02 September 2008

Run Good, Do Good

There’s nothing like a close-knit club when it comes to pulling off a great fun event on the cheap. This morning my local club, the Highland City Striders, put on its annual Laborious Labor Day Ten Miler here in hometown Marlborough. (I’ve always insisted the course is short, but the Laborious Labor Day Nine Point Eight Five Miler just doesn’t have the same ring to it, and besides, the hills make up for any lack of distance.) A great time was had by all, and we did some good in the process.

This is a zero budget event. No revenue to the club, no costs to the club. No awards. Refreshments are donated by club members (really, how much are a couple cases of water at the Price Chopper? Just buy it!) Very low tech – just check out our sophisticated scoring system! No frills. The Official Race Photographer was none other than my wife. And she was only official because I just decreed that, just now. But there’s one really great thing. There is an entry fee. It’s food. A bag of food, ten items suggested, which we then haul over to the local food pantry.

It so happens that the food pantry, technically Marlborough Community Services, which supplies local families with food and much more, is a favorite charity for my family. We walk in regularly with food and items to donate. Their clients are real people – and lots of them – who we see around town. We know they need help, and we know they’re getting it based on person-to-person assessment of need and ability to help. This isn’t Big Charity Incorporated. So the fact that my local running club was already doing this before I arrived was a sweet coincidence. Way to go, Striders!

The Laborious Labor Day Ten Miler is not a big event – about 40 runners this year – but that’s about 300-400 items of food (it's hard to see, but that's a group of Striders and a carload of food you're looking at!). And we do it again at Thanksgiving, usually for a somewhat larger field. Run good, do good.

As for the race, it’s called Laborious because it’s a shade on the hilly side. Not legendary by any means, but the big one comes at 8 miles in when you wish it wouldn’t. I’ve got a bit of a home field advantage for this one since I live two-thirds of the way up that big one, just off to the right, and as a result run it several times a week. Know your enemy! Know your course! Also on the home-field advantage side, having my club-mates out there as course marshals was a nice bonus boost.

The field went out quick, and a half mile in a pair of youngsters (22 and 28, youngsters to me), separated themselves from the rest of us about the time that I was separating myself from the rest of the rest of them. I didn’t know what their pace was (I’m not one of those GPS types, at least not yet), but it seemed reasonably high on the insanity scale. At the mile split, I found myself somewhat elevated on that scale as well, but decided to go with it. What’s the risk? It’s a local club race. You die a horrible death out there, so what? No risk, no return.

To my surprise, my reasonably insane pace held up pretty well, though the famed Hosmer climb certainly hurt. I refused to look back, since I knew my ultra-fast training buddy John would probably be on my tail, and I just didn’t want to know. As it was, he did indeed follow me in, though with a few minute gap. Hey, he just ran the Reykjavik Marathon a few days ago, successfully dodging the lava bombs to be the first American finisher! I ended up with a race & course personal best by several minutes and dropping my best 10-miler pace considerably, but best of all, for once I didn’t look quite as bad as usual in the photo my Official Race Photographer wife shot as I neared the finish.

Big races are cool, big races are exciting, big races bring on big competition, but nothing beats a local small scale romp in the park with your best running buds for some casual fun, and it’s even better if you can run good and do good as well.

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