We are thrilled to offer our readers the chance to meet Nicole Sparrow of Running USA. After working on a contract basis at the Industry Conference for many years, in Fall 2021 Nicole took on a full time role as the organization’s Membership Development Director. Her spirit and creativity, as well as her background as a race director, make her an ideal fit to meet the needs of the Running USA membership base.
Read on to get to know Nicole, and reach out to her to introduce yourself!
What got you into the running industry?
NS: I started running in my late 20s as a way to meet people and get healthier, and instantly fell in love with the sport. In 2011, a friend was planning to run 6 marathons in six weeks to raise money for the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that provides free housing to military families when they have a loved one in the hospital. He was able to plan out five races within driving distance but couldn’t find a sixth that would fit his schedule. So, he asked me if I would create one for him. We held our first Instant Classic Trail Marathon a few months later and had 62 people from seven states join us. I was amazed! And hooked—I decided to keep it going, and over the course of six years it grew to about 600 runners. We raised nearly $70,000 for our local Fisher House. During that time, I also ran our local chapter of the Healthy Kids Running Series, and put on a number of 5K events as well.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
NS: That’s an easy one—the energy. When I’m talking with people outside of the industry about their work, very rarely do I get a sense of excitement from them. But when I’m talking with people within the running industry, there is an almost palpable energy and level of excitement about what we do. I find it so inspiring, and I’m thankful that I get to be around that every day.
What would you like potential members to know about Running USA?
NS: Running USA has so much to offer its members! Because our industry has very unique challenges, we’ve strengthened ourselves to become a collaborative resource to meet these needs. We truly strive to be an extension of our members’ businesses, and through the year-around educational opportunities we provide, the current data and research we make available, and the networking opportunities we create to give our members the chance to connect with one another, we have established Running USA as the hub organization for the running industry.
How are current members taking advantage of their benefits?
NS: We’re connecting with our members every single day. Our data and research library is being accessed by our members daily, as is our online member directory as a networking tool. Members are taking advantage of the event insurance and music licensing discounts we offer, especially as we enter the busy racing season. We regularly share press releases, announcements, and job postings on behalf of our members as well. With our Foundation members, we have established collaborations and partnerships to build individualized programs to meet those members’ specific needs. Our team will also travel to member events as budgets permit to offer on-site support whenever we can.
Can you share a goal you have for the year ahead?
NS: Professionally, I have a goal of reaching out to the smaller and mid-sized events across the country and being a resource for them. Having been a race director for small events, I know and understand their challenges, and I believe that Running USA can help.
How do you spend your free time?
NS: I’ve got two very active boys, ages ten and nine, so free time isn’t something we have too much of. But when we are not at a soccer field, futsal court, or a basketball game, I spend my time practicing my harmonica (I have an amazingly talented and highly demanding instructor), crocheting, or reading.
What’s your greatest running accomplishment?
NS: Goodness, I can think of a few answers to this question, because I feel like running offers people so many opportunities to accomplish something great. And “greatness” in running can mean very different things to different people. I have never been anything close to fast, but I have run 15 marathons and 14 half-marathons, including completing the 2019 Philadelphia Marathon. (If you were there, you know why I consider this a great accomplishment!) I tend to be prone to injury, so between stress fractures, surgeries, and pregnancies, I have had countless “comebacks,” which felt like a major accomplishment every time. Oh, and I once ran 6 marathons in one year.
What’s the next race you hope to run?
NS: I just recently ran the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K with my family, and our member event The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, which was amazing. As for the next race? I’d love to run another runDisney event, and I just let a friend talk me into running the Richmond Half Marathon this fall.
How can potential new Running USA members reach you?
NS: I love connecting with our current members, as well as those considering joining us! I can be reached at Nicole@runningusa.org, or by phone at 804.484.0699. I live in the Richmond, VA area (home to American women’s marathon record-holder Kiera D’Amato!), so if you’re local to me I’d love to meet face-to-face as well.
Anything else you’d like to add?
NS: Although I have only been in this role for a short time, I am excited about the opportunities I see to serve our members and the running community. Running has given me so much, so the chance to give back in whatever capacity possible is very rewarding. I look forward to connecting with all our members, welcoming new ones, and doing my part to grow the sport I love!