As a kid, our family would often go to Hollywood Park in Inglewood California to spend the day at the horseraces. You might think this would be a pretty boring place for a kid to spend a full day but actually it was very exciting. Of course there were the horseraces themselves, lasting just minutes each, providing a rhythm to the day, but a day at the races was so much more. There was the excitement of choosing a horse you though might win. There was the fun of having family with us, tuning the event into more of a picnic than a sporting event. Lastly, there was the adventure of the place, people of all types, excitement and disappointment in the air. For a kid, a day at the races was really something to be remembered.
Today I participated in a race called the Trinity River Levee Run (http://www.runthetrinity.com) in the heart of Dallas. It too was “A Day at the Races” and much like I discovered as a kid, it was so much more than just the race itself that made it memorable. One of the things I have come to love about the sport of running are those things that surround an event such as todays race. Months of planning go into a day like today, picking out the race course, getting details worked out with the city, bringing in vendors, etc. Todays race had those things as well as many other unique aspects that could easily have gone unnoticed yet they added much to the enjoyment and memory of the event. Here are a few things I encountered today and hope you will recognize in your future running events.
- Great Music – Nothing gets people more pumped up than great music. The event organizers for the Trinity River Levee Run had music going from the moment we showed up until the time we headed home. There was an incredible singing of the National Anthem a well as a live band, which played during and after the run was over. I’m grateful the coordinators knew the power of music and its ability to add richness to a day like today.
- Crowd Participation – There’s no denying it, most “Running-Types” are a pretty outgoing bunch. Forty-Five minutes before race time they had a woman warming the group up with stretches and other activities. It was a sea of bending knees, reaching to the sky and waving arms and it was really fun. You have to love the running crowd; they could care less what someone else thinks as they bounce around to an early morning aerobic workout.
- Cheering Section – I must admit, I love an enthusiastic cheering section and the folks that came out to cheer us on at todays race did an A+ job. This had to be one of the most organized cheering groups I have encountered at any race to date. They were from all types of organization, each with color coordinated shirts and signs encouraging us along the way. You’ve got to give a big Thank You to groups like this that come out to cheer on and encourage complete strangers.
As someone new to the sport of running, I really enjoy the opportunity to encourage others. In the few years I’ve run, I’ve completed a number of 5k’s, a couple longer races and one half-marathon. It took a lot of work to get this far but it took even more encouragement from others to help me stick with it. I’m currently participating in a program sponsored by Luke’s Locker in Allen, Texas called The Beat Goes On (https://www.lukeslocker.com/BGO2014) which is helping me to become better as a runner. My coaches encourage me and provide invaluable instruction to improve my running.
As I finished my run today, hitting a new personal record for my 5k time, I got to head back to the finish line area and cheer on those also heading to the finish line. Friends from my running group gathered there as well, each just completing the race yet excited to cheer on other runners as they finished their races. For over an hour we watch as all sorts of people crest the Trinity Bridge and complet the last quarter of a mile towards the finish line. How enjoyable to cheer those folks on, some running with friends, some pushing strollers, many giving it everything they had to finish the race well. We clapped and cheered, “Great job”, “Keep it going”, “You’re doing great” as they ran by. Remembering how much it had meant to me to have that cheering section root me on, making eye contact, speaking words of encouragement to finish the race well. I loved this part of todays race, it might have been better than running itself because investing in others never returns void, it more often multiplies into something greater than we could ever anticipate.
A day at the races can be so much more than something focused entirely on us. It can be a time to be grateful for the hard work of others and an opportunity to invest in those around us.
In 2011, I watched as my wife, Cindy completed her very first 5k, sponsored by a church in the Plano, Texas area. At the time, I had added a regimented walking routine to my daily activities but running was out of the question. I thought, there is no way this guy could run for any length of time and that was just the way it was going to be. A few months later Cindy decided to sign up for her second 5k run, sponsored by Luke’s Locker in Allen, Texas called Trek or Treat. Several months before the race, she met up with a number of other runners all getting ready to prepare for this race. I decided to join her but only with the idea that I would walk while she did her running thing.
Then I met Jim, one of those guys who share a word or two with you that changes your life forever. Those words to me were “Hey, were heading down hill, you might as well run.” So I did, I ran that short downhill section and that was the beginning of an amazing transformation in my life.
As the weeks progressed I decided to run a little farther until the day came I ran an entire mile without stopping, it was a miracle, I mean amazing, how could this guy who was in his mid 40’s become a runner for the first time in his life? Week after week I continued to increase my distance, Jim and the other runners coaching and encouraging me along the way. I decided to sign up for the Trek or Treat 5k and participate with Cindy in this event. That was my very first race and a major accomplishment in my life. I was stronger and fitter than I had been in years and felt great knowing I could do something at this stage of my life that would have a positive impact for years to come.
After completing the Trek or Treat 5k I was hooked. I wanted to continue running and so I did. By nature I am a very spontaneous and adventurous person and these characteristics came into play with my running as well. I found that while I could run the same routes week after week, that this was, well…pretty boring. I wanted to get out and see some things and what better way than to put on my running shoes and head out somewhere and explore. This led me to visit many locations including the Katy Trail, White Rock Lake, Arbor Hill Nature Preserve, Chisholm Trail and many other places, each one providing its own sense of excitement and challenge. I soon came to realize that combining both running and my sense of adventure invigorated me to stick with running and enjoy this place I call home.
With a couple of years behind me and a number of exciting races now completed, I started to get a sense that I may not be the only person who enjoys a sense of adventure and who might like to blend that with their love of running. This is where the idea for Venture Runs came from, a place for other runners in the North Dallas area to learn about running events in interesting and adventurous locations. It could become a place where I would post some location I would be running at and others could come along and join in the adventure.
Let the adventure begin, I hope you choose to come along.