June 1. Global Running Day. Did you run? I met a friend in New York City tonight and ran along the Hudson River Greenway from 57th Street to above 125th Street. It’s one of my favorite places to run and one that I don’t get to run often enough. I talk about running a lot, I know. I’ve told you all about how running makes me feel; the positive impact running has had on my mental health. But, I’m not sure I’ve shared the best thing about running and that’s the people I’ve met on my journey that share this passion. While it’s something easily, and maybe most often, done alone, it’s the comradery of a running club or sharing the miles with someone special that is what I have come to love most about my running life. Runners are some of the most supportive, loyal, dedicated, passionate and compassionate people I’ve ever met. It’s no wonder so many run, and organize races, to raise money for charity.
I spent this past Monday – as I have every consecutive Memorial Day for 20 years – at the Fred d’Elia Ridgewood Run. I first ran the 5k in 1997 as a fairly new runner. In 1998, I ran a personal course record in the 10k. Last year I ran my second best time on the 10k course. In between, as a member of North Jersey Masters Track and Field Club, organizers of the event, I volunteered. For 10 years I managed registration for the Fun Run. I figured out that I could get there early, set up, and go run the 10k at 8:15 before we got busy. The Fun Run is the last event at noon. My absolute favorite part of the day was handing out medals to the kids as they finished. It was all I could do to hold back tears understanding the relevant significance of that medal to those kids. Having finished marathons and knowing what that felt like I saw no less joy and sense of accomplishment in the faces of those little runners…my daughter among them for many years. The Ridgewood Run – the Fun Run or the 5k – has been a “first race” for so many that sparked a lifetime of running.
The Ridgewood Run however, doesn’t just serve to promote running. Proceeds of the event provide grants to local charities. Main beneficiaries in past races included Special Olympics New Jersey, the Ridgewood YMCA, the Kessler Foundation, the Village of Ridgewood Parks and Recreation, Social Service Association, College Club, and others. Having sat on the run’s fund allocations committee for a number of years, I can roughly estimate that in the event’s 41 year history, well over $1 million has been contributed to local organizations and scholarships. This event has been so overwhelming successful because of the passionate and dedicate people – the founders and members of a running club – who came together in 1976 with a vision. It’s because of the members that continue to give of their time and work collaboratively that this event still benefits so many. I’m proud to call these people friends.
There are runners in every community, across the globe, with the same passion and dedication, not just for the sport, but for their community, for a better world. Together we celebrate today. I am proud to be one – a runner.