Jeff Galloway’s running school was held in the same location as the race expo on the campus of Missouri Southern State University. The clinic was intimate and informative. Ten runners with varying questions and Jeff explaining his running method and his beginnings in the sport, from unmotivated fat kid to Olympian. He has a way of delivering his message that is captivating. Heck, he got me in the boat!
The expo was very high energy, with an emcee and many great vendors; about 35 of them in fact. Jeff and I set up a booth for the Jeff Galloway 13.1 race he hosts in Atlanta. We also had many of his books and other merchandise to peddle. Getting the opportunity to stand next to your mentor and confidently relay his message to people looking for guidance on the topic and have him commend you for the on point delivery is a feeling I can’t explain. I will not forget the people we met or the stories we heard that day.
The 5 Years Strong Banquet was a moving tribute to the relief coordinators, volunteers, and first responders who stood and delivered during the disaster recovery. The food was provided by Red Onion and was very fulfilling. Typical prerace fare: salad, bowtie pasta marinara or cream sauce, and dessert. Nothing fancy, as it should be.
I got the opportunity at this time to meet and get to know Aude Dennis, the race director. He emotionally relayed stories of the people and the amazing way the community came together. I am very glad to have gotten this time with him.
The keynote was Jeff. He stood and relayed the story of how he became affiliated with the race. How the year he was supposed to speak at Boomtown (the original race name) the tornado blew through just 10 days before. How Aude told him the race was cancelled and was being replaced by a “Day of Service”. How he told Aude that whatever he needed to do he would be there…and he was. Jeff stated that those days were the hardest he had ever worked in his life, but being around all the positive energy made the hard work worthwhile. He just knew from the time he had arrived, something unusually uplifting was in the air. He commended the organizers for using the spirit of a race as the memorial event because of how runners are a communal breed that find solace in helping one another and really brings people together.
The Walk of Silence. Wow… I could end that statement right there. The first half mile (which is also the last) was lined with 161 memorial flags commemorating each life lost.
I had done some research as to who I would run my race to. Chris Lucas was a Pizza Hut manager who had hurried his employees and customers into the walk-in freezer to find shelter from the tornado. Since these freezers will not allow to be locked from the inside, Chris tethered himself to the door and attempted to anchor it closed. The door was torn off and Chris lost his life saving those he had sheltered.
Jeff had done the same. Lorie and Glenn Holland were longtime RunDisney fans and had met with Jeff many times during race expos at the Walt Disney World races. He recalled stories of their mild mannered love to running, his method and Disney. He remembered them as all around good people. I wasn’t surprised. They were from Joplin, after all.
Truth is, if we didn’t have people on our minds before it wouldn’t have been very hard after the walk. The true, raw emotion I saw during that walk impacted me beyond belief. If I didn’t have a race the next morning I would have driven as fast as I could to hug my family.