November - December 2004
November was new marathon month for me as I took part in two 1st year races. The Palm Beaches Marathon in Florida (where I ran a relay leg) on November 14th, and the Orange County (OC) Marathon in California, where I ran a half marathon.
Both races were hit by rain and the California OC Marathon was uncharacteristically cool for that area of the country which was fine until you stopped running! Palm Beaches was very windy and I wondered at the grit shown by race volunteers, runners (of whom there were many beginners), and the race director, Dave McGillivray, and his team of race organizers, DMSE. Dave is the Boston Marathon race director of many years and has probably more experience than any other race director, Therefore, these races went smoothly. At the OC Marathon another true professional was at the helm, Coach Bill Sumner. Bill has been coaching and directing x-country races for decades, and is a master at the logistics and planning requirements for big events. For example, I saw him put on a x-country event in Laguna Hills, California with numerous races all morning involving about a thousand young HS runners. The day was hot! - 90 deg. Yet the kids were running smoothly wave after wave, and as I listened to the announcer and watched these athletes go by, I saw them smile after they crossed the finish line and walked with their teammates to "cool down". I saw the same upbeat enthusiasm at the OC Marathon as 10,000 runners moved to the finish line at Newport Beach, with parents running relay legs with their kids and couples running together. My fiancée, Mary and I ran together too. We started at the back of the race with the walkers and as we moved forward I noticed so many young teenagers in white t-shirts with "Kids Run LA" on the back. I've never seen so many teenagers in a race in my 40 years of running! Coach, you did good! Those kids, and fellow runners raised $300,000 for "Kids Rock Orange County", an umbrella organization that works with local groups benefiting young people. Is this sport unbeatable or what?
On Sunday, November 21st, I ran in the Runners Classic 10k at Sea World in Orlando. Frank Shorter ran the 5k that day. We were not the big names though. The big name in particular belonged to a fellow who lost his leg in the Iraq war and had just begun competing in road races in the wheelchair race division, and representing the Achilles Track Club. I spoke with him after the race and he was smiling and pleased with his effort. I tried to imagine losing my leg and "coming back" with such courage. This person exemplifies the great attraction and power of the sport; where personal courage is shown by every person who takes part. Race organizer Lori Kopp and Dave Yudoff ensure there's an atmosphere that's appealing to every runner with kid's races, scores of prizes, and plenty of tasty food choices. Somehow they get national TV coverage with CBS each year.
For several months I'd run slower than normal and didn't mind not traveling to a race Thanksgiving Day and the following weekend. Instead I ran a trail run with friends. Sometimes its great to stay home!!
My final race of the year approached home. On December 3rd and 4th I took part in the Enmark Savannah River Bridge Run 10k in Georgia. Savannah is a gem of a town and yes, a Big River runs through it! And the Bridge? Whoa. Another gem. But quite steep, and over a mile going each way. Over 3,000 of us tackled this unique road race challenge. I ran as a team member for Enmark, though so slowly I believe I held them back! This race is going to grow for sure. There is a mixture of gentle architectural beauty and modern technological improvements to this old city and as I left I wanted to explore the city much more. One of the downsides of my "job" as "in race promotions" is I spend most of my time at expos meeting runners or at pasta dinners giving talks and missing out on the relaxing walk through a city visiting its points of interest like historical sites or art museums. Race director Robert Rodriquez, his wife Cookie, and their staff at the local Fleet Feet store, and race sponsor point man (and races) Jim Mercer have plenty to build the race each year. I believe there on to continued success!
The following weekend I flew to Dallas, TX for the 35th White Rock Marathon. Frank Shorter and I have been big supporters of this newly re-energized and growing marathon for the last 7 years. Another big supporter has been former 10,000m world record holder Arturo Barrios. Arturo and his wife Dagny a journalist who specializes in covering the sport from a woman's perspective received the Excellence Award at the pre-race dinner. Arturo spoke of his going from poverty in Mexico to his days as a student (mechanical engineering) at Texas A&M, his determined drive to win races and become the best in the world. Now Coaching for the Army Running Team in Boulder, Colorado, and a successful businessman, with Dagny and their young daughter, maybe Arturo Barrios and his wife and family are an example of the best of America.
Frank Shorter and I ran with race organizer John Baer-and 10,000 others from the new America Airline Center out to White Rock Lake and back. The runners who ran the "Rock" raised $150,000 dollars for Texas Scottish Rite Children's Hospital in Dallas. All hospitalized children (14,000 of them yearly) receive free care. Like everything else in Texas, Texans have big hearts.
See you on the roads!