Race Director of the Year - Gordon Cherr

Presented by Jeff Bryan

I want to thank Jeanne O’Kon and the rest of the Grand Prix Awards Committee for asking me to present the 2008 Race Director of the Year Award to Gordon Cherr. Whoa! Wait a minute! Did he just say the winner’s name in the first sentence? He can’t do that! We have traditions to uphold! Well, the last time I checked, we had a tradition of holding the Pine Run in South Georgia. 

Unfortunately, Gordon is in California and cannot be present this evening. He did want me to tell everyone that it is very comfortable where he is and that he had the air conditioner turned on. It is probably good that he is not here so he doesn’t have to walk up and collect his hardware. As our mutual friend Scott Ludwig once remarked: “Gordon can pull a hamstring by just walking out to get the mail.” So, it really is a good thing he now has race directing to fall back on. 

In the first place, I truly don’t know why the committee wished for me to present this award. Maybe they thought my prior race director experience would allow me to provide witty comments and insight about events that happen behind the scenes. (By the way, the Palace Saloon 5K will be held on April 11, 2009.) Or maybe they wanted to quickly fill the slot before the Governor of Illinois appointed someone else to do it. Most likely, they wanted me to talk about a subject that is dear to Gordon’s heart and that is “CHANGE”. Unless you are oxygen deprived from too much speedwork, you probably know the last year and a half saw the ideas of CHANGE and HOPE being talked about all across the country. Everybody wanted to change something. 

But what does Gordon know about change? I assume he was raised like any other typical American child. His father probably had to tell him many times that he needed to change his attitude and I’m likewise sure his mother had to tell him to change his underwear. Let me tell you what I know about change. It doesn’t always come easy and it may be hard to accept. 

Two years ago, we ran our last Pine Run in the International Paper Company’s experimental forest up in South Georgia. GWTC was later informed that International Paper would be selling the property. The Pine Run would either die or need to be relocated. I won’t go into all of the details but GWTC got permission to hold the race on the gently rolling hills of the Tall Timbers Research Station. However, a race director was needed. And guess who ended up with the job? It was our own man of change himself, Mr. Gordon Cherr. 

Gordon never had any prior experience of being a race director. Apparently in today’s society experience is not always a requirement. What is required is the desire and the tenacity to do the right thing and to do it well. It also requires the humility to admit you don’t know everything and the willingness to seek out answers to questions. Most importantly, you must surround yourself with the right people to get the job done. 

So, CHANGE & HOPE came to the Pine Run. Firstly as I have already mentioned, came the change of location for the race course. And as the runners quickly found out, it was not very flat and fast. That is where the concept of HOPE came in. After going up the first few hills, many of the brave harriers, who ventured out on that fine autumn day, started to HOPE there were not going to be many more. But there were and they got even bigger and longer. Now that is when HOPE ultimately succumbed to the desperate prayer: “Please God, just let me finish this thing.” To make a long race short, the race director was allowed to live. Everybody survived and were the stronger for it. The overall verdict has now been rendered and to paraphrase the character Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street: “Change is Good.” 

With that thought in mind, I am honored to present, on behalf of the GWTC and its wonderful membership, the winner of the 2008 Race Director of Year Award, Mr. Gordon Cherr.