Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Life is Motion...

Race days don't come any better then this past Saturday. What started as an idea over dinner and vino six months ago morphed into a finely tuned classic event. The women of the charitable East Oreland Neighborhood Association (EONA) had spent 6+ months organizing this local 5K, 1 mile walk and numerous children's events. The race directors instinctively knew that after a long, wet, dark winter nothing reinvigorates the soul better then being outside on a beautiful spring day. A day to shake the cobwebs out, reunite with old friends, make new ones, and run through the neighborhood. Race day had all the atmosphere of a friendly neighborhood block party.

The main event, a 5K, was a loop course through the East Oreland neighborhood. At 9:00 am sharp the runners were off bounding down through the familiar streets. Neighbors at every corner greeted the lead runners in their anaerobic haze. Mid-to-back of the packers were smart enough to hang back, breath, chat, smile and smell the flowers.

The 1 mile walk followed shortly after the end of the 5K. Jogging strollers, parents and kids of all ages participated in this multi-generational fun event. It was a rolling Baby's R Us promotion!

Finally there were the kids races. This was the 'real' main event. Well over 50 kids of all ages and sizes lined up ready to tear up the turf. Originally conceived as a non-competitive event, these kids were going for the gusto over a the distance of approximately 200 yds. Only the innocent laughs of children permeated the air as proud parents and grandparents looked on. They enjoyed the first race so much they begged for more. Round and round they went... 10+ times. Only the innocent laughs of happy children permeated the air as proud parents looked on. Their little faces flush red, legs a burning, and smiles from ear to ear they stood in line for their well earned medals.

Founded over 50 years ago, EONA represents the heart of a community. Over 200 participants, volunteers, and businesses helped raise $4,000 for the March of Dimes through the events on Saturday. This first annual, first class right of spring event can be summarized in three words... family, friends and fun. See ya next year!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bull Run Walk, Slog, Crawl... 50

‘The hills are alive with the sound of music…’

Well this will be short synopsis of this past weekend’s epic Bull Run Run 50 mile event ( Many came far and wide to participate in this annual rite of spring through the gentle hills of Virginia. Not to be disappointed, the blue bell’s were in full bloom, the grass was green, creeks were flowing and the weather near perfect.

An old friend form the south, Jill Hughes, broke out of her six year ultrarunning hiatus to join in the fun. Pre-race she was claiming she was less then ideally prepared. Fully knowing that there was a fighting spirit beneath her Southern charm I sensed sandbagging and called her bluff.

A new friend from the north, Deb Sutton, came way of Bull Run Run via Mrs. Hughes. There were pre-race rumblings of Deb’s injured leg. Hmmm. This doesn’t smell right. Although an ultra newbie, I knew she was a seasoned Ironman triathlete. I called her bluff as well.

There was no doubt in my mind that when the race began these two would be locked into a steely focus that would stop at nothing. Well on this day that adage was all so true. There were cool temps, warm temps, rain, sun, dry trail and wet trail. And one, maybe two tiny hills. From dawn to dusk these two soldiered on with family and friends cheering them on.

As the day wore on the clock kept ticking. International news correspondents were at hand to witness Jill passing through the last aid station (mile 45) with 30 minutes to spare the dreaded cut off. The clock ticked on. The cut off loomed. Tension filled the air. With less then 5 minutes to spare ESPN reported Deb sprinting into the aid station. Time is of the essence.

With the late afternoon light bouncing off the pond to the left, up and own the hills they go gutting out the last 5 miles. Across the fields, back down the creek and a nice meander through the blue bells ends the day. Then make a right, up a few steps, across a field and onto the road to glory. Jill Hughes, affirming her return to the ultra scene, finishes in 12:37. Deb Sutton, seeking challenges beyond the Ironman, finishes her first ultra in 13:17.

So how did my day go? It went great. I ran the first 20 miles then took a turn for the worse. I stumbled, fell a few times, mumbled, puked and groaned. However every time I saw Jill and Deb they were all smiles. They remained impeccable, hair in-place and ready for afternoon high tea. Inspiring. Head down, focused we all marched on. I hit the line in 8:50 a worn out, tired man. A few steps later I was under a picnic awning chatting with old friends sipping on a soda. The pure internal satisfaction of finishing another trail adventure etched a big smile on my face.

Congrats Jill and Deb. You know how to finish with style, class and poise. A gerat day in all, reconnecetd with old ultra-friends and making enw ones. See you out there again soon!