As Kevin Jermyn sits behind his desk at the Chicago Area Runners Association office in downtown Chicago, he realizes he hasn’t been there too much during his first months as Executive Director.
Replacing former director Ed Zlyka at the beginning of November, Jermyn has been very busy. Between meeting new people and formulating a plan of action, he’s ready for the 2017 season to begin to put his ideas into play.
In the short term, Jermyn really wants to capitalize on the already great coaching staff at CARA, to provide better training resources, support and coaching. He also wants to reach a greater audience in terms of the training opportunities.
“I love the Chicago Marathon, but I don’t want running to be a bucket list item where they’re one and done,” Jermyn says. “I want us to have a nice long-term gradual progression into running and promote more beginner and intermediate running options by having an enhanced beginning level running program.”
Another aspect of CARA he’s excited to get his hands on is the ‘Go Run program. ‘Go Run offers free 5K runs on Saturdays in the summer and fall in various parks around Chicago. As much as Jermyn already loves the program, he wants to expand it to the suburbs, and really utilize the different parks that don’t get as much attention.
“Running has become an expensive support, so we certainly want to have an inexpensive gateway for people to get involved and hooked on how magical it is, and still support the higher level events, but have easier access opportunities,” he adds.
Jermyn’s big long-term plan is to expand indoor running throughout the city of Chicago, especially because it is one of the colder cities in the United States. With a big background in track and field, he knows how much power the sport has to uplift different groups of people. He also wants to focus on reaching younger groups of runners.
Although this position is new for Jermyn, his running experience is not lacking. After trailing the wrong crowd in middle school, he followed his sister’s footsteps and joined cross country in high school. He says to this day, that was the best decision he ever made.
“Running introduced me to a whole new culture; everyone on my cross country team was getting all As, applying to great colleges, going to bed early, studying hard and training hard, and it suited with me,” Jermyn reflects. “I developed a great work ethic, which made me the first person in my family to go to college.”
As a student at Georgetown University in Washington DC, Jermyn kept running, and ended up becoming All-American. Upon graduation, he stayed in DC where he was able to run professionally for Reebok for a few years.
At this point in his life, running was not something he was able to let go of, and ended up becoming an accounting and finance person for a startup company in the running industry. He always loved the business side of things, and enjoyed doing this for a few years, but the competitiveness in him kept calling his name. He then began his 14-year coaching career at Duke University in 2000, where he was the head women’s cross country and track coach.
After his last season as a coach, he went back into the business world of running, until he met Zylka, who recruited him for the position.
Even though his acceptance of the job forced him to uproot his entire life from North Carolina, Chicago feels familiar to Jermyn, as he grew up in New York City. The big-community feel may be the biggest challenge for Jermyn and his staff, as he wants to make every runner happy. However, Jermyn has confidence that if they proceed sustainably, they can reach every goal and need out there. Plus, he sees his lack of connections in the city as an advantage to provide new perspectives.
“The biggest reason why I am here is because running was a tremendous change agent on my life, so my goal is to make sure we find ways of conveying that message of how running can be that vehicle,” Jermyn says. “My whole thing is that running is incredibly magical, and I feel an obligation and a sense of fulfillment when I can give that to other people.”