Tag Archives: volunteer

Putting the Fun in February

All right, this isn’t going to be easy. February is like November, only bleaker, colder, and without Thanksgiving. And it’s peak training month for those with spring marathons, which includes yours truly. And yet, it’s been a pretty good month so far. Bear with me.

For the first time in a month, I didn’t have a race this weekend. So I could just do my long run this morning and then rest up until Monday. Of course that meant I had an 18-mile run this morning with temps near zero and no excuses to skip it. Thank goodness for hand warmers.

Antarctica. Or North Campus this morning.

Antarctica. Or North Campus this morning.

Last week’s event was the Super (Bowl) 5K in Novi. The idea is to burn a couple hundred calories in the morning so you can consume a few thousand calories during the game that evening. Which is sort of what happened, except that I was playing Dungeons & Dragons instead. Yes, believe it or not, five men (and one token woman) were slaying ogres rather than watching the Super Bowl. Don’t tell the Men’s Union.

Making the world safe from monsters!

Keeping the world safe from monsters!

I’d planned to run the Super 5K, which I’ve done for the past six years. But about a week out I decided I felt like volunteering instead, and signed up to be a Race Ambassador. I didn’t know that was, exactly, but it sounded cool.

Turned out I was to be a roving course marshall. Instead of standing in one spot on the course sending people the wrong way, I was covering the entire course on my bike, assisting the stationary marshalls and helping mess up everybody.

Does it look like I know what I'm doing? Zat was your last mistake, Monsieur!

Does it look like I know what I’m doing? Zat was your last mistake, Monsieur!

“Your job,” the head marshall told us ambassadors, “is to represent us (the events company) out there.” This meant talking with drivers we had to hold back while 1,800 runners passed by, then escorting them to an exit or to their houses once the runners had thinned out.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. The drivers I spoke with were understanding, once I explained what was going on. And in one instance, I helped a guy trying to get his son to baseball practice on time by giving him an escort out of the course. The best part was that by keeping in motion, I stayed warm. “I wish I had your job,” one of the other marshalls told me.

Also this week, I made progress on some very exciting (to me) initiatives regarding waste reduction at our local running events this year. Nothing finalized yet, but we’re off to a good start. You can bet I will be sharing details later. Watch this space!

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How Runners Have Fun

WARNING: This post contains material of an “adult” nature. If it offends your sensibilities in any way, then I’ve done my job. And thanks for reading.

YOU NON-RUNNERS OUT THERE may wonder what runners do for fun. Well, the first answer of any runner would be, “running, of course.”  But contrary to what you may believe, we do know how to throw a party.

Me Playing Disc GolfHow good a party? Let me ask you this: at what kind of party can one have the opportunity to taste wine, drink a shot, sit in a Corvette, swim fully clothed, play disc golf, eat ice cream, and (gasp!) bare it all – while running? The answer is the Running Fit Events Dash and Burn Soiree, which took place Thursday night at a secret location near Northville.

The D&B is the annual “thank you” party for event volunteers, so only volunteers get invited. (See the end of this post for how to get involved.)  It’s low-key but a lot of fun. And this year the Events staff spiced up the pre-party run by adding a scavenger hunt. The mission was to locate area landmarks and/or perform certain activities, and Instagram photos back to the staff. As I (very happily) don’t own a smartphone, I brought along my daughter Rachel, who lent her social media expertise to the effort.

We teamed up with two nice ladies (Jen and Kelly), and were handed a hand drawn map of the Northville area and a checklist of things to find or do (including, yes, a “run naked” item). At 6:00 we were sent off. We had until 7:15 to return and hand in our checklist, along with the photos of items completed.

I believe this "half price for men" is grounds for gender discrimination.

I believe this “half price for men” is grounds for gender discrimination.

Some items were easy, such as climbing a tree or doing sit-ups. Others required exploring the Northville area – on foot, of course. Unfortunately, Kelly was injured and had to drop out, so our team of three hotfootted into town. Jen’s knowledge of the area proved incredibly valuable as we went through the list. Here’s a sampling of the things we were able to accomplish in 75 minutes.

Rachel scores big for our team!

Rachel scores big for our team!

Runners are very sophisticated drinkers.

Runners are very sophisticated drinkers.

The church people hoped we'd win. I didn't tell them what I thought we needed to do to win.

The church people hoped we’d win. (I didn’t tell them what I thought we needed to do to win.)

Lucky break: finding a real horse in the Northville Downs parking lot.

Lucky break: finding a real horse (big bonus) in the Northville Downs parking lot.

One downer in an otherwise great hunt: the Corvette owner rudely denied our request to sit in his car. And he worked in a sewing shop! Well, we know where we’re never going to buy embroidery supplies.

So – if you’ve gotten this far, I bet it’s because you want to know if people really ran naked. (That’s okay – I’d do the same). So here you go.

The “run naked” item was 250 points, and I felt that just might win it for us. So with Rachel out of earshot, I told Jen I would “take one for the team” when we got back to the party site. She was surprised but didn’t object, so I sprinted to the finish table and asked if there was time. But the clock was just past 7:15. Darn!

During dinner I moped a bit because of the missed chance. And the scuttlebutt (so to speak) was that at least one other team had done it. So I wasn’t expecting much when Randy stepped to the mike to announce the results.

“Wow,” he said. “This team really did all that stuff? The winning team, with 2,275 points. Jeff, Jen, and Rachel, come on up here!” We’d won it after all, and I hadn’t had to strip off. Just as well – I’m sure it saved at least one camera from exploding, not to mention my daughter’s head.

Jen on my left, Rachel on my right.

Me with race bag, Jen with camp chair and Rachel with her well-earned blanket.

Our prize was first crack at the swag table, piled high with shirts, mugs, and other race prize paraphernalia. I spied a Dances with Dirt gym bag – perfect as a drop bag for trail ultras. Mine!

And I got one more unexpected shout-out for my “Most Valuable Runner” performance in 2014, when I ran all 24 Running Fit races. Good grief. What am I going to do for an encore?

Actually, I got a possible answer to that the next day, when a friend of mine who lives in Portland helpfully told me about this:

World Naked Bike Ride website

It’s too late for this year, but in 2016? Do I dare? If I do, my devoted readers will be the first to know. Can’t promise any photos, though.

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Want to join the party next year? Volunteer for a Running Fit event – which you can do at an event’s website. (Click here for the 2015 race calendar.) In addition to a $30 credit for a race entry, you get on the “A list” for the D&B. Such a deal! And you don’t have to be a runner to volunteer, although it would help to study the language. (For example, “fartlek” is not an obscenity.)

‘Tis Better to Do than to Receive

At the start of my Monday evening yoga class, we lie flat on our mats, lights dimmed, and our instructor tells us to “go to a favorite place.” This is necessary preparation; we must relax and think happy thoughts while attempting to turn ourselves into pretzels.

I take myself to hanging out at our campground up north, or running the Vasa Trail, or most often, on my bike on a beautiful summer day, riding from small town to small town just to see what comes next. Like coming across this doughnut shop in Durand, or the Civil War camp in Jonesville, or the synchronicity of riding straight to a bike shop in Ionia I didn’t know about just in time to avoid a catastrophic mechanical breakdown.

All right, my Dances with Dirt medals ARE pretty cool.

Okay, my Dances with Dirt medals ARE pretty cool.

These experiences, and the memories from them, mean far more to me than medals, or race swag, or most any “stuff” I get, whether from events or presents or whatever.

Which those dearest to me find very frustrating this particular month.

Not because of anything I’ve done, but by what I don’t. My birthday and Christmas are just a couple weeks apart, and when I’m asked, “what do you want for your birthday / Xmas” I don’t give them a lot to work with. Online wish lists have been some help, when I remember to actually put items in them.

Recently I got a desperate text from DD #1 – “WHY IS YOUR WISH LIST EMPTY?” and DD #2 texted, “Your wish list has one item! And I can’t get it til the 26th…” Even my DW pitched in, using the word “plea” in a phone call to me. I went there and added a few more things, but frankly, my heart wasn’t really in it. I was doing it more for them than for me.

I do NOT understand Christmas. The humans put up all these great toys, then tell me I can't play with them!

I do NOT understand Christmas. The humans put up all these great toys, then tell me I can’t play with them!

I came across an article online that pretty much summed up my attitude toward all this. A study found that while pleasure from getting a new “thing” fades after a few months, people place more value on their memorable experiences. That is, what they did is more important than what they have. For most of my life, other than my mandatory greedy kid phase, I’ve found it more fun to give stuff, or do stuff, rather than get stuff.

Only 500 PB&J sandwiches to go!

Only 500 PB&J sandwiches to go!

2014 was the most memorable running year I’ve ever had. And not because I filled a drawer with shirts, or a box with age group awards, or got a camp chair and cool jacket at the volunteer party. It’s the memories of the events themselves that give me the warm fuzzies, and allow me to survive yoga classes. It’s the sense of accomplishment from finishing the events, from talking to people I met on the trails, and working with the terrific events staff at setup and registration. And from many “living the moment” experiences and the feelings of gratitude from being healthy and fit enough to run, and run well.

Go and do!

Woodstock Saturday Finish (JW) - 2018

(Disclaimer: if anyone feels like sending me a gift card to my favorite running store, you won’t hear me complaining. You might even get featured on someone’s blog – which, by the way, just made the “Best of Ann Arbor Area Blogs” list for the second time.)

Seriously (for once) – I hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday, in whatever form it takes. God bless us, every one!

Dashing and Burning, But Not Jumping

HERE’S A RIDDLE FOR YOU. As I arrived at the Running Fit Dash & Burn Soiree last night, a sticker with a mystery name was slapped on my back, and I had to guess who I was using “20 questions”. Hokey, but it got people talking quickly and easily with other folks they didn’t know – which I figure was the idea. So who was I? Here’s what I found out before I guessed (answer at the end of this post).

I am a very famous man, fictional, who could be alive in today’s world or earlier. I am not in entertainment, science fiction, a detective, or romance novel character. I am not a vampire.

Other notables spotted at the party included GWB, Pocahontas, Huckleberry Finn, Captain Kirk, Katy Perry, and the Terminator (green Woodstock shirt) who, fortunately, never figured out who he was.

Other notables spotted at the party included GWB, Pocahontas, Huckleberry Finn, Captain Kirk, Katy Perry, and the Terminator (green Woodstock shirt) who, fortunately, never figured out who he was. Not sure if he’ll be back.

The Dash & Burn is the annual party for the lovely and talented volunteers who help out at Running Fit events, doing stuff like unwrapping medals, putting up tents, directing traffic (cars and people), registration, handing out water along the race course, and cleaning up afterwards. “All for a T-shirt,” as Running Fit owner Randy Step puts it. As a multiple-event volunteer, I can tell you that’s not true. You get pizza, too.

Trail run to the Dash and BurnThe D&BS takes place at a secret location in the deep, dark woods. It’s so secret that you need to achieve the 33rd level of the Sacred Order of the Goat (*) and run four miles blindfolded to get there. Or just volunteer for any Running Fit event. And you can walk a shorter path. And the blindfold is optional.

It was also the perfect time to try out my new Saucony Peregrine trail shoes. I want to use them for Devil’s Lake, and a 50K on a rocky, treacherous trail is not the occasion for breaking in new shoes. Breaking an ankle, perhaps, but not shoes.

Okay, here’s a final “who am I” hint: I am an imaginary person – and to everyone, not just the figment of one man’s twisted imagination.

See, it's more than just T-shirts.

See, it’s more than just T-shirts.

There was also a raffle of sorts for a pile of leftover race swag. You wrote a fun fact about yourself on a slip of paper. Then Randy read the slips out loud, and when you heard yours, you went to the swag table and picked something out. Many of the “fun facts” were ordinary, but there were a few good ones. Here was mine:

Fun Fact

No one said the “fact” had to be true. (It’s actually 48 years.) “How high can you jump?” Randy asked me, and I managed a six-inch vertical. Hey, I’ll embarrass myself in public for a free camp chair.

It was this couple's 20th wedding anniversary. Naturally, they celebrated at a mosquito-filled campground with lasagna and beer.

This couple’s fun facts: it was their 20th wedding anniversary. Naturally, they celebrated at a mosquito-filled campground with lasagna and beer.

Her fun fact was, “I got hit by a semi.” Seriously. Below is Amy Gluck, who was hit by a gravel truck two years ago on her bike while training for the Kona Ironman. She endured a medically induced coma and multiple surgeries. I wrote about the Ride for Amy fundraiser back in 2012, but hadn’t met her until now. Rock on, Amy!

Amy Gluck - 2

And I keep running into the amazing lady below. Actually, we carpooled to the party.

WMiA with "Mg Girl". I'll let you figure out what Mg stands for. Hint: it relates to the subject she's working toward an advanced degree in.

WMiA with “Mg Girl”. I’ll let you figure out what Mg stands for. Hint: it relates to the subject she’s working toward an advanced degree in.

All in all, a fun evening despite the mosquitoes who laughed at my bug spray. Guess I’ll keep on volunteering!

Okay, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer, assuming you had any to start with. (One can hope.) Here was my mystery identity:

My first guess was "God" but this is probably the next best thing.

Ho ho ho! Sigh – none of the cute chicks volunteered to sit in my lap.

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(*) – It’s a Running Fit inside joke.