Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Tribute to Ziggy and Run to Win

On Tuesday evening about half a dozen runners came to Peak Performance Multisport to find out more about, and register for, Coach Ziggy Gillespie's Nor'Easter Run six-month training program. Several runners have already registered and many veterans plan to return for the 2009 season. There will probably be somewhere close to 25 members on the team - it's hard to know for sure. The first practice is next Wednesday evening, March 4th.

Ziggy developed this team training model nearly 20 years ago after his sister Nancy approached him about coaching her and a few girlfriends to run their first road race. He agreed and they started working together on a weekly basis. Everyone improved; road racing opportunities for women were expanding; and the Run to Win Ladies Team was born.

Every Wednesday evening from March through September, this group of women, (which was never exactly the same from one season to the next,) would meet at what used to be Westbrook College on Stevens Ave. in Portland. Typically, they would do a slow warm-up and arrive at a designated place for interval training, uphill/downhill running, or to practice on a particular race course. Then the group would slowly run back to the college as their cool-down. They met on Sunday mornings for a long run, and, there were a couple years during which the team continued to train together over the winter months, traveling from Portland to Lewiston for weekly track workouts at Bates College.

So much more than running occurred during these gatherings. Over the weeks, months, and subsequent years, barriers were overcome; personal goals were met; friendships developed; teammates got new jobs, fell in love, had babies, changed houses, went through divorce, lost jobs, got married, even moved through one's death from cancer, together, as a team. This was not a haphazard community. It became the 'real deal' for many.

In the meantime, the local running community began to notice these ladies in team singlets at the races. They showed up in numbers, and, they had talent. They looked like they knew what they were doing. Occasionally the team traveled to races such as the Winner's Circle Women's Run for the Roses 5K in Massachusetts, the Brewer 5K, the Sugarloaf 15K, and cross-country races at Franklin Park in Boston. It looked fun and others wanted to become a part of it. At some point, Ziggy agreed to let men join the team.

The core principles of the program remained intact: individual participation and progress toward personal goals, in the context of a supportive group, and under the tutelage of an experienced and dutiful coach. Ziggy's dedication was unwavering, and his insistence on smart, injury-free running clearly communicated.

As the saying goes, "Success breeds success." New this year, Ziggy has agreed to re-brand his training program and become the Nor'Easter Run team coach. Following on the success of its triathlon club Team Nor'Easter, last fall Peak Performance formed the Nor'Easter Run club. Ziggy is offering his six-month program to men and women of all levels of ability under the new brand. He will also coach a select racing team.

Personally and publicly, I would like to thank Brian ("Ziggy") for the years he committed to the Run to Win team. Over the years he occasionally expressed the desire to take a break for a season, yet the team rallied to keep him on. We are grateful for his continued service. Many runners have become very successful in their own right on account of Ziggy's coaching. We gained so much from his shared knowledge and patience to stick with each runner. It is greatly appreciated and won't be forgotten.

Nor'Easter Run stands to be a highly successful program with Ziggy at the helm. Best of luck.

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