ALBANY — George Regan, who grew the Freihofer’s Run for Women into a 5K race that had national and international distinction, is stepping down after 35 years directing the event, it was announced today.
He will be be replaced by a trio — a testament to the large role played by one of the most significant behind-the-scenes figures in Capital Region sports.
Regan, who is stepping into an advisory role, has directed the Freihofer's Run for Women since 1982. What started in 1979 as the National Amateur Athletic Union’s 10K Road Race Championship grew into one of the nation’s largest all-women’s road races. In the mid-2000s, it became a destination event for elite runners around the world, until being limited to Americans in 2016.
“With the 40th anniversary just around the corner, now is an ideal time to pass the torch to new leadership,” said Regan, a Troy native.
He has overseen 22 USA national road racing championships at the 5K and 10K distances. In 2005, elite international runners started competing — a move that led the road race earning a designation from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body for track and field.
Multiple reasons, including the possibility of regaining the USA Track & Field designation as the 5k road racing national championship, led to organizers to restrict the field to Americans last year.
Except for Australian Benita Johnson’s three straight wins from 2006-08, Freihofer’s had been won by an African every year since 2004. Doping scandals involving the Kenyan and Russian federations, and looming Olympic bans, also played a role. Among those suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs by the Kenyan Athletics in November 2015 was Emily Chebet, the 2010, 2013 and 2015 Freihofer’s winner.
“We’ve been talking about this for awhile now, and then this whole drug thing hit, with Chebet,” Regan said last year. “That kind of put the stamp on it. . . . The IAAF is not looking good right now.”
Assistant event director Patrick Lynskey, Freihofer’s training challenge coach Kristen Hislop, and Tim Shepard, an account executive with the baking company, will direct the 4,000-person 5K and its companion events: the Freihofer’s Health & Fitness Expo, Freihofer’s Kids’ Run, Freihofer’s Junior 3K and Charitable Partners Program for 2017.
“These individuals are highly competent and have the background to take this event to the next level,” Regan said in his statement. “I’m excited, because as the Freihofer’s Run for Women prepares for its 40th anniversary we can now have even greater community impact.”
Lynskey has been involved in the run since 2003, and has more than 20 years of event management experience. Since 2009, the Albany resident has managed all logistical operations for the Freihofer’s Run for Women, including overseeing all area directors, volunteer recruitment, vendors, overseeing partnerships with city/state agencies, managing the Health & Fitness Expo. He is also involved in the local running community and directs other regional races.
Hislop, who has a marketing background, is in her seventh year as coach of the Freihofer’s Run for Women’s 10-week Training Challenge. As a coach, the Clifton Park resident offers advice on run form, talks about injury prevention, gives guidance on cross training. She will work on event sponsorship, the Health & Fitness Expo, as well as handle many of the event’s media interviews.
Shepard has worked for the baking company for more than two decades and overseen various aspects of the event’s logistics since 2009. A road race director and recreational runner, his role will be to further integrate and represent the baking company with the event.
From 1982-2016, Regan served as referee for six Olympic marathon trials, while also chairing the championships sub-committee for men’s and women’s long distance running. Locally, he also served as the president and chairman of the road race management committee for the USA Track & Field Adirondack Association.
Regan has been honored on numerous occasions for his service to the sport of running and community. This includes the “President's Award” from The Athletics Congress/USA (1987), the USA Women's Long Distance Running Committee's “Service Award” (1990), USA Men's Long Distance Running’s “Scott Hamilton Award” (1995), “Race Director of the Year Award” from Road Race Management (1995), the “Hospitality Excellence Award” from the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau (1998), and Hudson Valley Community College’s “Most Distinguished Alumnus Award” (1999).
“Road running event production has been my career’s work and has given me so much pleasure,” said Regan, who remains active in the management of the annual Troy Turkey Trot and Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and Half-Marathon. “I look forward to working with the new team this year and providing any expertise they may need to ensure the event runs as smoothly as possible.”