Joplin Memorial Marathon Weekend Recap (Part THREE)

The Race

I woke up like a shot at 4:30am.  I wanted to be up and ready when I got the call from Jeff for coffee and the ride to the start line with Aude.  It was going to be a great day, I could feel it!  We had coffee and a very light breakfast at the hotel.

13254555_10205526402274045_4273714190438260895_nMy good friend Rosana got the opportunity to meet with Jeff and relay her aspirations of practicing his method as well as her story of being a breast cancer survivor and the confidence running has given her.  Rosana, after all, had run this race as her first half marathon two years ago and experienced the emotion I was just getting a healthy dose of.  She is the one who told me I needed to do the race but not because of the race.  She was right!

2016-05-21 05.34.26The race itself featured a challenging course, plenty of volunteers (seemed like the entire town), themed water stations (thanks H2Joe!) and those flags!  The race started with 161 seconds of silence and the release of a balloon for each victim.  What a powerful image watching the balloons float to the heavens.2016-05-21 06.22.59

 

The hills startled me as I wasn’t prepared for them.  I had planned an aggressive run walk run ratio of 3/:30 to attempt a PR run.  It wasn’t meant to be and I knew it from mile 3.  I altered my ratio at about mile 8 to 2/:30 to accommodate for the hills and my fatigue.

There was a gel station AND a Nuun station.  I had never used Nuun and I definitely never saw it distributed before on the course so kudos to whoever instituted it, it was GREAT!

Typically, I abandon my strategy at the end of a race to maximize time.  This time I chose to maintain all the way to the end so that I could appreciate those flags one last time.  I’m sure if a PR depended on it, my decision would have been different, but it didn’t.  I thanked each volunteer and spectator for having me in their town and thoroughly soaked in the last few hundred yards.  2016-05-21 09.55.34I finished in 1:56:45 and enjoyed every second.  The finisher medal was modest but impressive, which was fitting because I could describe Joplin with the same words.

The Party

Rosana told me she was sad she didn’t have anyone with her 2 years ago to enjoy what she thought was an awesome after party.  She was not wrong in that observation.  It was awesome!  The music was great, the beer was cold.  There was Cidre offered for non-beer drinkers (Rosana THANKS YOU!).  The food spread was great.  Cooked to order personal sized pizza and ready-made subs with turkey or ham.

I had the opportunity to meet with other runners, many from Joplin.  It was refreshing to spend the day with such positive minded people.  That was the lasting take away of the race…Positivity.

The Aftermath

As I sat at lunch with Jeff celebrating everything the weekend offered, we had the opportunity to decompress and appreciate not only the accomplishments but each other.  I have long admired Jeff for his ability to reach and motivate others.  2016-05-20 12.54.55For him to take note of my passion and feel comfortable with the message he is expecting me to deliver is an honor.

 

As for the Joplin Memorial Marathon, it was more than a race for me.  It was an eye opening experience to the resolve of a community and the hope that the story of Joplin’s recovery and healing should provide in any sign of adversity.  I plan to return for this race every year.  I also plan to take a weekend and bring my family down to show them what Midwestern values are.  Good people being good people.  Thank you Joplin, for your hospitality.  You have a new fan on the other side of the state…

Thanks for reading…

 

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Joplin Memorial Marathon Weekend Recap (Part TWO)

The Events

2016-05-20 10.13.36Jeff 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 Banquet

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.

2016-05-20 19.08.11I 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

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.

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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.

 

 

2016-05-20 19.37.49Jeff 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.

Next up…  Joplin Memorial Marathon Weekend Recap (Part THREE)

Joplin Memorial Marathon Weekend Recap (Part ONE)

newbannerWhere to begin on describing this event that held so much importance to me personally going in?  Let me first state that I am ashamed to admit that, while I live only 4 hours from the city of Joplin, I did not assist in relief efforts following the devastating EF5 tornado that blew through five years ago.  I am equally appalled that I have never actually BEEN in Joplin before this weekend.  In fact, I erroneously assumed Joplin and Springfield, Missouri were very close when in actuality, they are over an hour apart.  That said, I was in Joplin for selfish reasons.

The Reason

Back in February, I inquired to Jeff Galloway about a way to speak with authority about his renowned running method, RunWalkRun.  We will save the details on the idea for another day (It’s kinda important).  I had been practicing the strategy for some time and was ready to take the leap and grow his flock.  He replied with an offer to assist him in the formation of a certification track by which the Galloway Training Method could be delivered individually across the nation.  I was obviously VERY interested.

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Working with his training director, I studied diligently reading every publication they sent me, every article on line I could find and even listening to as many podcasts and public speaking engagements available.  I have probably read more in the last 4 months than in the last 15 years combined!  The idea behind the process was that by the May 20th running school Jeff was teaching in Joplin I would be ready to be unleashed to the masses.  So I hurriedly registered for the Joplin Memorial Half & the Jeff Galloway Running School.

The Impact

As the date approached, I began looking back on the tragedy, its aftermath and the resolve the city of Joplin showed in the face of adversity.  I began trying to learn EVERYTHING I could about the people, the landscape…  What I found were stories of heroism and humanity.  Historic resilience that still is rewriting FEMA SOPs.  I began to understand that this was bigger than me and my certification.  As I drove into town, it was raining and dark so I was not able to see the rebuilding that had taken place.

In the morning, I was greeted with a city ready to be put on display.  My breakfast with Jeff was chance as we both happened upon the continental at the same time.  We were waited on by the most hospitable concierge who also happened to be the course designer’s daughter.  Thank you for the warm welcome, Jillian.  I stopped into a Walgreens for some last minute items and was warmly greeted by not only the employees, but every person I encountered.  I began to wonder if this was normal.  I have to say in the 36hrs I was in Joplin, I did not find a single ounce of anything other than genuine hospitality.  I have to believe this is why the city of Joplin rose from the ashes like a Phoenix.  Genuine care for one another.  Nothing ever felt fake.  I was beginning to fall in love with Joplin…53ce732205199-image

Next up…  Joplin Memorial Marathon Weekend Recap (Part TWO)