For those of you that know me, dedicated runner isn’t exactly a description that pops into mind. I was really active in high school (soccer, cross-country, basketball), but once I got to college I found beer olympics as a much better sport, and post-college I was on a rec. league volleyball team with some co-workers (where I excitedly learned how to properly hit a volleyball!).
But for some reason, I am drawn to people that run. I find their dedication to a solo sport impressive, and lack the motivation to go for a run when cuddling with the dogs and watching a movie sounds sooo much better.
I’ve been involved in running competitions somehow over the past few years: My mom roped me into helping with the Mount Holly, NC Springfest 5k as a route guider (i pointed the runners in the proper direction), and then the next year as an announcer for the race (which was fun because I am finding I like the sound of my own voice)
When I moved up here to Anchorage, I was trying to figure out how to find my place in the community: there’s no Junior League, I haven’t really formed my social circle yet, and I found myself with an abundance of time that comes with being in one place every day.
One day when I was working in Nordstrom, I scheduled an appointment to help a lady shop the Anniversary Pre-Sale. After chatting with her while we shopped, I found out that she was the Race Director of the Big WildLife Runs in Anchorage, and that they needed an announcer. Having past experience and, once again, loving the sound of my own voice, I agreed to help out and join the race committee.
So that is how I found myself, attended meetings with active runners to help plan a huge weekend long marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon, 5k, Mile race, and Childrens 2k with runners from the Anchorage community with a passion for encouraging a healthy lifestyle and sharing Anchorage’s beauty with others.
The races were run this past weekend, August 17-18, with events happening thoughout the week leading up to it.
On Thursday night, August 15, I found myself at the BearTooth Theatre Pub listening to running legends Jeff Galloway and Bill Rodgers talk about how they got into running, how they found their passion for running, and what it was like traveling the world to run races and represent the USA in Olympic marathons. Needless to say, it was inspiring.
Friday August 16th found me spending my evening at the race Expo & Clinics, introducing a speaker on strategies for marathons. The speaker had run marathons in all 50 states – in under 4 hours each race. She’s run almost 70 marathons with sub-4 hour times. Seeing that dedication and skill was astounding, and I found myself touching all of her medals thinking how cool it would be to find something you’re so good at.
Saturday August 17th was a big day: not only did we have another clinic in the morning about optimum hydration, but it was the day of the Inaugural Anchorage Mile!
We had 34 runners come out to take part of something new, and Jeff Galloway and Bill Rodgers were there, helping encourage the runners and pose for pictures. Matt was forced by me to be a part of the race, so he officially has helped start a new tradition in Anchorage. Pretty cool, right?
Want to know how Matt did? He came in 8th out of 15, not bad for a one-mile sprint when he hasn’t run in a long time. His recovery in the grass was quite amusing though, as he reminded me of Titanic.
After the Anchorage Mile, I had to get back to the expo center to host the Pasta Feed: amazing and delicious food, all narrated by me! At the lunchon, we honoured the Anchorage Running Club scholarship recipients: 6 upcoming collegiate freshman who received $2,000 scholarships because of their efforts in the running and Anchorage community.
Jeff and Bill also entertained the folks attending the pasta feed with stories of where running had taken them, and answering questions from runners in the audience.
I was also talked into signing up for the Snow City Cafe 5k. This terrified me because the last time I ran was a 6k in September 2012 where 1)Matt dragged me kicking and screaming through the course and 2)I would swear to you that I died that day. It was awful.
I confided my fear to Jeff, who excitedly came up with a running plan for me. Utilizing his run/walk/run method, I was to run for 60 seconds, and then walk for 30 seconds the whole race. The 30 second walk breaks were short enough to help my body rest and prevent fatigue. With nothing left to lose, I promised Jeff that I would try it out.
Flash forward to Sunday, August 17th. It’s a bit rainy, not too bad, weather in the low 60s/high 50s. I ate some cocoa puffs (bad idea) and made my way to the race. I was going to get me a medal.
I line up with another race committee member, Rebecca, and we enjoy the excitement radiating from the other runners. People from all over the world and nation are here to run in Anchorage, Alaska! How cool is that! The horn goes off, I turn on my pandora radio station, and begin counting my 60 second and 30 second intervals.
Along the course, I saw some really cool things.
Bagpipers were out, playing their merry tunes, inspiring all of the runners to stop and take a picture.
We also got to run along the coast, so you could see the mountains in the distance and a freight boat bring in goods to the harbor.
When I was using Jeff’s running method, I would pass people and then they would pass me. But the method really worked, at the end of the race I had enough energy to sprint hardcore the last .1 mile and pass around 20 people. I finished with a chip time of 35 minutes, 31 seconds.
I was elated. I showed off my medal to all of my race committee members, and wore it the whole day. I worked hard for the thing! After the race, a lady I kept running back and forth with came up to me insisting on knowing my time and how I beat her when ‘i just kept stopping and walking!’
Following my run, I was given a free grilled cheese sandwich and bread from a local Alaska company Franz Bakery, and some orange slices. What a perfect way to fuel back up!
I quickly showered and went back to my volunteer duty of announcing the marathon and half-marathon finishers. Our system would have the racers bib number and name pop up on an ipad, so we could say their names and where they were from as they were approaching the finish line! When I heard my name towards the end of the 5k, I was so excited, so I was pumped about the opportunity to let other racers have the experience.
Being at the finish line and watching people cross gave me a warm, tingly feeling. Some people were crying as they crossed, some were beyond elated. A few came in with injury but finished strong, and one man even did a little dance as he crossed. We had everyone from first time marathoners to a man celebrating his 50th state and 125 marathon race. It was intense.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though: at one point in time our generator lost power and the finish line fell down. Just deflated. Went flat. While some race committee members worked hard to get it back up, a volunteering group from the Youth Academy gallantly held the finish line up so racers could run underneath.
Following the race, we had a beer garden sponsored by Moose’s Tooth and Bear Tooth brewery. I heard beer was great to drink after a race, so just to be extra careful, I drank two.
After the race was over, I headed over to the post-race party and award ceremony. I had a lot of people come up to me thanking me for pronouncing their name correctly (yes!) and telling all of us how much fun they had and what a great experience it was. Hearing that positive feedback is awesome, because it makes you see you’re doing something right!
To top off a great weekend, I ended up being able to have dinner with Jeff Galloway and Bill Rodgers at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Ale House. They are both so kind and excited for other runners: they loved talking to the racers, and encouraging them and hearing about their success. When I showed them my medal, they gave me hugs and congratulations. Never did I imagine I’d eat burgers with two Boston-Marathon winning, All American Olympians in Anchorage Alaska.
Overall, it was an amazing weekend. I had so much fun being part of the BWLR organization, and can not wait until the planning begins for next years race! They may have even made an occasional runner out of me (I might start lacing up my shoes more than twice a year).