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Progress Report: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Imagine a bumbling blogtser like myself has asked you to participate in a short survey. The purpose of the survey is to come to grips with the age-old question: Do runners really have more fun than blondes? Here’s the questionnaire:

Over the holidays which of the following events would you be most likely to attend?

1. ( ) a Xmas eve run that starts at 7:00 am 2. ( ) a New Years Eve race that starts at 10:30 pm 3. ( ) an event called Over the Years for the opportunity to run for 24 hours straight 4. ( ) a session with a Yoga master named Moonshadow 5. ( ) 1—3 only 6. ( ) All of the above

 If you can honestly pick All of the Above you get to choose which event goes in the blog.

But since I’m pretty sure you don’t’ know a Yoga master named Moonshadow, I get to pick. Ok, so I didn’t do Over the Years. But I did drive all the way from Paradise Valley to support our runners on Saturday morning. So I pick the Xmas eve day run, stride for stride the most dramatic and the most fun.

The gathering

Our merry band includes Runners from three outstanding organizations, Run 4 It Endurance Training, the Surprise Running Team, and the 2012 Ragnar team Streakers in Sneakers.

When I arrived Saturday morning I carefully maneuvered my RAV in amongst the party vehicles that were sprawled in the vicinity of Jeff and Elsie Hall’s home in Sun City West.

It was pitch black on the corner of Conquistador and 125th Ave. Despite the bone chilling cold the runners were in high spirits, bouncy and chatty. I could tell they were also in a Christmas mood because they barely chided me for being fifteen minutes late for our designated 7 am start time. Our only mandate: get your long run in by 9 am  so we can start our party, which would include potluck and a White Elephant Exchange with a running theme.

The start

Jeff called us together for final instructions. “Out and back” he declared as he pointed in the direction we are supposed to run: “Nothing but right turns, two turning points (forgot what they were) turn around at the Stardust aide station, retrace your steps back here. There will be mile marker cones and clearly marked turning points. Aid stations every mile and a half. Big aide station at Stardust.” After this initial round of instructions I see everybody’s head nodding, everybody’s but mine. After remarkably (to me) few repetitions, we are off to conquer our miles.

Every runner is going to have good days and bad days. Lately I’ve had more bad than good. The pain in my hip and the fact that my fellow runners were all talking to me over their shoulders as they sped by told me that on this day I was destined to do 10 the hard way.

I was good with that. I only went off course once, overran the first turn. After about 7 minutes of wrong-way running Jeff’s instructions exploded in my brain. He had told us several times the name of the street we were to make our first right turn on. I guess I’m one of those people who are compelled to challenge statements like “you can’t miss it.”

No worries, ran another seven minutes back to the turn street and gave myself credit for a mile.

The sun rose and the neighbourhoods awoke. The sidewalks filled with singles, couples and dog walkers all exuding good cheer. Some of our own speedy runners were starting to pass me on their way back. Bless their hearts, not one of them cast me a pitying glance.

Jeff was a prince. He came by me in his car several times, shouting “Run, Garry, Run”. Checking to see if I needed anything. Reminding me to hydrate. I said to him on one pass, “You’re coming up in the world dude. I remember when you had to do your coaching on a bicycle.”

Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished

Jeff’s last pass was less inspirational. The Stardust aide station, our turn around point had suffered an invasion of local gendarmes.

I’ll let Jeff take the story from here.

Susanne (Hasty) called me. When I got to the aide station, I saw they had the intersection of R.H. Johnson (the major thoroughfare in Sun City West) and Stardust closed. I walked over to a group of about a dozen Sheriff’s deputies. I told the deputies, “I can’t believe someone called this in as a HAZMAT incident.” Immediately this rotund Deputy Sheriff started chewing me out, implying I didn’t know how serious the situation was. My reply, sarcastically, was, “It’s water and Gatorade.” At this point, I noticed there were about four younger deputies standing in the background kind of laughing about the whole thing. Meanwhile the Deputy Sheriff kept trying to rip me a new one. Suddenly, one of the bomb disposal members interrupted to diffuse the situation and simply stated that they had to take all calls seriously until they can prove it was safe. I told him and the others I knew that since I was a retired fire-fighter. At that point the Deputy Sheriff backed off. As he walked away I was reminded of what Bugs Bunny would have said about my chubby antagonist. “What a …..!”

David Basham had a different take on the invasion of our outpost.

While Kristin (Steele) and I were running mile 5 we heard the loudest fire siren ever as a truck sped past us. When Jeff pulled up and said, “We’ve had some drama” I was immediately concerned that the fire truck meant we had an injured runner.

Jeff may have gotten the last word. One of the responder group indicated off-the-cuff that he might be interested in joining our running group.

The party

When I finally touched the spare tire on the back of my RAV I was beyond caring that I was last and late again. Inside the party was in full swing. Everybody had a story to tell and nobody minded being cut off in mid sentence by someone who had a better one. Laughter is the best tonic for tired bones, so I found an unclaimed easy chair, sat back and let the joyful banter wash over me.

Runners make the best potluck. Every since it was proven that real men do eat keish I have tried to make amends for my former prejudices. Today I became a manly man indeed. I think I scarfed down a whole pie.

The party became more intense when the White Elephant exchange was announced. Apparently there are two schools of thought when it comes to WE. One interpretation asserts that when you know you are going to a white elephant affair, you get the cheapest, dorkiest gift you can find.

 The other camp has the opposite take. Observe the host’s rules such as all gifts must include a running theme. Go out and buy a nice running related gift that you would secretly like to have for yourself.

When you view the pic of Jeff holding my white elephant offering, you will get which camp I follow. But don’t be too quick to judge. As he hoisted his western scene Elsie said he looked sexy in that pose. You’re welcome Jeff.

The nice gift camp does make for a lively game of strategic thievery. Early on I stole a spiffy water bottle set with a dozen running aids attached from Susanne Hasty. She gave me a faux (I hope) scowl. But I forgot she might be able to something about her loss. Sometime towards the end of the game she blasted across the room and reclaimed her water bottles with a vengeance.

That left me last to choose. I won’t say I got a lump of coal, but if I ever need to fill a gift box with paper stuffing I’ve got plenty of paper.  

My pecuniary habits aside it was a truly a joyous occasion! In conclusion, allow me to offer this toast: To our merry band of runners, may all our women remain strong, all our men stay good looking and all our children continue to be far above average. Garrison Keeler, eat your heart out.

BTW The polls are closed and it has been announced that runners do have more fun than blondes, unless you are a blonde who runs in which case your score is doubled.

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