Tales of a first-time race director

(All photos taken by Nancy Moran. These are just snapshots from a small digital camera, but Nancy, my neighbor in Craftsbury, is an amazingly accomplished photographer – check out her website!)

For weeks now, I have been planning a celebration of National Trails Day for the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. I excitedly picked a slate of events from all the ideas we had thrown out there, and we settled on four: a trail race, a nature walk, a pizza party, and volunteer trailwork. I had my work cut out for me coordinating all the various pieces, but the race was the thing I was most nervous about: most of the other activities depended on other people, but the race, well, that was all on me. Plus it was supposed to be a fundraiser for the Northern Rivers Land Trust (my idea), so if it didn’t do well, I would feel beholden to all of their board members, not just my fellow staff at the Outdoor Center. But in the few days leading up to THE BIG DAY, things seemed to be coming together. I was confident that the whole thing would be a big success.

Then it started raining.

And it kept raining.

And it rained some more, like pouring piss out of a boot. (I picked up this phrase from my parents at a young age… I am not really sure what it refers to, but I like it.)

I was sure that nobody would show up. But I still went to the Touring Center and set up shop, and sure enough, just at the time that registration was supposed to open, a man from Montpelier came walking through the door. I breathed a sigh of relief: we were going to have a race after all!

By 9:30, we had 13 participants signed up. That’s hardly a big number to start with, but when you take out the people that I know, it becomes downright miniscule. First, my teammates Ollie Burruss, Ida Sargent, and Dylan McGuffin raced. Also, Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer, who run the Center, took part. Ollie’s girlfriend Anna Schulz came too, and convinced her parents, Amy and Eric, to join in. That left Adrian Owens and George Hall, members of the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club, plus the gentleman from Montpelier, and two five-year-olds who were running the kids’ race together.

I shepherded everyone to the starting line, which, since I hadn’t planned things out very well, was really just an imaginary line between the two soccer goals in our upper field. After a brief set of instructions that went something like, “Follow the signs for Race Loop. And the signs we pounded into the ground. And Judy pounded them into the ground so if you get lost, talk to her….”, I sent them off in the pouring rain, around a course that even under the best of circumstances is one of the toughest 5k’s I’ve ever run.

Thank goodness I wasn’t racing myself!

Me and my timers trekked down to the lower field, where the race would finish. And we waited. And we waited. After a while the kids, who had only run a 2k loop, came in, all smiles and completely adorable. They had run the whole course, which blew my mind – they were 5 years old! They proudly told us that it was their second race, and pointed out that they had finished before the grown-ups which definitely meant they were faster. So, so cute.

Quite a bit later Ollie and Dylan rolled in. As I tried to write down their bib numbers and times, my pen literally ripped through the soaking-wet paper on my clipboard. Great. I momentarily wondered if we would be having any results at all.

They are both quite good runners, and even though Dylan had been doing the race as a tempo workout their time of 20:30 was quite slow for them. I was dismayed at how terrible the conditions must have been out there and felt really bad for the other 9 racers still out on the course. But Dylan insisted that it was really fun and he loved the course, so that made me feel a little better.

When Ida finished, she was mad. She had just returned from a semester in France the night before, and said, “All I wanted to do was go for a nice rollerski and speak English. What I ended up doing was running in the rain, completely by myself. Every time I saw a shortcut I thought about taking it.”

Oops. So, that started making me feel not so good again.

The last two people to roll in were Anna and her mother. It turns out that this had been Amy’s first running race, ever. And she didn’t exactly enjoy it. I really hope this doesn’t mean that she never does another one. But, on the upside, there were three women in the race, so all of them got to take home some of the peanut butter cookies I had made for prizes. I think that cheered her up at least a little bit.

And that was it for the race. All over. I hope my next event is more successful… maybe the weather will cooperate a little better.

The nature walk and trailwork were canceled due to nobody showing up in the pouring rain, but we still made pizza in our outdoor bread oven. And it was good. Amen.

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