Tag Archives: charity

My Ultrarunning Secret, and Other Pithy Wisdom from the VM150

I slouched in a comfy chair at this year’s Veterans Memorial 150, sipping a Coke and chatting with some Victory Gym staff. One of them heard I’d run the race last year. “150 miles,” he said. “What’s your secret?”

I thought for a moment. These were highly trained veterans who’d seen active service and more hardship than I’d ever know. And they were looking at me, wanting to know how I could run crazy long distances.

What did I tell them? Well, it’s a secret no more. Read on to find out!

This year’s VM150 was held over Memorial Day weekend as always. I have other training priorities this year, but I wanted to be involved somehow. It’s a fundraiser for Victory Gym, a nonprofit gym free for veterans and first responders, and offering support services for those dealing with PTSD. Last year the race raised over $18,000 for the gym.

I decided to run the first leg from Ludington to Scottville, help out at that aid station, and then be available as a pacer Sunday night. I would also collect the event’s waste for recycling and composting through my company, Happy Planet Running.

I showed up Saturday morning in a not-so-subtle red tech shirt, white shorts, and blue shoes. Kurt, the race director, introduced me as last year’s top male finisher, and Rebecca, the top female finisher, who was running the race again.

At the start. I’m just right of center. Rebecca is on my left (I’m looking in her direction), and to her left is Kurt, the race director.

The good news is that we had a record number of 150-mile finishes (seven) and 100-mile finishes (nine). No doubt the cool weather played a big part, with the high temps (low 80s) basically equal to the LOW temps for 2018’s race (with highs of 95+ during the days). Ah, Michigan weather!

Here are some vignettes from my time spent at the race that weekend. First, from that first leg to Scottville:

  • Chatting with Rebecca, whom I hadn’t actually met until now. Six weeks after the 2018 VM150, she’d run the Last Annual Vol State 500K, a 314-mile trek across Tennessee west to east. It took her six days. “Did you have a crew?” I asked. “Nope, I was ‘screwed’,” she said, using that race’s term for an unsupported runner. Where did she eat? Local towns. Where did she sleep? Park benches and churches. Wow. I asked her to talk me out of trying that race, but she refused.
  • Around mile seven, someone’s watch beeped. “Oh, I got all my steps in today,” he said.

At the Scottville aid station, my “helping out” turned out to be sitting around and clanging a cowbell for incoming runners. Tough job, but someone’s gotta…

  • Catching up with Ruth, who’d been unable to finish last year due to health issues. “Rebecca refused to talk me out of running Vol State,” I told her. “Oh, I’m doing Vol State this year,” she said. WTF? Yes, she’d recovered from her health issues. She planned to take the entire ten days allotted. “I figure I can do 50K per day,” she said. Eating and sleeping? See Rebecca’s plan.
  • Micheal Troutt, whom I’d met last year at Victory Gym, was there. He’s now very involved in the Warrior Ethos Foundation, a charity helping disabled veterans with things like house repairs, adjustments for wheelchair access, or finding transportation. This guy is always finding new ways to help people out. America needs a few million more like him.
  • Some Victory Gym staff members were there helping out. One of them heard I’d completed the race last year. “150 miles?” he said with some awe in his voice. “What’s your secret?” They all looked at me. What could I say? What’s a few miles in a safe environment compared with military service in a war zone? And yet ultrarunning is not exactly a typical or easy activity. Finally I had an answer. “Too stupid to quit.”

After the aid station closed, the Victory Gym president drove me back to Ludington. He told me how difficult it can be for veterans to adjust to civilian life, especially those with physical problems. The VA is short on resources, and vets in general don’t like talking about their problems. Over ten buddies of his had committed suicide. “But if they call, we can help them,” he said. “We just need to get them past that initial urge. So we do our best to let veterans know we’re here for them.”

I called Sunday afternoon about pacing, but the remaining runners were all set. So I picked up the collected aid station trash bags and drove to the finish line. I arrived just before midnight. Five solo runners and one relay team were still on the course. Gradually they trickled in, receiving our cheers and their belt buckles from Kurt.

  • Some of the race staff were napping on the picnic tables, wrapped in blankets. Ruth got up and stretched. “How can you possibly be comfortable,” I began, then cut myself off. “Oh yes, Vol State. Never mind.”
  • I chatted with a couple who were crewing. “Who’s your runner?” I asked. “Dean,” they replied. THE Dean? Who’d caught me at mile 35 last year, then gone to the ER with heatstroke? Yep, it was him – and this year he was going to finish! “He used the wet towel this time like you did,” they told me.
  • And then Dean came in! I approached, but he immediately lay down and began stretching while talking to his crew. Finally he sat up and said something about the top finisher. Kurt told him the name. “That guy’s in his fifties?” Kurt shook his head. “I’m talking about that Jackson guy,” Dean mumbled. Everyone laughed. “He’s right behind you!” someone said. He turned, and I shook his hand and congratulated him. “You were my motivation for finishing this year,” he said. Awww.

Dean, second from right, with crew and friends at the finish line.

The last runner finished at 3:30 a.m., and by 4:00 I took my trash and went home. A memorable weekend, even just helping out. Can’t wait for next year!

P.S. If you’d like to see my official sustainability report, with composting and recycling numbers, you can read it on the Happy Planet Running website here.

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Super-worthy Causes, and Super Offers For My Readers

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME – I’M FEELING GENEROUS!

One of the great things about running is its power to bring lots of people together for a good cause. Running events routinely donate at least part of their proceeds to one or more charities. Not only is money raised for people in need, the participants engage in a fun and healthy activity instead of sitting in some stuffy ballroom eating rubber chicken, or on their couches eating – well, I don’t even wanna go there.

One great cause from 2013 - the Boston Unity Run in Brighton.

One great cause from 2013 – the Boston Unity Run in Brighton. Huge turnout, lots of money raised, and tons of positive vibes.

One such event I will be part of next week is the Crim Festival of Races, where the city of Flint surrenders its downtown to thousands of runners for a day. Proceeds support the Crim Fitness Foundation, which offers programs on fitness and nutrition for kids and adults. Some of the best runners in the world come to the Crim, and the PR Fitness club fills up an entire bus and more each year.

Last year's PR Fitness team photo at the Crim.

PR Fitness at last year’s Crim.

But right now I want to do more than just tell you stuff – let’s act! I have special offers for my readers that I hope some of you will take advantage of. Without further ado, here they are.

Update: Running for Water – Rick Matz and Team World Vision

Team World Vision - 2In this guest post by fellow blogger Rick Matz, he told us of his plan to support Team World Vision by running a half marathon this fall, even though he isn’t a runner. According to the World Health Organization, over 3 million people die each year from diseases related to poor sanitation. Saving lives by providing access to clean water is what Team World Vision is all about.

Rick is trying to raise a total of $1,310 (get it?) and, frankly, he could use a boost to help him along. So here’s my offer. If any of my readers feels inspired to toss a few bucks his way, please email me after you donate (jeff@runbikethrow.net) and I will match it. Double the power! Click here for the direct link to his page.

And speaking of power…

Get Your Super On

Dress up as your favorite superhero and run!

The Super RunThe Super Run has races all over the country, and it’s coming to Ann Arbor on September 6. It’s a very reasonably priced 1K or 5K, fun for all ages. You also get a superhero cape, “I’m Super” temporary tattoo, and awareness bracelet with registration!

The Super Run supports charities like adoption and foster care, World Animal Awareness Society, and the Children’s Hospitals National Foundation. See their web page for more details.

If you’d like to be a part of this race, you can get a 2-for-1 deal! Sign up for an adult registration and email me the confirmation code, and I will send you a code for a free second registration! Supply is limited for this one, so it’s first come, first served until they’re gone.

And here is a coupon code for 20% off at www.superflykids.com where you or your kids can make your own custom superhero gear. It’s SUPERRUNFAN.

So there you go, and I hope some of you will feel inspired to support one or both of these very worthy causes. But if not, I hope you’ll keep in mind how fortunate the great majority of us in this country are, and consider supporting those who could use some help. And why not do something for yourself while you’re at it? Sign up for an event near you!  If you’re not a runner, most races offer a walking option. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel.

Next up: a recap of my three-triathlon experience this summer, and a 5K romp in a vineyard. No, not a beer mile. But we’ll see what wild and crazy stuff might happen.

Going Green?

For someone from the center of all things maize-and-blue, green was quite a part of my life yesterday.

At the starting line, sporting the latest in upscale race fashion.

At the starting line, sporting the latest in upscale race fashion.

There was the holiday red and green of the Holiday Hustle 5K in Dexter. This run holds a special place in my heart, being my first race, the first race in which I won an age group award, and the first time I broke 20:00 in a 5K. Last year I served as a volunteer, and for some reason found setting up for a winter race to be fun, so I did it again this year.

I helped put up tents, string Christmas lights in the registration area, haul water to the finish area, and set up the finish chute – in between leaning over the heater in the warming tent. With the temperature unbudging from the low 20s and a steady wind, keeping warm was a real challenge. But the cold didn’t appear to hurt the spirits of the crowd of runners (nearly 1,100 finishers) and spectators.

The Grinch is smiling? Gotta be cold out.

The Grinch is smiling? Gotta be cold out.

Then there was the environmental “green” which already has a prominent place in our house, and in Ann Arbor in general. The plastic water bottles we handed out were prominently marked, “Made from Recycled Bottles” so at least some reuse of waste is going on, and we put out recycling containers, so many bottles will avoid the landfill a second time. Then there was this sign in the Joe and Rosie coffee shop, where I had lunch and my post-race peppermint mocha.

I understand the sentiment and support it...but really, can't we find a better way to phrase it?

I understand the sentiment and support it…but really, can’t we find a better way to phrase it in the A2 area? But see below…

Enjoy it, Tori and Sis....you're not likely to see this ever again.

Enjoy it, Tori and Sis….you’re not likely to see this ever again.

And how can I overlook a certain football game last night, as the Spartans knocked off the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten title. It was bittersweet for this house full of Wolverines, but heaven for my sister and my older daughter (the green sheep in the family). Congratulations, little brother! You done good.

Hey, what about my favorite type of green?

Hey, what about my favorite type of green?
(from wikia.com)

Well, the stock markets were closed yesterday, but here is a recent article from Marketwatch (an investment website) that suggests that we use our cash this season for other purposes than giving stuff to each other. And putting his money where his pen is, the author of the MW article is giving away everything he earns this month. “Every nickel. Every dime.”

Wow. How many of us are willing to do that? Sure puts a few chilly hours helping with a race into perspective. I’m not saying I’m going to follow suit, nor would I suggest that anyone else do so. But I will consider doing something more than we’d planned for. Go green!

Not So Selfish? And a Perspective on Gratitude

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m sure all my running friends put the gear on and went out for a few miles before dinner to get in some healthy exercise and free up some calories for that second piece of pie. I was in downtown Ann Arbor Thursday morning for the Turkey Trot, joining 3,000 people in turkey costumes and ugly sweaters (there was a contest) for a fun, untimed 5K. (A good thing, given it was snowing at race time).

Turkey hunting, 2013: First you make friends, then you invite him over for dinner...

Turkey hunting, 2013: First you make friends with him, then you invite him over for dinner…

Did I mention there was an ugly sweater contest?

I sure hope she won something for that effort.

I sure hope she won something for that effort.

So in my last post, I mentioned that the “baby boom” generation can be accused, with some justification, of being overly self-centered and “wanting it all.” For this particular weekend where we focus on being grateful, here are some examples of the kind of behavior we ought to recognize more often.

 Runner’s World article – Helping Hands Under the Golden Gate Bridge

Ken Hopper, an ironworker in San Francisco, noticed some years ago that a fence at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge was a popular turnaround point for runners. So in 2000 he put up a sign with a painted pair of hands on it, to give the runners ‘something more inspiring’ to touch than a rusty fence. The sign remains there to this day, although it is replaced every few years, and touching “Hopper’s Hands” has become a tradition for area runners. (Click the link above to see photos.)

But Hopper is involved in something else more significant – he is involved in trying to prevent people from suicidal jumps off the bridge – an unfortunately popular activity – and has saved many lives by either talking them down or physically restraining them. So the painted hands have taken on an association with saving lives, as though the hands are reaching out to stop the jumpers.

Running for Charity

Today I signed up for the late December Rock the Clock 5K which supports the Gerad Meteyer Foundation, a volunteer-run charity that supports sending underprivileged diabetic children to summer camp. I didn’t sign up just for that, but it’s nice to know that at least some of my entry fee will go to making other lives better.

Most of the running events I participate in, either as a racer or pacer, support one or more charities. Many marathons provide entries to those who want to run on a charity team. To get the entry you must raise a certain amount of money for that charity. And perhaps the most well-known race in Michigan other than the Detroit Marathon, the Crim Festival of Races was created to support a fitness foundation and has been going strong since 1977.

Quality Digest article: Statistically, How Thankful Should We Be?

This one has no relation to running, but quality improvement is pretty much a part of everything I do (and is my full-time job), so I was pleasantly surprised to see some actual statistics regarding world income levels and the state of poverty. Here are a few highlights. Read the articles for details and graphs (I promise they aren’t too thick-headed.)   Links to articles:   Part 1     Part 2

– Using a “poverty metric” of $1 U.S. dollar per day income, researchers found that the world poverty rate fell by 80 percent from 1970 to 2006, and the total number of poor fell from 403 million to 152 million. Even more impressive considering the world population continues to grow.

– Income inequality is increasing in most countries, but is decreasing overall. In 1970, more people were very poor (i.e. more “equal” in income terms). With fewer people now living in poverty, income inequality has increased. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing. How about that?

– In 2000, an income of $2,138 U.S. dollars put you in the wealthiest half of the world, and $61,000 put you in the top 10 percent.

Are you feeling just a little more grateful after all this? I hope so. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!