Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Art of Storytelling

Last night I heard six people get up on a stage and tell a story about the song that changed their life. Four of them knew ahead of time that they were going to perform, but the other two did not. They were willing tellers though, because they had thrown their names into the hat agreeing to speak if their name were drawn, but they’d had no time to plan or make notes.

This is an event presented four times a year by KUNC, the local Public Radio station in Greeley-Fort Collins. Admission is free. The venue is the newly-opened, funky art theatre, the Lyric in Fort Collins. The evening is reminiscent of the Moth Radio hour on National Public Radio.

This evening was special because after each story, a talented singer-guitar player played and sang the life-changing story.  One storyteller remembered how her dad’s rendition of Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore often followed by Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley and the one about that life-long ride on the MTA in Boston quieted six rambunctious kids bound for Cape Cod squeezed into the back of the family station wagon. Somehow, the repetition of round after round calmed down the fractious siblings and they made it to the beach in one piece every weekend, a routine that continued all summer.

Others remembered songs that helped them out of a tight spot, saved them from possible harm when they accepted a ride from a questionable hitchhiker, set them on the road to a singer-songwriter career or even saved their lives at a dark point.

These people were poised and funny, emotional and authentic, so willing to share, with a roomful of strangers, how a piece of music had changed their lives. I admire their guts and their talent. They make it look easy. I don’t think it is.

Thanks to KUNC and National Public Radio for giving them the opportunity and making possible a fun-filled and meaningful evening.

By the way, Still Running a book of stories about my life on the run will be available soon on Amazon. I’m waiting for a final proof.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Two races turn 40 the same week

Two of my favorite running races, the Bolder Boulder 10k and Friehofer’s Run for Women 5k in Albany, New York, are no longer youngsters. On May 28 and June 2, 2018, these events turned forty. I was lucky enough to take part in both races that celebration having done something very well for a very long time.

The experiences left me on a huge high. I was happy that I was physically able to be part of each of them. I loved everything: the training, the anticipation, lining up at the start amid the din of joyous enthusiasm, the opportunity to go for it, and then the sigh of relief at the finish.

It takes way more than a village to get these events off the ground and make sure that everything goes just right. There were more than 2,000 volunteers and nearly 50,000 participants in Boulder. At Freihofer’s there were 900 volunteers and more than 3,500 participants.

Both races have become important to their communities over the years. They interact with local schools and donate to good causes. Citizens of all ages turn out to cheer on the runners as they stream by. The towns are known by the races they have hosted for so long.

For several years now, I’ve run the Bolder Boulder on the last Monday in May and then headed for Albany to run Freihofer’s on the first Saturday in June. There are usually several women at the New York race who have done the same thing. It makes for an exciting few days.

The Bolder Boulder adds a new twist every year designed to make the race more friendly. Years ago they initiated the wave system with the fastest runners going first followed at intervals by everyone else. This year there were 97 waves. It took more than two hours to complete the start. Even though you are running with a cast of thousands, you never feel that you are in a tight crowd.

Freihofer’s is unique because it is women only. “Look at all those people ahead of me,” I said to myself, “and they are all women!” Because the invited runners stay together in an elegant hotel just across the street from the race start, we have a special opportunity to get to know each other. Many of the women speak at the schools in the area during the week before the race which means that they have several days to form friendships.

This year the former winners of the race were invited back to participate which meant that many of the fastest American women runners, past and present, were there. What an amazing group of women they are.

I came home on a cloud filled with memories of a luxurious hotel room, great food, two incredible massages, the thrill of meeting these terrific women, a sense of being appreciated and a race time a few seconds faster than last year. Lucky me.

The photo below is of me with Jacqueline Gareau, former Freihofer's champion and winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon, the year when Rosie Ruiz hopped a subway to finish ahead of Gareau. The real winner was not declared until the following day!