I hadn’t planned on running the half at the final Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon & Half Marathon because I was also directing the race, but wow am I glad I did! I loved making runners (and strangers on the trail) smile with my silly Coney costume and appreciated hearing participants and volunteers say thank you for putting on a great event. This was the 11th race so you’d think by now it would have been routine and relatively stress-free, but because of my anxiety disorder it never got any easier to pull it off. In fact, I think this year was the most difficult because I had put so much pressure on myself to make it the best yet. In October, at nearly the last minute, I made the decision to end it on my own terms. The fact that weeks later I finally received closure in another ongoing event that in many ways was intricately linked to this race made me realize I totally made the right call. I want to start 2024 focusing on new adventures that both challenge me and help me grow. Thanks to all the volunteers and runners who made this year’s race the most special one ever! A lot of times when I race, I force a fake smile for the cameras. On Sunday Natalie Brinton Krovetz captured my pure joy at having achieved what I set out to do with this race back in 2014. I’m so grateful for the experience of being a race director for my own event and can’t wait to finally find a way to tell the story of what this race has meant to me over the past 10 years now that it’s really over.
Special shout out to Ryan Ross, Nicole Brimer, Ellen Houle, Becky Keller, Tommy Safranek, Ragged Mountain Running Shop, Rivanna Trails Foundation, and everyone else who isn’t easily tagged on Facebook. 🙂 Oh and most importantly my other half Malinda Ann Hill 👯TWINS RUN in our family.💕
I was 43 when I created this event in 2014. When the race is finished I look forward to finally working on a short film or multimedia piece about this quirky little event! It’s been a labor of love for 10 years.
Thanks to Ellen Houle, Nicole Brimer, Tracey Lynn, Ryan Ross, and Diane Curtis who were there at the very beginning! It’s been a special journey with memories I’ll cherish. 🥰
“So, you are a sponsor of the race?”
To recognize the value of my in-kind design work as well as my contributions to digital marketing and social media, I asked to be included as a sponsor on the back of the 2022 Charlottesville Ten Miler shirt.
For 14 years, I helped the Charlottesville Track Club (CTC) with graphic and web design, marketing, and event management. For 13 years, I supported five race directors (Alice Wiggins, Mike Inge, Maria Bell, Deb Gilbert, and Nicole Brimer) with the Charlottesville Ten Miler (CTM). I’m grateful and honored to have worked closely with people who valued my ideas, creativity, dedication, passion, and time.
There aren’t enough words to describe how much it meant to me to see my “Twins Run in Our Family” logo on the backs of fellow runners as I ran this iconic race. I loved seeing the new CTC logo I designed (last year) at the top of the shirt, too!
I’ve been struggling emotionally and financially since I lost my job of 22+ years in September 2020. During the 50+ interviews I’ve had since turning 50, I've always spoken about my volunteer work in the Charlottesville running community as my proudest accomplishment.
During COVID-19 I devoted my time and talents to help Mark Lorenzoni promote the Charlottesville Track Club’s modified events during the pandemic and I especially enjoyed marketing and managing the C-VILLE-athon, Race Fest, Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program, Winter Training Program, the All-Comers Summer Track Meets, and Bruce Barnes Mile.
During this time a conflict arose between me and various CTC board members. Unfortunately, in spite of my best efforts, this conflict could not be resolved. Therefore, I made the extremely difficult decision to step away from the CTC in September 2021.
Although I had to separate myself from the CTC, I knew I wanted to help CTM race director, Nicole Brimer, with the 2022 Charlottesville Ten Miler. It was very important for me to end my tenure with the CTC on a high note. So, I made a variety of new designs for a special bib, stickers, and volunteer shirt as well other logos that I never got to use.
I wore my rainbow sparkle skirt and formerly white running shoes that I colored with a rainbow of sharpies. So many spectators and fellow runners complimented me on my tutu and I appreciated the encouragement as I was rather untrained for this endeavor!
The best part of the race was seeing my identical twin sister cheering in her inflatable T-Rex costume at mile 4 and the finish line. Being able to finally share this historic event with her made a difficult day of saying goodbye to this race a bit easier.
Thank you to Nicole for allowing me do what I love and including me as a valuable contributor to this spring tradition in Charlottesville.
I'm not sure who will be the next director for the Charlottesville Ten Miler and what changes will be made under new leadership. I know that my twin and I will always smile when we see someone wearing a shirt from one of the years I helped support the race, especially the shirts with my designs (2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020/21, and 2022).
music is my therapy
All the right songs came up at the right moment .....
Sometimes on a dark day you need to read the nice things people have said about you to remind yourself that you've had a positive impact on the world. Thank you so much to everyone who responded when I asked for recommendations ... included below are just the running related ones.
"I have been co-director with Leah for the CTC All-comers Summer Track Meets for nearly a decade. During that time Leah has helped grow popularity of the meets, while at the same time made them run more smoothly. She is creative and organized with the event logos and website marketing. She is passionate about the CTC and is involved in many of their events as either a director, volunteer or participant. Thank you Leah for all you do for runners in the C'ville area!"
Rick Kwiatkowski, Charlottesville Track Club member
"Leah Connor is dependable, creative, particular, and passionate about expressing the fun and challenge of footraces into art. Further, her technology skills and customer service are absolutely top notch. As the race director for the Kiwanis Independence Day 5K, I annually reach out to Leah in April and ask her a series of requests to post our race event and registration with the Charlottesville Track Club and please help us update our logo. Well, it bears saying that Leah designed our current logo a few years ago. The original she created blew us away with its beauty, capturing the essence of the fun of running and walking with a potential energy all its own. Every year, Leah, improves the design and suggests new and contemporary changes. In 2021, we decided to start using customized bibs. I asked Leah to send the logo to the bib vendor, and she found a way to take the starting line photo from a previous peak participation year and use three segmented shots of it to make three different bib backgrounds. Needless to say, when I saw the bibs, I was overjoyed. More importantly, when runners came to pick them up, they were amazed, especially those who could see themselves at the starting line. Only someone who really cares about people will take the approach Leah takes. In addition to her art, Leah updates our registration page each year, taking the initiative to provide quality information to prospective runners. The registration is so appealing, I know it impacts runners in their decision to sign up. Finally, she is the lynchpin in getting our data to the timers, and is completely dependable! I want to emphasize that Leah is reliable, amazingly prompt, and responds just about immediately to feedback and requests. Of all the tasks that go into developing an annual footrace, one of my most enjoyable is seeing the work that Leah does behind the scenes to facilitate the success of our race, our runners, and our cause. Thank you, Leah!"
Matt Haas, Superintendent, Albemarle County Public Schools
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Leah as a volunteer with the Charlottesville Track club for over a decade and a half. Together, we have worked to support the Marathon and Half Marathon Training program every summer. In addition to provide excellent and professional creative support, from marketing to social media presence, Leah is also an excellent project manager, diligent with details, and an excellent collaborator. She handles challenges expertly and is incredibly conscientious and she is always looking for ways to improve processes and how we deliver the program. Without her leadership, we most certainly would not have made the continuous improvements and updates to this immensely successful program that we have. I would highly recommend Leah for any position that requires this kind of diligence, follow through, leadership, and creative teamwork.”
Joan M. Bienvenue, Executive Director and Vice Provost, Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee
“In my experience, there are those who think of ideas and those who execute them. Leah Connor is a rare example of those who do both with equal skill and enthusiasm. I’ve witnessed this as part of the Charlottesville running community to which she contributes so much. The Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon and Half Marathon not only arose from Leah’s vision, but continues to happen because of her follow-through with details ranging from course design to certification to publicity to volunteers to aid-stations to race-swag. And she manages it all with a combination of personal work-ethic and the ability to generate enthusiasm from others. She’s the whole package.”
Harry Landers, Boston Bound Running Club Captain
"Leah Connor has done and continues to do so much for the community as a volunteer for the Charlottesville Track Club. She's been my go-to when I needed help on short notice for publicity, artwork, website content creation, error corrections - the list goes on. For just one example, I desperately needed help getting an insurance certificate for a race I was directing. Without it we would have had to cancel. The next day I had the certificate. I'm still amazed. Leah is creative, energetic and passionate about her work, and it certainly shows in all she's done for the Charlottesville running community."
Jay Wildermann, Former CTC President
"Leah is incredible. If you need something done, and it's difficult, she's a good person to have around. She's an analytical thinker, a problem-solver, diligent and solid in a crisis. She will not stop until a project is completed--and done well. There are few people I would rather have on my team--I couldn't speak more highly of her."
Peter Krebs, Community Outreach Coordinator at Piedmont Environmental Council
"I have had the pleasure of having Leah on my "team" for many years and count her as one of my major assets. I am not the most tech/web savvy person, but I know I have Leah in my corner. No matter if it is a quick spread sheet that I want presented a certain way or to have our web site updated, all I do is send it and she quickly and efficiently has it done! She amazes me. Best part is she does everything she touches so efficiently and with no judgement."
Pam Whorley, Realtor, W4MTP Director
"I have had the pleasure of volunteering with Leah Connor for many years with the Charlottesville Track Club and the Charlottesville Ten Miler, where she is a truly irreplaceable asset. Leah really can do it all and has proven that countless times over her many years within the Charlottesville running community. Whether it is logo design, creating/managing websites, organizing race spreadsheets and databases, or social media outreach, Leah always gets the job done with great efficiency and enthusiasm. She is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to encourage participation in local events and has become the local ‘go-to’ expert resource for non-profit groups looking to organize running events. I am truly in awe of the impact she has had on the local community through her volunteering and cannot recommend her highly enough. The Charlottesville running community would not be what it is today without Leah’s countless hours of service and dedication."
Cathy Singleton, CTC volunteer
"I personally have seen more engagement between the community and the CTC! I believe it's mainly due to her work on the CTC website, the CTC's social media accounts, and the CTC sponsored races. Well done, Leah!"
Andrew J Zapanta, Former CTC President
"Leah has been volunteering for the CTC (Charlottesville Track Club) for more than a decade, successfully taking care of the CTC website and all social media. She’s been doing an outstanding job for our local running community."
Hernan Garbini, CTC Member
"Leah Connor is in so many ways the driving force in bringing people together in our running community. Her tireless efforts, in helping to market and organize hundreds of races, running events and training programs, have helped to entertain tens of thousands of runners and, in the process, raise immeasurable funds for countless charitable causes. Simply put, thanks to her selfless dedication in volunteering her time and sharing her talents, creativity and passions, Leah is the flag bearer in bringing running to life in Central Virginia!"
Mark Lorenzoni, co-owner of Ragged Mountain Running Shop and Coach for Charlottesville Track Club
Every day I plan to write 3 unique things I'm grateful for. I'll be posting them on Twitter and occasionally Facebook and Instagram too. It's a great exercise to train your mind to think positively!
Today I am grateful for:
1. Bubble baths
2. Free Shakespeare lessons from Dr. Francis X. Connor.
3. Fuzzy heart candy cane pants.
Today I am grateful for:
1. A morning run with my honey
2. Coney and @realdumbrunner
3. Getting pokémongo gifts from @MalindaAnnHill
Today I am grateful for:
1. @RaggedMountain1 home delivery
2. @CoachZoni for believing in my strength when I didn’t myself
3. My husband Fran for breaking his run streak and taking a rest day to walk
Today I am grateful for:
1. Amy’s Red Curry Thai
2. @Starbucks #PSL
3. Taking a morning walk with my daughter when it’s only in the 60s