I have been trying to figure out how to write this post for almost 2 weeks! How do I write about a famous person in the running community? Especially as a small-time blogger, without the post sounding too much like a fluff piece, hero-worship or that I am sucking up – which I am not. Finally, I decided to just write the damn thing and see how it comes out and not worry about it.
Over the many years I have been a runner, one of the names that I have often heard is Bart Yasso. He had written books, been anointed the Mayor of Running, discovered “Yasso 800’s” and was Runner’s World Chief Running Officer. Even with all that, I didn’t really understand why he was so important to the running community, until I went down to Bethlehem, PA for the Runner’s World Half Event.
It was there I got to see Bart Yasso in action.
I attended a BBQ hosted by Runner’s World and first met Bart Yasso in the above photo.
I watched Bart work the audience and people there like a master politician. The big difference, I didn’t detect that aura of fakeness that many politicians project, when they think people are not looking. He seemed as though he was honestly enjoying being there and meeting new people.
I have a feeling that he doesn’t spend a lot of time in this office.
Bart had this uncanny knack of being able to remember people’s names, after meeting them only once, treating them like he was their long-lost favorite Uncle who hadn’t seen them for years and making them feel at ease. I know that he treated me that way and I appreciated it, since I will admit that I was just a little star-struck when I first got to the Runner’s World Headquarters and all the people who I was meeting that night. After all I had read their articles or about many of them for years.
The next morning he led us on what I called a Rave Run in the Rain around Bethlehem, PA. During this run he provided a commentary on the City where he grew up, while taking time to talk with everyone.
All weekend long he seemed to be everywhere and always had time and a smile for the camera. I watched him patiently pose for an untold number of photo’s with people who just grabbed him as he was walking by and he always treated them courteously and found time to pose with them (me included).
For 4 days I watched Bart Yasso work the crowds and not once did I see that flicker of annoyance that you see when a person has been on screech and has to meet so many people. Those people who demanded so much of Bart’s time, interrupted his conversations with others to get a photo with him or try to talk with him themselves – I saw people get flustered during the interruptions, but not Bart.
It certainly made me scratch my head that in people’s enthusiasm to be around him, how many people completely disregarded common courtesy and Bart exhibited patience and appropriate levels of humor to keep situations in hand.
The other thing that I watched very closely was how Bart interacted with the other Runner’s World staff, you know the people that he works with on a day-to-day basis. There was an easy banter between them, a lot of quick smiles with both the mouth and the eyes, it didn’t just stop at the mouth. I got the sense that he was well liked and respected by them and that he returned that respect.
My last image of Bart Yasso from the Runner’s World Half Festival was after the event was over and I was coming back from the Peep’s store. Bart and a few others from Runner’s World were walking towards the Sands and we stopped and talked for a moment. I said my good bye’s and thank you to everyone. Coming from the race area was a family and Bart started telling us their names and where they were from. We (the staff) just stood there in amazement and shook our heads flabbergasted that Bart could remember this kind of detail after having met so many people over the course of the weekend.
I do know that I couldn’t keep up with his energy and spirit over the course of those 4 days, by Saturday night I was so tired that I basically shut-down and crashed, while he and others were doing the dinner. He was seemingly like the Energizer Bunny and just kept going and going – I wonder if he at night he just totally crashes when he finally get back to his home or hotel room.
Oh I am sure that Bart Yasso is human and has his bad days just like everyone else. However, during the time I was at the Runner’s World Half Festival, I witnessed a man who exhibited so much stamina, that he truly enjoyed what he was doing, and that he fed off the energy of people around him. Bart was the race director for this weekend and had lots of different responsibilities, but I never saw him publicly flustered or upset and he always seemed to make time for the demands that others were putting on him.
From my experiences during the Runner’s World Half Festival – Bart Yasso earned the title of the Mayor of Running and I hope that I get to sit down with him again one day – those favorite uncle types (even when they are fairly close to you in age) are few and far between and need to be seen more often.
Bart Yasso it was a pleasure to meet you and thank you for being who you are the Mayor of Running.