The second Sunday of July is equal to a major holiday in our household, it is an important tradition in my family because it is the day our town hosts the Boilermaker Road Race. The largest 15K in the country.
Many years ago, when I was young, thirty-eight years ago to be exact, I was aroused on a quiet Sunday in July with cheering and clapping from the end of my street. Being a curious pre-teen, I decided to investigate. It was a race, a run with not many runners and it was over pretty quickly by the time I got there. But it was the beginning, and I knew my place already, near the finish line, cheering on the runners.
Throughout the years, I have been faithful to my task of being the cheerleader. When the race lasts for at least two and half hours and has grown into an event that hosts elite runners from around the world, it ends up being a big, crowded deal. But I keep my place since ESPN wasn’t there all of those years when I was! That, and this race, at it’s very heart, is about hometown spirit.
Despite the sea of humanity in the picture above, it is a very personable event. A time for people to reconnect as so many people who grew up here come back to run it! Time for people to push their limits; each year someone we know runs the race for the first time so it makes it exciting. On occasion there is a person who collapses in front of you! (Okay, maybe there was more than one occasion but it has been 38 years and I am near the finish line so all in all…it is good). It is a time when people experience their 10th time, their 38th time, their best time and their worst time. It is a family event and we do our best to make visitors feel like part of that family.
There is a Kids Run on Saturday kicks off the running spirit and to help solidify the feeling of being about family/community. This is the first year in thirteen that we have not taken part in that as our kids are now too old. But the idea is for it to be sort of feeder into the main race and with a daughter running the 5k this year, maybe it will work someday.
It is a time for freebies. WE have major endorsers and the beer flows free (Hooray for Matt Brewery!) and the Chobani Greek yogurt is enjoyed! This generosity from these sponsors (and so many more), represents the spirit of this race. It is by nature a generous race. People line the streets to cheer other people on. For HOURS. In the heat, rain, whatever…it is for hours. Many of us stay until the last runner (often a walker) passes us and the final police motorcycle signals the end.
Last year, a man who looked like he was in the midst of heat stroke, was all but collapsing as he was coming toward us. A couple of friends guided him over to where we were at which time he shut down. For twenty minutes my friend with some help from the rest of us, talked to this man, iced him down, while waiting for the paramedics. She got his name and tended him until an ambulance could take him away. Later, she called his wife at the hospital to check up on him. He was fine, perhaps because of her intervention. These two never laid eyes on each other but this–he– became her mission of the day.
When I talk about the Spirit of God, I think of events like this. No one is interested in political positions, no one asks sexual orientation, no one cares what religion you practice, it is just a happy and generous event. The harder people are trying the more we try to encourage them. There is even a team from the Refugee Center that has been training with a friend of mine to run this, beautiful shirts were donated just for their team. The only real credential is that you need to run and finish the race in a set amount of time…this is hardly unreasonable for something that hosts world class runners and is called a race. This is also why I don’t run!
There is so much negativity that is promoted out there on a day to day basis…it is imperative that we promote what is genuinely good and positive. This weekend, this race, and the way the people of my town embrace it, is worth the promotion.
For a small city, we do all right.
So, it makes me wonder who has heard about this event and is there anything like this where you live?