Over the past 20 years, I have run about 15 races of various lengths from 5k’s to Olympic triathlons. I’d call myself an endurance athlete, but I think I’m really just a Race Nerd. I love races – running them, the crowds, the music, and the overall energy that surrounds a race. It doesn’t have to be my own either. I get just as excited hearing someone else talk about their last 5k!
One time, we were on vacation and we passed by what was going to be the finish line of a local triathlon. The race hadn’t even started yet, but I just stood there looking at the signs and how everything was set up. I used to identify this weird affinity with the same love I had for running. But recently, I had the opportunity to help plan a local 5k and it hit me. While I love endurance sports, the real reason I love the thrill of the race is because it’s about community.
I am part of a local running club and we wanted to help our local Relay for Life Teams raise funds for the American Cancer Society. A few people had experience planning 5k’s and we all have run them before, so we decided to organize a neighborhood 5k. Due to various scheduling restrictions, the date we settled on was March 23rd. We were given the actual go ahead in January which meant we had just 3 months to plan for this race.
I have always respected the organizers and volunteers, but being on the other side of it all gave me a new appreciation for them and the planning that goes on before I step up to the starting line. I was blown away by my fellow running club members and their ability to pull this event together.
We had to get approval for the use of the roads, someone to map out the 5k course and 1 Mile Kids Run, support from the local police department for crossing guidance, volunteer EMT’s, water stations and people to man them. That was just for the course. There were material needs – a clock, a starting/finish line banner, shirts, chip timers, bib numbers, awards, and runner goody bags. The race couldn’t be complete without DJ entertainment, post-race food, and vendors. This race was a fundraiser, so we had to get as much donated as possible and the support we received from the community was amazing.
Some local sporting goods stores and other businesses helped us with the shirts, timing chips, and awards (top finishers got new running shoes!). Due to the help of a local kid’s gym, each child received 2 hours of open gym time as well as a medal. Our local grocery store supplied the post-race food. Dozens of neighbors volunteered their weekend time: local personal trainers lead people in a warm up, Girl Scouts manned water stations and running club members acted as pacers. All this came together because of the dynamic group of women in my running club who made it happen in such a short amount of time.
Me? I was the Active.com/social media monkey – which was just one piece of the marketing that had to be done. We were hoping for 200 runners and ended up with over 300. We were hoping to raise $2,000 but because of the large number of participants and businesses that help offset the cost, at the end of it all we raised over $3,600. I was floored by the generosity of our community.
What I absolutely loved about this particular race is that it was in MY neighborhood. I knew the faces crossing the finish line and I cheered on every single one of them. Many people ran their fastest 5k that day and to see them smile at the finish line was awesome!
The 1 Mile Kids Fun Run was also special because I knew many of the kids and I even got to run alongside my son for the first time. It was his very first race and we had only practiced running a mile one time before. It took us over 17 minutes because he stopped a lot. But on race day, we were joined by one of his old preschool friends and we all ran together for the whole mile. He finished in 9:30 and I nearly cried at the finish line. Some of my friends shared that joy with me as they ran across the finish line with their little ones as well.
On my own blog, I usually talk about the training that goes into the race, the anticipation at the starting line or the sense of achievement when I cross the finish line. I rave about how runners come together in all kinds of weather, at all kinds of paces, just for the love of the sport. But this race was different.
I stayed on the sidelines and got to see things I normally miss while prepping for “my” race. I saw all the teamwork that goes into planning. It was the first time I had my own child with me at a race and I got to see how special it can be from a child’s eyes. To him, he won the race, and that’s how we should all feel about ourselves – just proud that we finished. I saw it from a family point of view as I watched friends pushing their kids in the jogging stroller or holding hands with their children as they crossed the finish line. I saw parents teaching their children how coming together for a good cause is important, rewarding, and fun.
Most of all, I saw the real reason I love racing. Whether you are a runner, planner, sponsor, volunteer or spectator, you are part of a special community for a day. Races are ultimately about teamwork and the unity of people for a cause. Of course I love them, who wouldn’t?
Have you ever volunteered or planned a race? Have you ever run a race with your child?
Until next time,