fertile connections between the intricacies and interactions of each woman depicted.

As an avid fan of all things running for most of my life and a reader of running history it always intrigues me when a book is informative and adds to my knowledge base. Amby Burfoot has written an excellent and informative book for everyone including children and adolescents. If the history of women’s running is of interest to you this is a must read.

Rating:   Excellent               *****5/5

Fun in the Sun

Aug16Berg01The second annual Empire Runners Member Appreciation picnic was held on Sunday, August 28 at Morton’s Warm Springs resort. This event is the brain-child of Peter Kirk as a way to get members together in a social environment, including families and friends, to celebrate our friendship and do something other than run. In that vein, there was softball, bocce, cornhole and mystery games organized by Tori Meredith. We were happy to see several families new to the club, brave souls who figured it was a good time to meet fellow runners.

In keeping with the spirit of member appreciation, this is no BYO potluck affair, but fully catered and carefree, with appetizers and salads by the famous Tag’s deli from Novato (long-time club member and race director Al Tagliaferri), and grilled burgers and sausages cooked up by Peter’s team of volunteers.

Since every picture tells a story, here are a few from the festivities….



The Long and Short of ER Uniform Changes

At the last Empire Runner’s club meeting held Thursday August 25th at Round Table Pizza in Montgomery Village, it was proposed that a graphic artist be secured to produce a new Empire Runner’s logo.

My first thought was “why?” and my next thought was “no”. I was a bit surprised that anyone would even think about doing such a thing.

I admit that I am a sports traditionalist. I don’t like rule changes. I don’t like the DH in baseball. I don’t like the Oregon football uniforms.

So, after a lengthy and spirited discussion at the club meeting regarding the logo, tradition, club identity etc. I went home and thought about writing something up about the issue.

On Saturday I pulled out all of my club singlets going back twenty-plus years. In my mind they had all been very similar and yet when I pulled them out of the drawer I saw that although there have been some constant themes, there have also been quite a few, not always subtle changes.

Looking at my collection here is what I found:

In the early to mid-nineties when I was first introduced to the sport of Cross-County the basic singlet was white with the blue logo and lettering over blue shorts. This featured the now classic sunrise, mountain, trees and male and female runners. This singlet was some sort of synthetic fabric though I can’t be certain exactly what as I cut the tag out years ago. There was also a cotton version of this singlet that I bought but that I never really raced in for obvious reasons.


Bob Merritt working hard back in the 90’s

During this same era, many of the faster runners in the club were sporting a black version of this same design – intimidating but I imagine hot.


Preston and  Gibbons – classics sporting classics

During my third or fourth season of Cross-County in the late nineties a new singlet was introduced. This design had bold black and white panels on either side of a pale blue front and back and very large, bold new Empire Runners logos including the “ER sunburst”. As I recall, this singlet was initially well received but then got low marks as the 100% nylon material tended to be hot and sticky. You don’t see this one often any longer as I imagine they are tucked deep into drawers that seldom see the light of day.


Darryl Beardall running in ER colors

The next iteration of the Empire Runner’s singlet brought back the older logo, now in white on a simple but hard to mistake deep blue polyester body. The new uniform called for black shorts. This combination became the essential ER team uniform for about a decade. Though classic and easily identifiable, it was updated a few years back with script vs block letters and a more realistic graphic of trees and mountains along with the now traditional sunrise. The male and female runners disappeared. The “official” uniform was blue but I own a white version of this latter design that I purchased on special order with the intent of wearing it in hot-weather marathons.


Megan Johnson and Val Sell in the blue

About the time that the latter version of the uniform described above became available, the decision was made by the ER Board to allow ER singlets and gear to be sold to the general public.


Gil Moreno – back in black

The other interesting thing that occurred at this time was that you could now buy ER gear in pretty much any color of the rainbow. Don’t like deep blue and white? No problem, get a chartreuse ER singlet and pink cap… Argh. But to each his or her own I guess.

Just a couple of years ago… though it could be longer I suppose, the club racing singlets saw their arguably most radical change ever which included completely new and/or altered logos, lettering, colors, tones and fabric. The current racing singlet retains a brighter sunrise but only proclaims “Empire” on the front as opposed to Empire Runners and there is no longer any mention of Sonoma Co. The back has a simple ER graphic. The blue is muted. The lettering is outlined in yellow. There are white and gray “flames” or stripes or whatever they are blending in and out. I would describe the overall design as “contemporary”. The fabric is light and breathes well but it is a little course for my taste and I think it could result in chaffing issues in longer races such as the marathon.


(Note that the third singlet from the left is actually hanging backwards.  For a front shot of this singlet, see the picture of Darryl Beardall earlier in this post)

So there is your unofficial, incomplete and totally biased history of the ER club uniform over the last twenty years.

All of this thinking about the club uniforms and logos combined with an actual inventory makes me realize that although we have had some constant themes – the sunrise and “blue” for instance – we have not really kept to a single long-term design.

With all of the above in mind, I would make just a few simple recommendations to the club – 1) adopt a classic logo design and stick with it. 2) If there is a way to tie into some of our earlier themes such as the sunrise motif, do it. 3) Have separate lines of official club racing apparel vs casual apparel. The former should meet strict guidelines and not be altered on a whim. The latter can be in any color, cut or design subject to the winds of fashion.

If you have a passion for what constitutes a strong club logo or uniform design, now might be a good time to get involved.