Run for the Hungry
Thanksgiving morning I was finishing my workout, going up Foothill, doing a slow Boston Shuffle. Memorial Park was my goal, and it loomed ahead as a mirage in the desert.
Like a slow train from China, I finally pulled into the station. There, testing the speaker system was my good friend and our Mayor, Anthony Portantino. I always enjoy hanging with the Mayor; he reminds me of home, and of course, that..."Life is Good!"
"Hey Anthony, paisano...che...si...dice?"
"Joey...non...tanto...amico...mio! The translation in 'U Norkeeze' would be, sort of like..."Anthony, how you 'doin'; Joey, how you' doin"! All we would need to complete that scene would be a box of cannoli from Ferrara's bakery.
Well anyway, the Mayor tells me that there's going to be a big race, "The Run for the Hungry," and that I should stay and watch. I had completely forgotten, so quickly, I ran home and got my girls, for I knew this would be something to see.
Believe me -- few things are as exciting as a race. I was once a runner, did five marathons and I can attest to James Joyce's comment that, "Rapid motion through space, elates one"!
The girls and I 'hightailed it' back to the park for we didn't want to miss the starter's pistol. It was a happening! People of all ages were stretching, warming up, lining up, psyching up -- getting ready to "put the petal to the metal." The air -- it smelled like exhilaration! Drama!
Bang! The race began and more than 1,200 runners surged by the gazebo. The energy was incredible. Initially, they passed in mass, then the 'rabbits' made their move, pushing the pace, holding tight to their moment of fame. Lurking close behind were the wolves, the athletes and soon they would converge.
We watched all the runners. And, as they passed us by, I realized by examining their contorted expressions that nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dare believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.
The "Run for the Hungry," sponsored by the Roger Barkley Center, is in its 12th year. Rebecca Harvey, the run coordinator, has championed this cause eight of the 12 years. On race day, Rebecca, along with her dedicated staff, is a whirlwind of activity. I never realized the degree of detail and the logistics needed to put on such a race. That morning Rebecca was at the scene at 4 a.m., helping set the course with CalTrans.
I asked her, "Why are you so dedicated to this event?"
"It is an opportunity to give back to the community", she said. "Door of Hope, Union Station and the Ronald MacDonald House" are three of the organizations that will receive sizeable checks. Also, Rebecca said that more than 10,000 cans of food will be collected and distributed by the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station to needy families in the foothill community.
Keller Williams Real Estate, Allen Lund Company, Ralph's Food for Less Foundation, Trader Joe's and Countrywide are a few of the major sponsors of the "Run for the Hungry."
The girls and I cheered the runners; and wished we were with them. Our good friend, Mike Reilly, was among the leaders. But of course, once the race began, they left him in the dust. Nevertheless, we went out of our minds with cheer when Mike finally rolled by, wheeling his daughters Madeline and Megan. "Mike, keep running till you get to the end and then stop," I yelled. I think he appreciated that bit of advice.
Conner Kamm won the men's division with the winning time of 16:21. But, what most impressed me was the winner of the women's division, Maija Rhode, with 18:05. I spoke to her briefly, and from our conversation she hit the 'Zen' of the distance runner. "I run because it is my passion and not just a sport", she said. "All my self-discipline emanates from running." She spoke of her devotion to her coach, Gretchen Corrales, her team and the joy of the race. Maija proved that the human spirit is indomitable.
My memory of running always takes me back to the 'runners high,' a short-lived but euphoric state where you feel the earth, and the wind and the trees. Their spirit puts you in the moment, and you feel the rhythm and the synchronicity of moving through space. And, whatever demons you may possess that day ... they are short-lived.
Joe Puglia is a resident of La Cañada and a professor at Glendale Community college. He holds a doctorate in education with a special emphasis in the psycho-social, educational development of young adults. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.