Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ted's Run for Literacy 2016, Race Director's Report

Ted's Run for Literacy supports children living in poverty. Our vision is to  "...break the cycle of childhood poverty by supporting environments in which children flourish socially, mentally and physically." We believe children cannot learn or socialize unless:

  1. their basic needs are met (i.e. food, water, shelter) 
  2. they feel safe and secure (i.e. a home free of violence and unpredictability), 
  3. they feel they belong and are valued for who they are (i.e. they are loved)
We believe in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory which says children (and adults) will not reach their potential unless needs (represented in the graphic below) are sequentially met.  If you're reading this, chances are good your physiological needs, safety needs, and belonging needs were met in early childhood development.  Congratulations, you can read, you are successful, you have a loving, secure family. You do not live in poverty.

Please understand, many do not.

In our six years Ted's Run for Literacy has raised between $35,000 and $40,00 to support children living in poverty, and we are gratified, and we are humbled. It is an audacious dream, an impossible dream to eliminate the cycle of childhood poverty, yet our board believes in the impossible. We invite you to join our dream, to support us, to run with us, to laugh with us, to believe it is a good day to be alive, and to share this dream with your children.  We are the little race that could and with your continued support we will become the little race that eliminated the cycle of childhood poverty.

Jo at TRL circa 2013. me clapping way in the background. 
I believe Jo watched over us on Sunday. Her physical presence was absent and yet her spirit smiled warmly upon all.  I still can't believe she's gone, but I'm stuck in denial like many of you. Our committee debated how best to acknowledge Jo. Someone suggested a 'moment of silence'. We paused and then laughed because all that know Jo understand 'silence' was not Jo's strong point.

Running with Jo was like running with the best 'talk radio' you can imagine. Gossip, opinions, last night's party, food, boyfriends, dreams, fears, laughs.. all delivered in staccato rapid fire.  Jo was like that... fun, irreverent, honest, and loyal.

Instead of silence we had a 'moment of noise' and it was spectacularly powerful. We yelled loudly. We screamed and we jumped. We laughed and we shouted and it went on and on and on. We honoured Jo with noise and movement and I believe she laughed heartily... and we cried.

While hanging banners at 6AM  I banged my head on an (expletive) overhang and it hurt like (expletive). I was alone and it was dark so I continued working thinking 'suck it up buttercup'. I had no idea of the blood pooling on my XXL forehead. A friend arrived and asked what happened to my head. Not fully realizing the wound, I removed my hat, breaking the congealed scab and the blood gushed.

I realized later I was saved from a much more serious wound by the Jo button.  Jo took the brunt of the force and left me with just enough to remind me that I'm alive. She saved me and reminds me of my mortality.  We exist moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day. Jo's death sucks yup, and yet she laughs at us, and clucks her tongue in defiance of death. Yeah, Jo's like that, crazy and noisy and gorgeous, and brilliant, and sweet, and irreverent, and she tells a good story.

Had it not been for the Jo Button I would have visited emergency for 4 or 6 stitches. She said... "careful Bennett, you could be next" and laughed.

So my friends, our little TRL 10 km (5km and 2 km) event is not the biggest event in town,  but we are without a doubt, the event with the most heart.  We believe in audacity. We believe in a world without childhood poverty.

Join us.

It is a good day to be alive, right Jo?


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Winnipeg 10 & 10: A Volunteer's Perspective

Ted's Run for Literacy Water Station
We all need to pause this afternoon and raise a pint to race director Chris Walton and his happy crew. This year's Winnipeg 10 & 10 was an outstanding event made all the better by the extraordinarily positive army of volunteers. The coordination along the 30 km course is extremely challenging and not for the faint of heart.  The communication between the Race Director and the City, 600+ runners, hundreds of volunteers, medics, police, and aid stations is simply staggering. Well done Chris Walton. Well done Winnipeg.

As Race Director of a much smaller event, but equal in heart, Ted's Run for Literacy, I understand what happens behind the scenes.  The weeks and days leading up to the event snowball. Issues become increasingly urgent as race day approaches. Volunteers become stretched and your phone never stops buzzing and beeping. Glitches are solved as fast as they are created. Race Day is run on fraught nerves and caffeine.  The RD needs to be cool headed, calm, and in charge.  RDs never let them see the sweat.  A successful event is one that seemingly unfolds organically and simply, as though anyone could do it. .  The 10 & 10 is one such event.

At the very last minute parking at Great West Life was cancelled causing a mad scramble just before gun time.  My inside source says Great West Life gave their approval in the days leading up to the event and then revoked it last minute.  I'm sure there is a good reason for the about face, I just can't imagine what it could be?

See Mike Run has written dozens of race reports from the runner's perspective.  This is the first from a volunteer's perspective.  Ted's Run for Literacy was given the privilege to host a water station at the 5 km turnaround point.  This particular water station is busier than most as we serve all runners from the 5 km to 30 km. Literally, all 600+ runners streamed twice past our station.  In practical terms, we served 1200 runners.  

Yes there were glitches.  We ran out of cups and about a dozen runners went thirsty for which we feel terrible. This glitch was fixed very quickly. About eight runners asked for Gatorade and were disappointed when they were told "Sorry, no Gatorade".  This glitch too will be resolved  next year as it has been communicated to race officials and they seemed earnestly concerned and expressed an interest to improve.  

Our water station was the best... sorry all you other wanna-bee water stations.  Our water was the freshest, coldest, and many said their IQ bumped up a minimum of 10 points after one sip!  All runners who drank from the cup of Literacy had an urge to break out a book and read.  Our crew was the funniest, the prettiest, the most active, and definitely the smartest! Now I recognize these are fightin' words and good ole fashion trash talk, but bring it on.  TRL water station won first place. We were a WATER station, the others were water-ish places where there might be someone awake to serve you a glass of luke warm cloudy water-like liquid.

If Ted's Run for Literacy wasn't volunteering at the 10&10 they were running the 10&10. Our Carly ran the 30 km and at 2 km from the finish she looked fresh as a daisy.  Our Darcie crushed the 10 miler and then returned to help out at the TRL water station.   Sadly, our Tim is injured and had to sit this one out.  Pop-up maestro Aldo was a team captain for the back 40 part of the course and, as usual, accomplished the impossible.

If you are a runner, please consider giving back and volunteering at an event.  The view from the other side is as satisfying as the runner's perspective.  If you're a runner with a complaint, don't take it out on a volunteer, they are there to help make you successful.   

Two final truths:
  1. I will hoist a pint to Chris Walton this afternoon.
  2. Ted's Run for Literacy water station was absolutely brilliant and blew the other teams out of the .... umm, water!
Until next time, it's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Lean Horse Ultra 2016, Race Report

and your beautiful thing
will be
a beautiful thing
to me
a beautiful thing
your beautiful thing

a beautiful thing, Tragically Hip
Lean Hose Ultra ... for Jo... a beautiful thing, continuing...always

Notes from the Race Director's meeting the night before Lean Horse...
  • Don't worry too much about mountain lions. They usually stay higher up in the mountains.
  • It's been cool lately so rattlers shouldn't be a problem.
  • If you come across a bear, hold your ground, make a lot of noise, and make yourself big (thought bubbles..."Big" I think "how big can a 5'4" guy get?! I can stretch it to 5'6"... hmmm, how tall is a bear anyway?")
I know my friend David Fielder will ask "What did I learn" so I'll address this first. I learned without goals we tend to drift from one dream to another never accomplishing anything of substance. I learned through pain and struggle we experience truth and wisdom.  I learned the only way to move forward is one step at a time and sometimes we stumble. I learned our time here is limited so live every moment as though it were your last. I learned that passion is difficult to explain.

I ran a 50 km ultramarathon, a baby ultra compared to the 50 and 100 miler ultra runners, but still an ultra.  My time was a little under 6 hours which isn't too bad considering I was hoping for a sub 7 hour. I've crossed many finish lines and they are all sweet and unique in their own right, but this, The Lean Horse Ultra, is etched in my mind. I ran it with heart and soul.  I ran it with my friend Jo in mind.  I ran it with strength and determination.

I have no story to tell. It's a passion that you get or you don't get.  Those that share this passion understand and they fill in the spaces with their own experiences, their own tears, success, and failures. The happiness I felt is simply beyond explanation. The afterglow of this event is lifelong. The pride and confidence gained is immeasurable. 

I know it's madness, but I was touched by Jo on the most difficult segment; a climb... ten miles up, endlessly up to Crazy Horse.  She did not talk to me, but I felt her presence and the warmth of her beautiful smile.  It helped me climb, tapping the button three times. I know she'd be mad with me for being sappy, but really, she was there, and it meant so much. Her presence spoke "you got this Mike, it's a good day to be alive, now do it". 

My proudest moment happened a week after the event over beers and barbeque when my son Max wrote on social media..

Super proud of my dad for getting first place in the Lean Horse 50 km race in the 50-59 age category. For those not in the know, a full marathon is a mere 42.2 km so 50 km is classified as both an 'ultra marathon' and an absolute descent into madness.

and then posted this picture...

...absolute descent into madness...
photo credit Max Bennett
Ace Burpee wrote so accurately and eloquently of the depth and breadth of Jo's life in an article in The Winnipeg Free Press. Ace writes:

She will forever inspire, not just myself, but the countless other lives she touched, inspiring people to work harder, dig deeper, and more important have more fun than anyone else on Earth while doing it.  
To end, I return to David Fielder's question: What did I learn?  

David, I suggest Ace says it best and he speaks for the multitudes of runners, triathletes Ironmen, men in pink spandex, regular dudes and dudettes, heros and zeros.  Together, collectively, and individually, we learned...

Go outside and get it. Show her what you learned.

It's a good day to be alive my friends. Now go outside and get it.


"Go outside and get it"
photo credit Jennifer Kirkwood