The Saturday before Labor Day I met with Charleston Distance Classic race directors' Dennis Hamreck and Bill Ripley at the airport. Bill had a wheelchair waiting for me in the car, as I had broken my right tibia while running in Nantucket in late August! I was grateful. Having placed third in this race in 1974, I felt a special connection to its heritage as one of our longest running competitive long distance races. Shorter and Marty and other "big names" have won this elder statesman of West Virginia races, but at its core it has always been a friendly race, one with a focus on every racer, not just the winner or course records or prize money. Yes, a walk and 5k were introduced. That was a smart move opening up race weekend to first timers, high school runners, collegians, and even some older runners who (like myself!) were a little nervous about the very hilly first 10k of the race. Through the first and second running boom a corps of committed local runners Pat (the Timer), Danny Wells, the journalist-writer, the aforementioned Dennis Hamreck, Fred Waybright, Bill Ripley and others have kept their race not only alive, but a vibrant, integral part of the West Virginia sports scene, and a commitment to the fitness and good health of her citizens. I did a pre-race talk and signed copies of Scott Douglas' and my "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Running and Jogging", and reflected on how much I love this sport and the super people in it.
I flew to Atlanta for the The U.S. 10K Classic on Labor Day, another race I won the masters some years back. I got my chance to cheer for them and the hundreds of inline skaters and cyclist who raced nearby. This is a festival of races organized by Don Whitney 10 years ago. This is a point-to-point course that you do not run for a fast time. You run for the experience of conquering big hills and supporting efforts to create a home for orphaned children from Georgia. This has always been a race with five competitive fields and this year's race stayed true to that successful formula. Thousands of Georgians celebrated and ran on this Labor Day in the passionate but friendly spirit that our sport embodies more than any other. It does not seem many races have done what the The U.S. 10K Classic does, raising awareness and money to help kids in dire need. I will support that all the time...besides they have an outdoor expo that is great fun!
A week later my brother Charlie and friend John Ellis put on the Equity Office 4K Cross Country run on Thompson Island in Boston Harbor to benefit Boston Outward Bound area students. Five hundred runners come by ferry that evening to run, share burgers and raise $20,000 for their five programs.
I went to a small race in Cambridge, MA the next weekend. It was a five mile run in an attempt to raise awareness about child safety, via school teachers and parents. I could feel the strength of the race organizers in their hopes and wishes in their work and only wish their efforts to create programs, posters, etc. in the school's come to fruition.
Late September I gave out the awards (with Uta Pippig) to racers at the Ollie Classic 5 Mile in South Boston. We did this on Saturday at the kid's races at the Neighborhood House (kind of an after school activity and educational center) and Sunday along the Boston waterfront, an area of increasingly stunning beauty as the Big Ollie program leaves the city closer and more connected to the Atlantic Ocean. My training partner/friend took silly photos of me on the start line with my crutches, and was a true friend driving me to and from the race. Though I wish I was out their racing, I love to watch the racers too! Uta Pippig gave me nutrition advice. She told me that she also was not at her best as she was fighting mononucleosis. I think we will both come back to run. Young runners helped out with flowers and other rewards for racers. The sun was shinning, not to bad a day for this 50 plus year old Boston race!
The Midwest, more specifically, the 31 year old Peace 10K race in Youngstown, Ohio was my next race destination. Cross-Country coach and High School science teacher Ted Rupe has organized the 1500 person event for 14 years, and his band of trusted fellow Youngstown Road Runners Club members (including wife Michelle Rupe) collaborate in putting on the 2 mile first, then the 10k through a forested park at eh edge of the city. With prize money and a history of competitive excellence and a fast point-to-point course one can race well here and winning times of 29:15 and 33:34 prove that. Though I admire these adult competitors of every level of fitness, I was most struck by the scores and scores of kids running, especially the two mile. Great job Ted and Michelle and all of your club members!
See you on the roads!