The main purpose of CoolRunning is to provide the sort of information that grassroots runners would want from a running web site in Australia : the latest race calendar, race results, news articles, contact details for every running club, links to other running web pages, and a place to meet and discuss with other runners.
We tend to specialise in the "Fun Run" scene - 10kms, Half-Marathons, Marathons, Little Athletics, but we do cover some track and field and ultramarathon running is well represented too. We want a site that is National rather than being based in any one town or on any one running discipline. However the emphasis is clearly on Australian running.
We want a web site where you can find out all the information you need as quickly and easily as possible - that way you can get what you want and then get back out there and do some of your own running ! The key aspect of any web site, is of course, relvance and timeliness and you'll find that more often than not, CoolRunning is updated on a daily basis.
We have built this site very carefully to ensure that the pages load as quickly as possible on the vast majority of web browsers that are in use today. We purposely require no additional browser plug-ins and do not use frames or rely on excessive use of graphics.
We are independently owned and are therefore free to bring you information from an un-biased perspective. The costs for the site are paid by hosting web pages for running clubs or running races and advertising.
by Kevin Tiller
1995 (and before)
Prior to 1995, the World Wide Web was quite a new phenomenon, mainly limited to the computer and scientific fields. But the Web flourished during the year, mainly among computer professionals who were dabbling in their part-time hobbies. Towards the end of the year, two fledgling web sites were created : one for the Australian Running Calendar (started by Ian Kemp from Wollongong) and the other was for the first running club to have their own web page, the Sydney Striders (by Kevin Tiller, Sydney). We were both employed in the IT industry and started looking for other running web sites in Australia, but didn't find any.
Another person was looking for Australian running web sites was Kevin Molloy, an IT professional originally from Sydney, but now located in Boston, USA. He found Kevin and Ian's sites but could see that Australia was far behind the US as there were no others, and certainly no nationally-focussed site like Coolrunning USA. In March, he came to visit his family in Australia. Kevin Molloy was an old work mate of Merri Mack, who was best friends with Wendy Downes, then-President of the Sydney Striders. Wendy, Merri and Kevin Molloy came to Kevin Tiller's house one Sunday afternoon to have a chat (Wendy and Merri had barely even seen the Striders site before - all very new technology). Kevin Molloy was very animated in explaining about this great web site he had started with a mate : CoolRunning. He suggested I do something like that in Australia. It sounded great but I was too busy with my own projects : the Striders site, and had recently added a new one for the Australian Ultra Runners Association.
As the year progressed, both mine and Ian's sites became more advanced and competant looking, as everyone was quickly learning about this new medium. In fact, more Australian Running web sites were being launched, not really in droves, more like dribs and drabs.
By the start of 1997, there were many more sites but these were either dedicated to individual running clubs or are purely local/regional in content. It was obvious that there needed to be a good web site that catered for all runners as a whole, and was nationwide in scope - this would clearly entail a lot of work for somebody.
Kevin Molloy was coming back again to visit his family and discussions had started up again for a CoolRunning Australia. It was obvious that 1997 would be the year that somebody somewhere would get the energy to start a nationwide site. I guess the competitive juices started flowing and I was growing to like the idea that I could do this thing.
When Kevin Molloy was in Sydney we discussed a lot of options, but it was fundamental that the site needed a good calendar - but that was already being done excellently by Ian Kemp, down near Wollongong. We decided to ask Ian to let us host his site as part of CoolRunning. When Kevin Molloy explained the concept, Ian liked the idea and said that he would like to be a co-partner.
The original plan, agreed in a Sydney pub at the Rocks in March 1997, was to launch a bare-bones site in August. We would be like a "sister" site to the US version, loosely based on the same principles and often sharing ideas or computer code, but still separate entities in their own right. If you have browsed the web much, you will see a lot of content from America, and we don't need to replicate that here in Australia, we want our own Australian version !
Anyway, there was a flurry of activity and the site was launched on 16th April 1997, way ahead of schedule. (We don't have a screenshot of the site from the first day, the oldest one we have is from 8th January 1998)
During 1997 and 1998, both Kevin Tiller and Ian Kemp managed CoolRunning - Ian's speciality being the calendar and a small group of Little Aths websites that he was maintaining. Kevin managed "design" issues and other features. More often than not, Ian was the driving force behind the website as Kevin's day job kept him overly occupied. However during 1999 Ian moved to New Zealand with his family and then started CoolRunning New Zealand.
By 2000, Ian was too busy to help out on CoolRunning Australia so by default the site became solely managed by Kevin Tiller, who's day job was still keeping the site operating on a bare bones level. If truth be told, he received many more kicks in the rear than pats on the back for his efforts, and even considered quitting CoolRunning to work on other running projects.
Gradually, Kevin became more organised and committed to CoolRunning Australia and finally stumped up some money on a good MessageBoard system in August 2001 after 2 or 3 less than successful attempts. Having the latest threads display on the homepage seemed to work well and traffic to the site started to balloon - possibly helped by the wider spread of the web and email. Also, he started to use Blogger in July 2001, a new software application to make frequent postings and archives very easy to do, and he started to post news items to the homepage on a much more frquent basis.
CoolRunning was becoming increasing popular, and Kevin started to commit serious amounts of time on the site, and gradually felt the tide was turning - more people were appreciative of the site than not, and coverage of news, calendar started to improve. Other people became interested in helping out. The first "helpers" were recruited to work as moderators of the MessageBoards : Action and Pastyboy, follwed soon after by Tim.
During 2003 CoolRunning seemed to be growing more and more popular - could there possibly be a committed runner in Australia who hadn't heard of the website ? It seemed unlikely. After much discussion, and design, CoolRunning brought out a series of running gear so that other CoolRunners could spot each other at races - this seemed to increase even quicker the number of runners flocking to the site
The website grew apace and was continuing to add new sections, the Australian Running Guide being one of them, and helping to encourge DIY journalism with the blogging craze. There was a great community spirit developing amongst the runners.
During the tail end of 2004 and into 2005, the inevitable happened : how could one person be solely responsible for a website that had grown so large, whilst still holding on to a full time job, a family with 3 small kids plus one big mortgage, and still call himself a runner ? Kevin made an announcement in April and followed up with part 2 in November, that after much thinking, CoolRunning should be managed as an incorporated association, a non-profit making entity - and the effort shared by a group of runners with the same aims in mind. At this time also, the CoolRunning calendar was upgraded to use the software developed by Mick Corlis of the Australian Mountain Runenrs Association, using a database and making it a lot easier to edit and update and make different views of the data (there are approx 50 people that can make changes to the calendar now, some who events have to be approved, but also many trusted users that can add and modify events directly).
CoolRunning has proceeded as a non-profit organisation with a barebones commitee in place, trying to put some support structure in place. Combined with our helpdesk ticketing system, the aim is to reduce a dependency on any single person - so that Coolrunning can keep going into the future with a revolving stream of volunteers, keeping the site operational on a daily basis.
What lies ahead in the great CoolRunning story ? stay tuned in the coming years to find out !
Sure, there are sites about running written by journalists, and unfortunately there are running sites built by people who know nothing about running. However, within the small CoolRunning team we run or organise and help at races every weekend of the year or we are on the committees of running clubs and of course, we run every day ourselves.
We built CoolRunning because its the type of web site we want to read ourselves !