2016 was a break out year for the Roots Running Project. We first noticed the group at the Portland Track Festival where RRP member, Noah Droddy, lay exhausted on the track after qualifing for the US Olympic Trials. We also know member, Willie Milam , as a Portland product from Jesuit High School. After Noah's incredible half-marathon this weekend we contacted Willie (WM) and head coach Richey Hansen (RH) to ask about the origin and outlook for the training group.
Who are the core members of Roots Running project – athletes and coaches?
(RH) - Current athletes in the group include (alphabetical): Margaret Connelly (@MM_Connelly), Noah Droddy (@IBuiltTheArk), Molly Grabill (@MollyJo_Grabill) , Alia Gray (@aliatgray) , Brian Llamas (@brianllamas), Katie McMenamin (@KatieJMcMenamin), Willie Milam (@wmilam03), Tyler Mueller (@TylerMFMueller), Mara Olson (@MCOlson5), and Andy Phillips (APhillips307)
I coach am the sole coach of the group, however, Alia, is individually coached my Coach Vigil. He additionally has served as a tremendous mentor to me as a young coach, but doesn't provide me input on how to structure the schedules outside of Alia's individual training.
What was the Big Bang moment for this group? What brought you together?
(RH) - I think it was more of a "well f*ck it, looks like we have a group now" moment. I was coaching at a high school when Alia and I first started dating, she wasn't super excited about the way her training was going in her current group, so decided to step away from that group and was considering "self-coaching" following the NYC Marathon in 2014. Shortly there after, we were put in touch with Coach Vigil, who agreed to take Alia on as an athlete. She had modest marks at the time but saw pretty quick success once switching to Coach Vigil's training. We were then approached by Mara Olson (5-time All-American at Butler), who inquired about joining Alia as a training partner with me writing her training, and we were like, "well, let's do this". Noah approached us that Fall about joining and his success that Spring, is what ignited the influx we had at the end of summer (Willie included in that influx).
In any given week, how much does RRP function as a team? (workouts together? group house? long runs? Meals?)
(RH) - We meet 4 days a week for practice. But, they have become a family so tend to socially hang out together frequently outside of training as well when grabbing dinner or drinks out.
(WM) - We usually meet up on weekday nights (depending on all of our work schedules) and weekend nights for dinner/drinks/casual hanging out at one of our places to break up the monotony of training. We are still such a new team and a young group, but I feel like we have become very close already - typically trying to hangout with each other most of the time outside of practice when we aren't working our day jobs.
What’s up for the 2017 season? What are the big goals for the team and where will you chase them?
(RH) - Track is the main focus this Spring season with everything culminating at the USATF Champs in June. Alia and Noah have already auto-qualfied, but we're hoping to have the majority of their teammates join in the fun. Meets we're targeting are some of the standard ones: Stanford, Mt Sac, Payton Jordan, and Portland Track Festival. We will adjust accordingly though based on how people are performing to add or take away meets as needed.
Training groups are structured and funded in all kinds of creative ways. What does it take to keep an upstart running team like RRP going?
(RH) - We are currently self-funded. All athletes work part-time jobs to cover living and training expenses. I have my own private sports medicine practice in Boulder that prevents me from being reliant on the group as a source of income, but allows the athletes to get treated as needed. Additionally, we have an Alter-G treadmill in-office and the necessary strength work for any ancillary routines I'll have them do.
As of Nov. 2016, we are a 501(3)c non-profit and in the process of establishing our operating budgets for the group's future with the hope of providing travel, living, and training assistance to make competing as a post-collegiate a little bit more manageable.
Noah Droddy made a splash at the Trials last year. What did his success mean for RRP?
(RH) - It was a major contributor, as his success, along with the success Mara showed early on, showed we were doing something right from a development standpoint. Noah's personality is also contagious, so I think his story resonated with a lot of people: a goofy blue collar dude that works his butt off to come out of nowhere and have success on the stage that he has is definitely inspiring.
Who are your worst teammates?
(WM) - Worst teammate is a tie between Andy Phillips and Brian Llamas. Andy because I have to live with him and he never cleans his dishes, and Brian because he uses too many emojis in text messages. Second worst goes to Molly and Noah because Molly is way too serious during hard workouts and Noah is incredibly judgmental of me and my attire on most occasions. With that said, on a more serious note, we truly are a family and I couldn't ask for any better teammates and friends to spend so much time with.