Ten years ago today, after thinking it over a few months, I took the plunge and registered the URL hillrunner.com. That was the moment Hillrunner.com was officially born but the whole story starts even earlier.
In the fall of 1996, I took a JAVA programming class. As part of that class, I learned some basic HTML and I instantly became interested in web development. I made a very simple student page on the University of Wisconsin Stout server and didnít think much about it. In the fall of 1998, the bug really struck me and I began some serious development of my page, of course centered on running. Very quickly, I outgrew my allotted space on the student pages and I was left wondering what to do.
During semester break, I was talking with a friend and he told me how easy and inexpensive it is to register and start your own commercial site. He seemed largely focused on making money through that but I instantly began thinking about my student page and how much fun I could have with it, as well as how much I could learn about web development, without the limitations placed on me by the student pages.
For about three months, I kept thinking of this. What would I call the site? Could I afford it? Could I make money from it? Did that matter? Should I take the plunge? It honestly didnít take me long to think of Hillrunner.com. A play on my name and a statement to my strong belief in strength development through hill training, I was already using the name hillrunr (as I still do) elsewhere. Fortunately, Hillrunner.com was available. As for affording it, the expense for very basic services wasnít overwhelming. Could I make money? Maybe but it didnít matter to me. Finally, the key question. On the first weekend of April, I decided to take the plunge and I registered the hillrunner.com URL that Monday.
Within a couple of days, my account was set up on a server and I uploaded a few files. Hillrunner.com was officially online. It started out very simple, basically a personal page, but it evolved quickly with some of the sections you can still see today appearing. By late August or early September of 1999, the first Hillrunner.com forum came online (with some assistance from Horace at MERVís Competitive Running Forum).
As with most sites without big corporate backing, Hillrunner.com started small with some online friends I made previously, some of my teammates, and a few of my competitors being the main visitors. When Hillrunner.com was barely over a year old, I moved to the Milwaukee area and, through local promotion, mostly by word of mouth, was able to expand the market of Hillrunner.com. Of course, from the beginning, I strived to make Hillrunner.com more than just a local site and we always have managed to get people from around the country and the world to be a part of the community but there is no denying the fact that the early Hillrunner.com community definitely had an even stronger Wisconsin connection than it does now.
Iíve been asked many times what motivated me to start Hillrunner.com. The answer is simple. Iíve had the incredible opportunity to learn from some brilliant people. My past coaches, as well as people I have met along the way, taught me volumes about running and also encouraged me to learn even more on my own. They also encouraged me to pay it forward, to take what Iíve learned from them and from other sources and to teach someone else. As I wasnít in a position to take a coaching job, the best way to do this seemed to be to share what I could online. Given my interest in web development and the fact that you can do much more to share what youíve learned on your own site than you can on other sites, it only seems natural that I would start a site. My original intent, and still my driving motivation, was to share what Iíve learned about running, continue to learn more from others, and to share my love for the sport. A very pleasant surprise to me, actually, was how much I have learned from Hillrunner.com visitors, both on the forums and through private communications after meeting via Hillrunner.com. While I knew I would learn from others through Hillrunner.com, I had no idea how much.