2012 Champaign St. Jude Runners

2012 Champaign St. Jude Runners
Our AMAZING group of runners for 2012~

St. Jude Supporters

St. Jude Supporters
After running for 20 hours, the thousands of supporters lining the streets to cheer our arrival is an important and welcome boost!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oh oh. Just looked at the calendar!

Kathleen and I have been really, really, busy of late. There are lots of duties associated with being St. Jude Run coordinators, and it seems like there's always something to do with preparing for our upcoming run this August. Our heavy-lifting work is winding down, and most of the things are in place to support the Run (funding, transportation, recruiting, etc). Today we just finished up getting our own fundraising letters together to put in the mail. In short, we're feeling pretty good about where we are, and what we've accomplished!

...that is, until I looked at our website, and noticed that there are 39 days left before the Run.

I think I have made it clear in previous blogs that I am not a runner. At least, not like Kathleen. Not like the majority of the fine folks who are part of the Champaign-to-Peoria Run. Those are Runners, with a capital "R".

No. I am a lower case "r" runner.

I did run a bit last year. I declared myself as the official videographer and photographer of the CU St. Jude Run team. A person with my self-declared responsibilities must be around the Runners so I can document the Run. I ride the team bus to the next relay point, and set up my tripod to take pictures. I video the interactions of the wonderful folks who give so much of themselves to help the children of St. Jude.

Sometimes I even ride the chase van so I can get some good pictures. Then I ride the bus again.

I think I'm building a case here that I am not an upper case "R" runner. But, there are segments to be run by folks like me. The first mile is an all-hands on deck run. This year we will start from downtown Champaign, and it is shaping up to be a great start! We also have a .8 mile run in the town of Tremont where we look forward to an amazing dip in the community pool.

And of course, the final mile is over the Bob Michel bridge--past the waving and cheering greeters in Peoria. That's not a mile to be missed. The entry into the Civic Center is about a 1/3 mile run...another not-to-be-missed segment. Last year we were cheered into the Civic Center by St. Jude patients--many without hair. Fist-bumping, high-fiving children who are the reason we do what we do (there was not a dry eye among us).

There are other shortish runs of two or two-and-a-half miles. Perfect for my level of conditioning.

Wait. Conditioning. Calendar. Thirty-nine days to go..oh, oh.

It dawned on me that I've not been getting out there to prepare myself for this year's Run. My wife and many of her friends regularly run together. Many of our CU Runners are marathoners who are always training for something.

Me? I'm the photographer. And I'm in trouble.

So, today, I decided there is enough time to get ready for what I plan to run, but I need to get started, and start today is exactly what I did! I strapped on my running shoes, slipped into my standard running clothes, and headed out to get ready for what is to come in 39 days.

I huffed and puffed. I knew I could make my goal, but I forgot just how out of condition I had become. My legs ached and complained. but this is all about raising money for the children of St. Jude, and I have learned to push through the pain and muscle fatigue in order to do my part. I was pretty satisfied with my effort.

Tomorrow--I'll make it to the mailbox!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dusting off the ol' Blog

OK. I admit. I'm not a prolific blogger. I like to write about things related to my involvement with the St. Jude Runs, and we definitely have a "season" of sorts, and things are just now starting to heat up in the 2013 Run Coordinator world...in other words, it's Bloggin' time!

I'll make up the lack of a recent blog with a rather long one. But I hope you'll find it a quick read.

I'm going to start off this 2013 Run season with finishing a tease from last year (I did mention I am not a prolific blogger, right?). I ended my last entry by mentioning something about driving the entire length of the Run--basically a reconnoitering drive, looking for new construction sites and unexpected closures of facilities.

It ain't rocket science. We just drive the route we've been running for several years now.

But we had a bit of confusion the first time we drove out of the Dixie Truck Stop in McLean. I confidently took a left turn out of the parking lot, and proceeded west. I say confident, because I knew that making a right would head us back to Champaign, and that clearly is not the direction we need to go. Besides, when we run the route, we travel due west 6 hours on Route 136; so it was natural to get on it, and do what we do all night—namely head west.

But (there's always a "but" in these stories) at some point we had to start working our way northwest towards Peoria. Kathleen and I knew that, and remembered that it was some point past McLean we had to start bending the route towards Peoria. "Remembered" is a strong word...in fact, we had it written down in the route description we were jotting notes on.

Note the word "description." We didn't have a map with us...just something describing the route in words. After all, we've run this quite a few times. Map? Map? We don't need no stinkin' map!

As we proceeded along Route 136, Kathleen started getting an uneasy feeling. She started to feel like we had missed a turn somewhere. Nah. Can't be...gotta be straight ahead. But at some point, we weren't finding reference points for stops.

Our stop descriptions in the boonies read like this: "3.2 miles--three grain silos on the right-hand side" or "2.7 miles--rock pile on left." That's just the way we roll out here in the flat lands, with long stretches of road through corn and soy beans. Problem is, there seems always to be grain silos every couple of miles. So, a grain silo at 3.0 miles, surely must be the one meant to be at 2.7, right? Meh...maybe. Seemed wrong, though.

Time to bust out the iPhone, and fire up Google Maps. And wait a bit. Cell data rates stink out here.

Yeah. We missed the turn out of McClean, and had driven nearly 10 miles too far on Route 136. Crap. Turn around, head back to McClean. Back to the Dixie Truck Stop, and try it again. This time, we spotted the less-than-well-marked road sign we were looking for.

Memo to ourselves...that's a trouble spot. We won't do THAT again.

A few months later, we re-drove the route a week before the Run. Glad we did too...found a new bridge construction which affected our charter bus, and it required a re-route for the bus (but not the runners).

And believe it or not...we made the same mistake out of the Dixie Truck Stop as we had earlier! We (I)—again—drove past the poorly-marked signage for our turn out of McClean. Fortunately, we only got a mile or so, and looked at each other...not only did it seem like deja vu, it was, in fact, deja vu all over again!

Kathleen is the note-taker in our relationship. She industriously scribbled more notes on our route map, underlined, highlighted, and generally ensured we would not do that again. And in fact, WE would not do that again! Yep, not us!

Fast-forward to the 2012 Run. The Dixie Truck Stop is a scheduled 2-hour break, it's early morning. We still have some nappers on the bus, but it is time to head out, and get on the road again with two of our runners. I carefully describe the turn they have to watch for, and confident that they are well-briefed. I video them jog out of the parking lot, and make that familiar left turn out of town. So our intrepid runners start out, along with a new chase van driver, and a State Trooper escort (they just follow) with cheerful lights a-flashing.

In the audio of my un-edited video, you can hear Kathleen come up behind me, and ask, "do they know to make that turn out of town?"

"Yup!" I said. "I briefed them. They know where they are going."

...I know you are already getting ahead of me on this one...

Kathleen and I stayed behind with the rest of the Champaign Run team, and rode the bus to the next stop. The ride is timed in such a way that we always pass the runners en route. It's a great time to honk the horn, and cheer and wave at them. Only this time, we did not pass anybody. This was slightly alarming, and just a little ominous. I did not feel like we left so late such that the runners got to the next stop before us...and there was a feeling something was wrong.

Maybe we just missed them. The two runners. The chase van. And the police squad car with the flashing lights. Yeah, we simply drove past them and didn't see them..right?

Funny thing about running in the boonies. Sometimes cell phone service stinks. And yes, at this particular moment, we can't get a hold of the chase van. Nada. We had been way ahead of schedule, and now, our runners were 30 minutes overdue. This got waaay past the alarming stage. We were now concerned—but comforted in the fact that we had a police escort. And they at least had a radio.

Kathleen and I, as brand-new St. Jude Run Coordinators, had managed to lose our first runners. And a van. And a police car. That had to be something for the record books.

Finally. Finally—in the distance—we see the chase van lights skimming along the tops of the corn rows, behind that, police lights. Unless our runners could do 50 MPH, there was nobody running in front.

After the wave of relief had passed (the new Champaign Run coordinators will be coming home with everybody safe), we compared notes, and yes, that poorly-marked sign got us again.

In a video I made documenting last year's Run, all of this transpires right at the 2:38 mark. In fact, I have it keyed up, and ready to go right here. So now you know the inside joke about the hands held wide apart with a look of exasperation!

We are thinking about installing a GPS into the van this year! Or at the very least, have some people stationed at that poorly-maked road with big foam fingers pointing the way!

Can't wait to see what 2013 brings!

2012 Champaign Run Video

Thursday, August 2, 2012

So Blogging Plans Went Awry

I have a confession to make.

I figured that I could blog away while Kathleen and I were responsible for being first-year Run Coordinators. No problem!

Well....not so much.

By now, you've figured out that the 2012 St. Jude Run has come and gone. The Run itself went relatively smoothly, and we had a FANTASTIC group of runners. We had a great time, great weather, and some really emotional moments along the way.

Hollywood loves prequels when they don't know what else to do. So, following their lead, I'm going to choose to reset the clock to the clump of time before the Run, and pass on some thoughts about what it was like being new Run Coordinators.

My first thought is a big tip-of-the-hat to Amy Bleich, the previous Run Coordinator for several years. Kathleen and I are in awe of what she accomplished. We had our work cut out for us if we were to keep the ship going.

The previous year, we had two things to do: 1. Physically prepare for the run. 2. Raise at least $750 from donors so we could have the honor of participating.

This year included the same two items, but now we were responsible to ensure that we received sufficient corporate sponsorships to pay for the logistics of supporting the Run. We aren't talking about an afternoon jog around the block here. We require the use of at least 2 vans, a charter bus to carry resting runners, gas for the vehicles from Champaign to Peoria and back, water and food for everybody, along with the ancillary stuff that goes with promoting the Run.

That requires some money. That's were we come in--but we had help.

The biggest fund-raising part of the year was the "Spirited Fun for the Run" held at Jupiter's at the Crossing. That effort was huge, and frankly, Kathleen and I were on the sidelines for that. LK Paden's students were involved in coordinating all of that. Our job was to run student-created promotional posters back and forth to the St. Jude Run office for approval. An early version of the poster had a bottle of bubbly with the cork merrily sailing through the air, followed with a river of booze...that made somebody in the Run Office sit up and take notice of what the First-Year Run Coordinators were doing in Champaign (just noticed the pun there...sorry).

We eventually got a poster that met the requirements of the St. Jude Run office—sans flying cork and flowing bubbly. The event was extremely successful, and we are ever so grateful for what LK and her students accomplished for the CU St. Jude Run.

Side note: if I can describe it as a "brand," the St. Jude brand is a well-respected one. The quality of the organization, the good work they do, the reputation they have, must all be maintained. So it's very important that the St. Jude Run—and by association—St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, maintain a respectable presence.

In the past, there've been some well-meaning folks who strayed a little too far from the fold. When we were briefed by the Run Office about acceptable fund-raising activities, we heard about a heavily frowned-upon car wash with scantily clad young college girls.

That generated a memo or two, I'm sure.

Eventually, the pre-Run fund raising and promotional activities put us in position to be able to pay for all of our expenses, and we were all set in place with 21 runners, and 5 volunteers. We had our minimal complement of runners (it's taxing to run 101 miles with only 21 of us).

With a few weeks to go before the Run, funding in place, runners and volunteers in place, Kathleen and I still had a few important duties to do...one of them was to drive the entire length of the route, looking for problem spots.

That adventure is for my next blog.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hitting the Sidewalk Again

I noticed that my countdown dutifully indicates there is less than 4 months to the Run. Yikes! Time to prepare, once again, to get ready to run to Peoria.

Last year I think I pretty well established that I am not overly fond of running. I've not gotten to the Shangri-La goal of a "runner's high" (I've heard much about the euphoria that serious runners will often get from pushing past a certain point—I've only gotten some aches and pain out of the deal).

Perhaps someday I'll understand what the big deal is all about.

For me, the big deal is simply to get my running shoes on, and hitting the pavement...which I did this past weekend. I was pretty pleased to have been able to run about a half-mile before I had to stop and walk a bit. Truth be told, it was satisfying simply to begin the process of training for the 2012 Run.

A little backstory.

Last year I struggled with my run pace. I'm not what you would call a blazingly fast runner. I plod along. But I was able to work towards an 11-minute mile—respectful enough to hold my own on our way to Peoria last year. I also wrote about my frustration in trying to figure out methods to run faster. Knowing in advance that my current pace (after a seven-month hiatus from running) will be slow, I got thinking about the difference between a slow run, and a fast walk. Or more accurately, when does walking end, and running begin?

A quick search on Google, and answer is surprisingly simple: running begins when both feet leave the ground. Or put another way, if there is always contact with the ground at any point, you are walking.

Back to my run. With my current pace, I was actually trying to figure out if I was, by definition, walking. It's surprisingly challenging to figure out if there are any shoe molecules on concrete molecules (well, at my pace, anyway). So, I've made my familiar turn northbound along my route, and am still trying to figure out if I am actually running or not.

Then I hear a rather bright, chipper (annoyingly so) young female voice behind me: "Excuse me!"

A petite young lady, headsets on, smokes right on by me. Not just runs past me. I'm talking Star Trek (insert zoom-sound here) zips past me. She quickly fades ahead of me as she puts astonishing distance between me and my plodding feet.

I literally muttered to myself, "Yeah, sister...YOU carry a hundred pounds more and see if you can still run that fast."

Then I noticed something before she completely faded from view.

She was running (her feet really were off the ground). I was—sadly—walking sorta fast.

No matter. My training has begun. I will be running for St. Jude with my feet off the ground!

See another reason why I and others run: Ellen's story

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Scale of the St. Jude Runs

Last year, I blogged about how shocked I was to see just how many runners were involved in the St. Jude Runs in 2010. Being part of the Run in 2011 gave me an even more appreciation for the effort and sacrifice made by thousands of people for sick children that they'll most likely never meet. Being a co-coordinator with Kathleen in 2012 has required us to be more pro-active about getting the word out, and we do have our work cut out for us.

The St. Jude Runs is a big deal. And it's been going on for over 30 years now. So it is a mystery to me why so few in our neck of the woods have heard of it. Shoot, two years ago I had no idea either!

Frankly, I think it comes down to a most basic reality: TV coverage. The St. Jude Run Telethon is mostly a Peoria-area affair. The arrival of the Runs into the Peoria Civic Center marks the kick-off of the telethon. WEEK-TV does a fantastic job of covering the telethon, but their reach only goes so far. There's not been any significant coverage in the Champaign area (although a local TV station did cover our departure last year). There's certainly no telethon coverage here.

So, just how big is this thing?

In 2012 there will be at least 30 cities with their own Run. The granddaddy, of course, is the Memphis-to-Peoria Run. I spent a few hours plopped in my easy chair with my laptop heating up my thighs (roasting, really—in a sorta pleasant, glad-it's-not-summer-yet way), and I downloaded some GoogleEarth data into my mapping software, imported in the file from last year's run description, added a few layers of county borders and names, added up all the miles to-be-run by the cities, and pulled it all together—and voila!

The physical scale was a bit of a surprise.

Basically the middle third of Illinois is dotted with Run cities. You have to head waaaay down to see Memphis—that really gives some scale to the Grandaddy Run. That's a whole bunch miles. Speaking of which, the Runs totaled 2,257 miles.

Let me write that out. Two thousand, two hundred, fifty-seven miles. That's a lot of tread being worn down on asphalt roads. And Bengay. There's buckets of that too (unscented, preferably). Those miles may perhaps be trod by something like 2,000 runners—perhaps even more this year.

Bottom line is that the St. Jude Runs is a big deal—particularly for those families who will be receiving free treatment for their child stricken with cancer. Or a child benefitting from new medicines discovered by St. Jude.

Kathleen and I are planning to aggressively get the word out in the Champaign-Urbana area. With the help of other CU St. Jude Runners—new and veteran—I think we are going to do just that!

If someone asks if this is a big deal, I'll pull out the map below, and let it speak for itself.


St. Jude Patient: Kennedi's story

Friday, March 9, 2012

A 100 Mile Downhill Run to Peoria - Join the Run!

As a new Co-Coordinator with my wife, I bring a certain, let's say, computer savvy to the table. Kathleen, truth be told, is the real organizer here, but even she won't dispute that I'm in charge of computer stuff.  One look in my really only "domain" (the garage), and it has the overall look of a manic squirrel's attempt to store everything ever found. For good measure, I might move stuff around from time-to-time, but it really is quite disorderly (first step to recovery is acknowledgement, right?).

I do suspect that Kathleen throws stuff out every now and then just to try and keep ahead of the disorderly piles of junk--but I digress.

Back to the computer.

I saved last year's Champaign-to-Peoria route in GoogleEarth (did I mention that I save everything--including all my tens of thousands of computer files?), and pulled it up to look at once again. My intent was to see if I could not improve on the way we keep track of each run segment, and try to get a better grip on the pacing.

There are a lot of cool GoogleEarth tricks once you look under the hood. One of my favorites is the elevation view of any segment. It gives you the minimum and maximum elevations, along with the grade (how steep it is). In short, the wuss in me wants to ensure I don't attempt to run anything out of my league. I intend to run 20 miles this time, and don't want to burn out on some steep hills (yes, we do have hills in the area for those of you not familiar with the area).

So, I've been busy in my downtime looking over the best way to log and qualify each segment. I decided to take a look at the big picture. What does the entire route look like, elevation-wise? I selected the entire 100 mile length, then clicked on the elevation profile view.

Much to my satisfaction, the entire route, on average, is nothing more than a downhill run to Peoria. Sure there are some hills there--but hey, look at the big picture. We start at 749' MSL (mean sea level), and at the end, we wind up at 515' MSL. Even given that there are some hills there, on balance, it's a simple jog downhill to Peoria!


Join us!!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's the start of the 2012 St. Jude Run season!


There's still a chill in the air, and I'm writing about the 2012 run! This year, because of an overlapping conflict with coverage of the Summer Olympics, the St. Jude Run/Telethon will be earlier this year. Mark your calendar for July 20-21.

It's gonna be a hot run, but we'll be ready for it.

As the new blog header says, Kathleen and I have volunteered to be the newbie Run Coordinators for the Champaign-Urbana Run. With really super support from past volunteers (shout out to Amy Bleich), we will be doing our best to improve our performance from last year's run. We are optimistic that we can double our runners this year, and double our donation total. I tend to be ever-the optimist, and have a number in my head that I am keeping to myself, lest Kathleen calls the folks in the white coats for me.

I like to think out of the box...it is the pragmatic Kathleen's job to ensure that I keep the box in sight.

So, the theme of this year's blogging season will be about the trials and tribulations of being first-year coordinators, along with me getting back in shape--kicking and screaming the whole way.

One of the first things accomplished was to refresh the CU St. Jude Run website. Hope you take a moment and check it out!

Hope you enjoy the ride with us!

Ed and Kathleen