Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Making running a team sport: My interview with American Odyssey Race Director, Bob Fleshner

Bob Fleshner is currently the race director for the American Odyssey Relay, a 36-leg running relay event from historic Gettysburg, PA to Washington, DC. He's built AOR almost single-handedly to become one of the most unique running experiences on the east coast. And that's what Bob prides the race on: the experience. If you're looking for an unforgettable adventure, don't worry, there's still time to get in on the action. The race is April 25-26 and registration is still open here. Hope to see you out there! I'll be volunteering this year.

I had the chance to interview Bob recently about the race and his background in the sport. 


Race directing wasn't your first career path. How did you first break into the running and endurance sports community?
After working as an attorney and corporate executive for 25 years I decided to become certified as a personal trainer. After I received that certification I met a relay race director while at a race expo.  I had run in three relays and loved the concept.  He and I decided to bring one to the mid-Altantic.  So, we started the American Odyssey Relay in 2009.

The American Odyssy Relay is a one-of-a-kind event starting in Gettysburg, PA and ending in Washington, DC. What makes it so special for you?

Connecting with the runners and the communities along the way is what makes it special.  AOR is truly a community.  I email regularly with dozens of participants, volunteers and property owners, not only about the race, but about life in general.  We’ve made so many lifelong friends that it’s hard to count them!

We generally don't think of distance running (and endurance sports more generally) as a team sport? What was appealing about a relay format for the American Odyssy Relay?
Just that.  Teams make up funny names, decorate their vans and have funny t-shirts.  Seeing them running hard, not for themselves, but for their teammates, is really great.

What's been the most memorable moment or experience from your time as race director of AOR?

My most memorable moment was seeing Mark Holbert, who was seriously injured by an IED, come across the finish line on his hand cranked bicycle.  His grit and determination exemplifies all that is best about our military and about the running community in general.

You're a long-time runner yourself. What keeps you engaged in the sport?

I still feel better after I run than before.  I was tired today but met a friend and ran in the snow.  I feel energized and happy now, post run.  The feeling I get and the camaraderie from running with others are what keeps me fresh and interested.

What's been your favorite race as a competitor to date?
For some reason, I seem to run well in Philly.  The Philadelphia Distance Run (now Rock and Roll) and the Philly Marathon are mostly the same course and are my favorites.

Any races on the calendar for you this year?
American Odyssey Relay

The Reno Tahoe Odyssey Relay in late May.  It’s my business partner’s race.  It’s the 10th anniversary for RTO and my team and I needed another team challenge.

Anything else?

I may try to get myself mentally geared up for another try at Boston.  I finished a few minutes before the bombs went off last year and I don’t want that to be my last memory of Boston.

Where can people find out more about you and AOR?

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