Saturday, September 30, 2006
Running for a cure -- and bagels
I peaked as a runner during my senior year in college, when I finished seventh out of a couple hundred in a mile race.
Since then, I’m confined to a treadmill, except for one day a year. Each September I race in the Grand Rapids version of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s 5-K Race for the Cure.
I started running in this race five years ago, when all of us in the education pod thought it might be fun. I didn’t take it too seriously, thinking I’d get a neat T-shirt and raise some money for a good cause.
Then I got to the event – it’s at one of the local malls -- and found out how much it meant to so many people.
Women who have survived this horrible disease wear pink T-shirts and are proud to make it the 3.1 miles of the route. You learn they are the lucky ones.
Most runners wear pink paper squares with the names of friends and loved ones they’ve lost, many listing more than one name. Others write names of people celebrating their recovery, or people battling the disease.
There are many groups of families and friends running as a team, often with matching T-shirts with photos of mothers, wives, sisters or daughters. Others carry signs while they run, sometimes with tears streaming down their cheeks.
I got choked up reading their messages as I ran that first year, and I’ve returned each year since without my work podmates, though the last two years I ran with my son. I think he gets it. I know he liked the piles of bagels and fruit awaiting us at the finish line and the goodies from the vendors.
Panera bread is a major sponsor, and employees greet racers with cranberry and vanilla bagels shaped like a ribbon instead of the traditional circle. The company sells them throughout October, with a portion of proceeds going to the cause. They’re awesome, at least as awesome as a Midwestern bagel can be.
This is the first year I had reason to wear one of the pink squares.
I was a little more aggressive in my fund-raising. People in the newsroom love my kick-butt chocolate chip cookies, and for the past two weeks anybody taking a cookie had to make a donation. We raised $40, which is probably a tear in the ocean of what is needed, but it’s something.
The weather was lousy this morning, a steady rain falling throughout the race. It didn’t stop the families and the survivors. Some who didn’t run lined the course with umbrellas, holding signs and shouting encouragement.
There’s a Costco along the route, and employees hand out free bottles of water to runners. Costco rocks.
There are some serious runners, but not many. Most are glad to make it to the end. I don’t think many of these folks are worried about their times. That’s not why they’re here. This time I forgot to look at the clock.
After doing this for five years, I’ve come up with some observations and tips to share.
1) If you have one of those cars with the electric locks opened with the buttons on the key ring. Don’t just take a key on your lanyard. It won’t open the door without the electronic thing. Then you have to find a payphone, figure out how to make a collect call and then beg your wife to come down to the mall and open the car doors for you. If this happens, you can pretty much expect a trip to J.Jill as compensation. Trust me.
2) If you get a little winded on a route with some hills, it’s OK to slow the pace a little, even all the way down to walking fast instead of jogging. But I explained to my son that you need to get back up to speed in time to pass the clusters of sorority girls handing out cups of water.
3) When taking the aforementioned cup of water, be careful not to drink it quickly while running. I did this once, the water went down the wrong pipe and I ended up kneeling at the side of the road coughing up furballs. Nobody is impressed by that scene.
4) If you’ve been walking for trotting for the last part of the race, sprint it out when the finish line comes into view so the gathered crowd will think you’ve been chugging away the entire way. OK, no one will really believe you’ve been chugging away. If that were the case, you would have finished sooner. But you can pretend that they will.