Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making a Difference

Who would have thought some 75 crazy people would have registered to run a 50 kilometer ultramarathon in the dead of winter in Morgantown, West Virginia? Who would have thought graduate students would wake up before dawn on the Saturday before Finals Week to provide sustenance to said 75 crazy people? That is exactly what happened last weekend as the Mason-Dixon Madness 50K got off the launching pad. A product of many, many hours of hard work on the part of myself and Dannielle Ripper, the race drew people from several different states, including Arkansas and Illinois, to name a few. We were frankly lucky to slip the race into a narrow window of beautiful weather; plus or minus 12 hours and things would have been quite different.

While the race was held all on a flat rail-trail, as long distance runners know, using the same muscle groups over and over again presents its own challenge. Furthermore, there were patches of snow on the course. Nevertheless, it really seemed as if a good time was had by all. There was a scenic, pretty course, lots of camaraderie among the runners, plenty of awesome raffle prizes to go around, and there was a ton of great food at the finish area! Got to love those Jimmy John's subs :-)

Of course, there are many people to thank for all this coming together. As time goes by, I'm sure Dannielle and I will catch up with all these fine folks via a handwritten letter, phone call, or over a beer. However, I'd like to take a minute to thank two groups in particular. First, I'd like to personally thank the runners. Whether you realize it or not, you made a difference in people's lives over the course of the next few weeks insofar as you contributed about $3,800 to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Christian Help food pantry of Morgantown. I have reflected on this deeply over the past couple of days and cannot help but be reminded of the quote by Mother Teresa -- "Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person". For some reason, this seems fitting here.

Dave Frazier, of Harrisonburg, VA, on his way to his 3:32:22 overall first place finish.

Anne McAlpine, of Green Oaks, IL, doing her part to help the food banks.

Next, I'd like to give an exceptional "thanks" to the aid station workers: Chris Grant, Brian Burdi, Dave Saville, Bill Maxwell, Joey Gigliotti, Allen Pettner, Brad Logan and John Burkhart. As far as I'm concerned, these guys are men among men. It's often fast-paced work to make sure you caught that last runner's bib number while trying to open a frozen Camelbak! Those of the aforementioned that are grad students I have interacted with know that I already thought the world of you and you did nothing but elevate yourself in my eyes last Saturday.

Chris Grant gets the turnaround aid station ready in the calm before the storm!

Good times at the Uffington aid station. From left to right, Allen Pettner, Jen Wohlgamuth, Joey Gigliotti, Anthony Quesen, Sarah Quesen, and Brad Logan.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Working to put together an ultramarathon is truly a Promethean task. But the task is made so much easier when a bunch of people come together to make something good happen. It is always easy to bitch about something -- a bill yet to be paid, the car that needs fixed, and the raise you never seem to get at work. What I learned over the years is that just when you you think you have problems, out in the world there will be a million people that will gladly take tickets to switch your problems with their problems. In a second, no less. Take a walk down to your local food bank as evidence of this. Humbly I submit, those at the race last Saturday can all feel a few minutes of satisfaction over what transpired.

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