One of the most humbling moments of my brief running career was when I thought I could run a race, as in, coordinate one. It’s only a 5k, I thought. We’ll wrangle up some volunteers, set up a couple water jugs, hand out t-shirts … how hard can it be?
Really, really, really hard, actually. Like childbirth, if I had a realistic idea of what it was going to be like, I probably wouldn’t have been quite so enthusiastic at the outset. I feel it is my duty to share my experience with those poor, delusional souls entertaining the notion of hosting their own 5k.
Lesson One: There will be roadkill. You can bet some poor raccoon is going to join the choir triumphant right in front of where your hydration station is located. Towns contract carcass removal on a monthly basis, so you might want to line up some coyotes to do some janitorial work the night before the race.
Lesson Two: There will be weather. There is nothing you can do about this, except perhaps burn billions of tons of fossil fuel and hope the climate change works in your favor. The temperature at my race time last year: 92o F. The only thing worse than the heat was listening to EVERY SINGLE RUNNER complaining about it. If it rains, they will complain, too, but at least not so pungently.
Lesson Three: There will be paperwork. In addition to getting approval from your local town board and county department of public works, you need to notify the sheriff’s department, neighbors along the route, any businesses that might be impacted and your mom, because you haven’t called her all week and she just wants to occasionally hear your voice. She’s not getting any younger, you know.
Lesson Four: There will be expenses. Swag ain’t cheap. Neither are bananas, bagels, bottled water, poster boards, postage, copy services, D.J. services, duct tape, finish line tape or Swedish fish. (They’re for me, not the runners.) Who’s going to pay for all that?
Lesson Five: There will be sponsors. Beautiful, benevolent sponsors. These beloved kickstarters gift us with much-needed seed money and/or in-kind donations. They make miracles happen through their generous support. The pope offers canonization for all race sponsors giving at the Platinum Level.
Lesson Six: There will be losers. That is, some people will go all Debbie Downer on you. The water won’t be wet enough. The course will be too hilly/flat/easy/bumpy/cluttered with roadkill. They might grumble about the high entry fee, even if the proceeds will be used to purchase prosthetic limbs for orphaned baby bunnies injured in John Deere accidents. At those times, it’s good to recall the sage advice of the great Greek philosopher Tay Swift, “Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, I shake it off, I shake it off.”
Lesson Seven: Most importantly, there will be winners. The person who crosses the finish line first wins. So does the person who crosses last. So do all the people who bid on the silent auction, or donate gifts, or distribute water, or just cheer on the sidelines. The community wins when it comes together to create a fun, memorable event.
The truth is, “my” race was actually the brainchild of students from the Bloomfield High School Class of 2014. Patrick Parrish was a member of the Class of 2013; he died in a tragic car accident the summer before his senior year. His friends wanted to honor him by hosting a 5k and raising funds for a scholarship in his name. Those students really did all the work; I was the guide on the side, as they say. That year, we raised $3,200. The following year, some amazing students from the Class of 2015 raised $3,500. After two years at the helm, I have passed the Race Coordinator batton to Lauren Tiffany, Pat’s good friend and classmate. She and her team of volunteers are on track to raise even more. Those scholarship dollars are given to students who want to study the trades — Pat’s intended vocation.
Come see how a race is run on Thursday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. The staging area is the West Bloomfield Congregational Church. Details are posted at bloomfieldcsd.org/webpages/tkeyes/. I’ll be there — along with Pat’s family and friends — come rain or shine or roadkill.