By David Monti, @d9monti (c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved with permission to use
NEW YORK (06-Oct) — Rob Simmelkjaer, an attorney and former executive at ESPN, has been named to succeed Kerin Hempel as chief executive officer of New York Road Runners (NYRR), the world’s largest not-for-profit organizer of running events and owner and operator of the TCS New York City Marathon.
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Simmelkjaer, a recreational runner who has completed the New York City Marathon twice in 1997 (3:44:47) and 2013 (3:28:24), will assume his role on November 15, one week after this year’s marathon has concluded. Hempel served as CEO for two years, succeeding Michael Capiraso who resigned under pressure in 2020
“We are excited for Rob to lead our organization through its next phase of performance, growth, and impact,” said George Hirsch the longtime chair of NYRR’s board who will be replaced by Nenna Lynch next June. “He brings sports leadership experience, a record of driving strategic transformation, and a commitment to our mission of helping and inspiring people through running.”
Simmelkjaer has no experience managing a running organization or running events. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School who was named as one of the 100 most influential African-Americans by the NAACP in 2021, Simmelkjaer’s sports career has been focused on media and broadcasting. He has served as an on-air contributor for ABC News, ESPN, NBC Sports, NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, and the Tennis Channel, anchored MSNBC’s coverage of the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games. During his nine years at ESPN he served as vice president of international development, V.P. and assistant to the president, and director of NBA programming. In 2011, he was named senior vice president of NBC Sports Ventures, where he led new business development and created and oversaw a number of NBC Sports properties.”
“I am thrilled and humbled to join NYRR at such a pivotal time,” said Simmelkjaer, who pronounces his surname “SIM-uhl-care.” “Running has the unique ability to improve our physical and mental health, bring us closer together, and inspire positive community change. I look forward to working closely with NYRR’s talented staff, passionate volunteers, diverse communities, and its many partners and stakeholders.”
NYRR’s business operations were heavily impacted by the pandemic. The TCS New York City Marathon was not held as an in-person race in 2020, and returned in 2021 at about half capacity, recording 25,010 finishers compared to 53,627 in 2019. The race is planned for full capacity this year, and NYRR has been operating with a full race schedule throughout 2022. The organization released dozens of employees in 2020 when their events shut down, but has been adding staff steadily in 2021 and 2022. Indeed, their website lists 35 open positions including nine at the director level.
Hempel, a former elite runner with a 2:42:38 marathon personal best, was installed as a caretaker CEO after Capiraso’s departure. She did not expect to stay on for two years. A former business consultant who advised Capiraso’s predecessor, Mary Wittenberg, Hempel has been widely credited with stabilizing the organization through a rough time.
“I want to thank Kerin Hempel for her tireless dedication and managerial expertise throughout this critical transition period for NYRR,” Hirsch added. “We simply couldn’t have done it without her.”