I must be the most disorganized person on the face of the Earth. Around this time of year I have little notes all over my house, in my purse, my desk, my car. Most of them I’ll never find again. You’d wonder then how I manage to direct the Celebrate Life Half Marathon, one of the largest races in the Hudson Valley and one that has grown from the inaugural 225 participants in 2004 to 600 in 2011 and close to double that now at 1,150. I don’t know. I can only assume that when you are passionate about something, you make it happen.
You wonder, too, what entices runners from all over North America and even a handful from Europe and Asia to come to Rock Hill, NY, to participate in The Celebrate Life Half Marathon when there are so many other races with similar causes to choose from. Somehow Celebrate Life has a voice of its own, and when you participate, you don’t forget it.
It’s more than a road race. It’s a place to feel good even when not running your best time. It’s a playground to connect with others and to gain confidence if this is your first half marathon. It’s a place to feel accepted, and to honor and remember those touched by cancer. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those fighting. It’s a place to celebrate your life and the lives of others who have made it.
Through the generosity of many sponsors and individual donors, the race raises funds to help people in Sullivan and Orange Counties who are battling cancer and who, in addition to fighting for their lives, are financially strapped. With no administrative expenses and no salaries to pay, what we raise we donate. It’s this transparency that sets us apart.
As the Race Director I couldn’t ask for a better unpaid job. I get to be the only thing I know how to be-- myself. During the three months leading up to the race, besides race updates, I share with the participants my days of Lent without wine throughout one of the most stressful times of the year for me. I joke about my scattered mind, I humor them about the course and that first ungodly hill. Through those emails we form a bond. They talk to me about their losses, their triumphs, and the reason they are running or walking. I get acquainted with those who, like me, share a love for Dunkin Donuts and even with those who, unlike me, would prefer pizza rather than the great Outback food of our post-race lunch. More than anything, I enjoy connecting with them in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise, and they get to work with someone who, other than being a disorganized Race Director, is like one of them.
To be the Race Director of Celebrate Life Half Marathon is a gift. And for all of us, volunteers and participants, the race is an opportunity to send a message of hope and to communicate to those still fighting that one day they, too, will Celebrate Life.