Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The people of Ted's Run for Literacy; Meet Michael Bennett

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh. 

TRL asked board member and fellow, friendly rival Tim MacKay to write a few words about TRL’s fearless leader:

"Race Director and one of the founding board members of TRL, Michael Bennett remains a driving force behind the run. As a career educator with a commitment to inclusion and social justice, he brings passion and dedication to his role on the TRL board. His never-ending enthusiasm and gentle spirit are infectious among all who get involved. Also known for being tenacious, Michael has been rumoured to have worked on recruiting committee volunteers during the entire course of a half-marathon. Michael is a committed runner with serious accomplishments, and he continues to pursue race goals both near and far. He’s a “never sit still” sort of guy, writing the See Mike Run blog, giving his time to a number of organizations, and supporting runners and races whenever he can. A true friend to all who know him, Michael’s humour, energy, and commitment are the glue of the TRL crew!"

Hopefully we tell you enough Mike just what you mean to us at TRL. You’re right; “It’s a good day to be alive!”

Ted’s Run for Literacy - How long have you been running and why/how did you start?
Mike Bennett - I started running competitively while attending middle school. I remember bombing badly at a divisional meet; my running spirit dying on the track in a puddle of tears and dry heaves. I discovered recreational running in university. I ran in the Gritty Grotto in cold weather and laps around the Legislative Building in the warmer months. I stopped running when I graduated from university and immersed myself in work, devoting every moment of the day and evening to teaching. I loved my job but it seriously lacked balance.

I was 45 when I realized I was 20 pounds over weight and in the habit of a scotch or two in the evening. I didn’t like the visual so I joined the Y and ran some laps for a couple of years. In doing so I dropped 20 pounds and ditched the scotch. It’s such a cliché, but I set a goal of running a marathon during my 50th year. I became a runner somewhere on a trail along the Assiniboine River on my 50th birthday and haven’t looked back. I can’t say running saved my life, but I shudder to think where I would be had I not taken that first terrifying step.

TRL - You always sign off with "It's a good day to be alive" - tell us about that quote (where it came from, why it sticks with you, etc...).
MB - I was a course marshal for a race about 10 years ago. I yelled “It’s a good day for a run” to a couple of elderly runners. One replied “Yes, and it’s a good day to be alive” and kept running. His buddy stopped and told me his friend had recently had heart surgery and he now considers every day a gift. The phrase “It’s a good day to be alive” resonated and has stuck. It has become my signature line on See Mike Run because I know many people run through depression and anxiety. I repeat it at every opportunity for them, hoping that if they hear it and say it often enough it becomes truth. So yes, friends, it is a good day to be alive even when all about walls are tumbling down.

Young Noah and Jack are bang on; running fast is fun and running is good for your muscles.
Fun + Muscles = A Good Day to be Alive.

TRL - We're not just about running at Ted's Run; the other half is reading. If you were to write a memoir what would the title be?
MB - See Mike Beat Tim MacKay in a Road Race has a nice ring to it, but it would have to be a fictional piece because that guy is seriously fast. He plays a mean banjo too!

People like Glen Shultz, Melissa Budd, Bob Nicol, and David Ranta inspire me. They work harder than anyone I know to earn the privilege of the start line. Their resilience and their strength in overcoming incredible obstacles to achieve their goals is breathtaking. They are passionate about life and live their dreams through the act of running. I suppose if I were to write a memoir it would be entitled The Inspiration Behind See Mike Run, and devote a chapter to each of those that inspire and bring me joy.

TRL - Has there been a moment during your time with Ted's Run that has really stuck out for you? What is that moment and why?
MB - In my professional life I sit on many committees and boards. We accomplish good things and we enjoy our company, but rarely do we have laughter. Ted’s Run For Literacy meeting are also serious business, but we have serious fun. The laughter and the gentle teasing is life affirming and just plain fun. We’re a diverse group but we are all devoted to making TRL the finest race possible. Sometime ago we coined the phrase Ted’s Run for Literacy, the little race that could. We are a small race existing in the shadows of some large corporate events so we have our challenges, but we are proud of our steadfastness.

Always, the moment that stands out for me is watching the young runners cross the finish line with big toothy smiles that light the chute. It’s kinda makes me tear up, just saying.

TRL - What does Ted's Run mean to you?
MB - Sylvia Rugger speaks of the ‘audacity of hope’ and encourages us to be bold and courageous in our hopes and dreams. We run marathons because they are hard and audacious, and just plain wacky. If it were easy everyone would do it, right? TRL Board members believe in the audacity of hope. We believe that we can eradicate childhood poverty through literacy programming in neighbourhoods in transition. It’s not easy and we may never get there, but that’s not important. Like running, the destination is secondary to the journey. It’s about perpetual forward motion, never giving up, dreaming audaciously, and it’s about building community. To quote Sylvia once again…we are strong, we are champions, we are never-giver-uppers.

That’s what Ted’s Run for Literacy means to me.

It’s a good day to be alive.