Behind The Curtain: Clash of the Clubs

I was in town for a job interview a few weeks ago, and my runner friends had the same slate of questions ready for me.

  1. When are you moving back? July 1

  2. Where will you be living? Within striking distance of my old running routes.

  3. Does that mean you are still directing Gallup Gallop? Yes.

  4. Where are you going to work? Undecided. Email me if you’re hiring, and I’ll send you my resume and references :)

  5. Have you heard about Clash of the Clubs??? It sucks that you won’t be back yet for it! I agree. It sounds like it’s going to be a real banger.

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Here’s everything you need to know about Clash of the Clubs…

The slate of events, venue, and date are virtually unchanged from previous years, but the hype has reached a fever pitch among die-hard Ann Arbor runners. So what’s different? The concept of clubs competing in an epic track meet is tailor made for Ann Arbor, and the hype machine has been cranking behind the scenes for months.

In years past, the Summer Mini Meet has been a well-oiled machine- a highly organized time trial, made to look effortless by AATC veteran, Stani Bohac. For years, Stani has kept the trains running on time for the community track meet, providing a flawless infrastructure for AATC’s laid back event. Having attended multiple Summer meets with Stani at the helm, it always struck me how easy he made it look- smooth check-ins, race bibs, digital clocks, instant results, you name it. And all on schedule, down to the second.

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Promotion in years past was mainly done through track workout announcements, various club newsletters, and word of mouth. So what’s different this time around? For starters, Andrew Schofield, who took the lead on marketing, started working on his strategy before St. Patrick’s Day. How do I know? The S.O.B. roped me into helping him work on it remotely! I was getting ready to run the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, and was getting texts from Andrew asking for different fonts on artwork.

As soon as Andrew pitched me the concept that he and J.J. Jankowski had hatched up, I knew it was going to be a banger: “We want to have local clubs competing in a scored competition as part of the Summer mini meet…what do you think?”

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“I’m pissed that I didn’t think of it first! That’s what I think!'“ is what I told Andrew after he gave me his elevator pitch. Next, Andrew and I negotiated the terms of our bargain. I would help him with creating graphics and email campaigns if he would help me with some social media and traditional outbound marketing and course setup for Gallup Gallop.

In addition to some help on the graphics side, Andrew asked me for some local contacts to drum up interest among club leaders. I gave my 5 contact rolodex, and thought, “Man… it will be awesome if he gets all these guys to go along with this.” Through countless emails and outreach, Andrew now has TWELVE different clubs signed up to run in one week. Turns out, he probably didn’t need my help on that front.

Obviously, the Facebook and Instagram presence has generated a lot of buzz, but the biggest thing Andrew has done is stir shit up on the grassroots level for Clash of the Clubs. Over the past few months, he’s sent me screenshots of group text threads he’s started, chalked with trash talk emojis, and hyperbolic declarations from nerdy runners.

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The big question is…why do people care about this new club competition element? Aren’t they really just interested in seeing how fast they can run a mile or one leg of a 400M relay?

What you have to understand about clubs in Ann Arbor (and beyond) is that most of their members train with each other 3-6 times per week. They wear their club’s singlet at every race, and feel genuine pride representing their running family. Their fellow club members have become their best friends, people that are there through life’s PRs and bonks. On top of that, with running being such an individualistic sport, adding a team element to this competition has unleashed a craving they made not even know they had.

More broadly, on the surface, Clash of the Clubs is a track meet among clubs like AATC, PR Run Club, AA Tri Club, Bad Decisions, Red Cedar, Frog Island, Ann Arbor Running Co., RF 501, Northville Road Runners, etc. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Clash is a celebration, not a competition of all these tribes. Getting all of these groups on the same track at the same time shows how deep the lineup is of both clubs and runners in our area. With a week to go, over 100 runners have RSVP’ed!

A few days ago I was telling Andrew how much I wish I could be there to help out, and to run. Without hesitation, he quickly asked, “But who would you run for? That’s the real question!” Like a lot of Ann Arbor runners, I am really torn when it comes to my club allegiance. PR Run Club welcomed me to Ann Arbor, showed me how to train and where to run. Ann Arbor Track Club gave me Gallup Gallop, and is steeped in history. Likewise, Ann Arbor Running Co. provided marketing tools and assistance that was invaluable to me last year, and does so much for the running community pro bono.

Eventually, I came to a decision, and told Andrew “Buddy, who am I kidding? I got so f——ing slow in Amherst… I don’t think anyone wants me wearing their logo on my singlet!”

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Here are the details for the 2019 Clash of the Clubs

Tuesday June 18

Ferry Field (outdoor track near baseball field @State / Hoover)

Check-In: 6:00pm - 6:45pm

Events Begin: 7:00pm

$6 for AATC members

$8 for non members

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Brent McDermott