Letter from the President (May 2020)

If you’re reading this now, I’ve squeezed in under the wire, and I’m busy celebrating La Fete du Muguet, the festival of the lily-of-the-valley. Of French origin, this celebration includes giving bouquets of lilies to loved ones, wishing them health and happiness. How timely and difficult as we continue on this path of Pennsylvania Quarantine life from around mid-March. Yes, there are parents who could recite the moment it all began.

We’re going to get to the other side of this and have the greatest discussion of hindsight ever documented. At this moment, however, there is some elder going rhino, hippo, and what the hell is a hypotenuse. Add the algebra questions and solving for zero and that’s only middle school. This is going to push some to drink. Tequila, I say, as we’re only days away from Cinco-de-Mayo. The late Mayans from Central America would tell us: “Don’t trust visitors!” That Spanish sailor, so friendly, Jolly-Jack I’ll call him, probably had no understanding of the reach of his actions as he unwittingly spread small pox with a more deadly outcome than the worst bottom shelf bottle of Cuervo could deliver. 

Jolly-Jack only had his friend Portly-Pete and Captain Bob in his group of friends that he felt knew anything about the ways of life. Over many a beer, they shared tales of ports, fish, and women, some they hooked, some they spoiled, and some happy never to see them again. The outcome of his actions reflected what little they knew could be communicated at the time. 

Our Race Directors, however, through the use of technology provided by Mike Whalen, recently shared their combined knowledge (and that of our RRCA insurance) to stay current with the potential expectations to organize a running event. Donna Hey, as the Race Director for Run for the Ages (6/28), has put all spending on hold, similar to the steps of the Charlie Horse RDs, and recently shut down the signups for the event. Early May will provide some insight to how the state, county, and Nolde Environmental Center will view the gathering of 400+ participants, but it does not look good. We do expect all races organized by the club will be “no frills” if and when they do occur. The reality that the Berlin Marathon already cancelled a September 27th date does not bode well for large running events. Boston today is about 20 weeks out for a 9/14 rescheduled date, which has a host of implications where participants can’t run a race, prior to a race, to qualify for race, for a race that may not occur. 

With all the big races that have been postponed and moved to the fall, it is yet to be seen how this will impact races such as Blues Cruise in October or Oley in November. The smaller races may be viewed to participants as more manageable and nimble to the conditions of the time.  With the green light to start organizing again, will come the training to our volunteers on best practices, what we can provide, and what becomes the “new normal”.   The food spreads of our regionally know festive aid stations may be put on the back burner for a bit. This is not a time our club needs to be the leader.  

Remember Jolly-Jack? Well, he could tell a tale of the biggest fish. Spread your arms wide as you may, but Jack’s was bigger. (Size matters.) Under the stars, as they crossed the vast ocean from Spain, Jack told of great battles with detail where you could almost see the shimmer as the fish jumped in the distance. The coxswain, quiet in shadows, had tales closer to his heart.  You see without boast he did the work, honed his skills, and found challenge while the boat was in port. Call this his virtual fishing trip.

The solo events are not new; however, they have become an organized outlet to challenge, motivate, and set goals while the physical distancing is in place. Who would have thought the Big Dog Backyard Ultra could be executed globally as a virtual race with participants running 4.2 miles every hour until……  Yes: Michael Wardian went 63 hours and felt the race shouldn’t have ended at 264 miles. Check the FB page out, as it’s worth seeing the runners that used treadmills, coffee shops, and even a frozen lake as their course. In more sane distances, we’ve seen many of the Pagoda Pacers participate in similar virtual events, and some were willing to share in this newsletter. 

So why don’t the Pagoda Pacers organize a virtual race? At least from my eyes, let’s head back to the Spanish fleet and reference Captain Bob. You see one of the Dutch Uncles (everybody know that phrase?), let’s call him Sheldon (aka, RRCA), suggested some guidelines early in this quagmire that stepping on the toes of other races wasn’t akin to the best interest of the whole.

Many races are planned well in advance, and there wasn’t a clear understanding when to cancel and how large the impact would become. What they have instructed, to be fair, was to respect your dates, and if you had a race and wanted to convert to something virtual, that was reasonable. They didn’t support new events taking participants others needed simply to survive or break even. So what about something new or random we pose to Captain Bob, Jack’s buddy. In the harshest of seafaring cursing, he’ll tell ya don’t do nut’n that brings more boats to a fish’n hole. Anybody that runs Nolde, Grings, Blue Marsh, and Neversink will tell you that the last thing we needed to encourage is more people to get on common roads and trails. 

Times are changing, and the next 3 weeks of May will bring some insight to how the state will open back up and what the economy will look like.  Personally I’ve seen an outpouring to those that work in the health field and the admiration of being on the front line, but let us not forget those with tremendous financial cuts, lost wages, and possibly jobs not there to return to. If you have a free dime, give it, spend it, and share it locally. Thankfully the club is healthy as the membership has done a prudent job of cost containment and preparing for a rainy day.   

Soon it will be time for the group to band together, organize, and encourage athletic activity simply to help the community reach a new normal. This is our mission statement: not a race, not a singular event, but a culture. 

Time to quit typing–got to go put on my mask and wash my hands ……. Steve

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