The following is the speech that I gave at the end of the 2017 Upper Midwest Trail Runners banquet on Saturday, November 18th, 2017. I was happy with how it came out and so it seemed like a good thing to post for a blog entry.
Thank you all for coming tonight. Before we leave I want to tell you a short story. Rewind the clock back to 2010. I was recently divorced, out of shape, overweight, and somewhat depressed. In January of 2010 a good friend of mine decided he was going to get healthy, start exercising and start running. He saw where I was at and encouraged me to do the same.
Now, I had never been that athletic before, and certainly had never run. I thought running was stupid. Heck, even now I sometimes think running is stupid. But, I decided to give it a shot. I grabbed the Couch to 5K app for my phone and started learning how to run. At first it was incredibly hard, and I dreaded when the timer went off and I had to stop walking and start running again. I even had to repeat a couple weeks because how how difficult it was for me. But then a couple months in, I went out for a run and lost track of time, and before I knew it I had ran 10 minutes straight. It was at that moment that I thought, “Hey, I can do this.”
In 2010 I did my first 5K and my first half marathon (slowly, but I got it done). Fast forward to 2012, and I meet my future wife Lisa. Running was something that we noticed about each other on the dating site where we met, and so running was key to bringing us together. We got married in 2013 and kept running races. Lisa had always been intrigued by the trail running scene, and in 2014 she convinced me to try a small race. So we went up to Rush City and ran what I think was a 4 mile race. I ended up having a great time, and thanks to Lisa and another friend of mine in Michigan that was getting into races like Zumbro, I decided to give trail running a try.
January of 2015, I found the Northwest Suburbs Running Facebook group. I decided to show up for a Saturday run and give it a try. So on a cold January morning I headed out to Elm Creek and met Mike Barton, Mark Smith, and Troy Nelson. They took me on the 7 mile horse trail loop and I was hooked. Over the next few months, these guys became my trail mentors. They didn’t just show my how to power hike up hills, or how to avoid roots, or share their nutrition strategies. They showed me how important it was to give back to the trail running community. They impacted me so fully that when I signed up for the Zumbro 17 mile race in 2015, I also signed up to volunteer.
In April of 2015 I show up at Zumbro for the first time, and then proceed to get lost twice on my way to aid station 2/3. At that aid station I met people like Robyn Reed, Rob Henderson and Julie Berg, as well as others that I’m sure I’m forgetting right now. It was there that I learned how to work an aid station and how to take care of runners. They shared their stories and encouraged me, but most of all they also demonstrated what it means to be a part of this community.
Since 2015 I’ve been running lots of trail races, and in 2017 I joined the board of UMTR. I jumped into a leadership position because I want to continue to give back to this community and help it grow and sustain itself. And that brings me to what I wanted to leave you with tonight.
As we leave tonight and you go back to your various running groups, you might run into a new person on a Saturday morning. Remember that each and every one of us are ambassadors for this sport and this community. Take those people under your wing and show them what this community is about. Demonstrate the selfless ‘giving back’ that makes this community special. Show them a community that is welcoming, open, honest, and safe. Show them that the trail running community at its best.
As we head into 2018, please, continue to be the awesome and amazing community that you are. A community of truly powerful and incredible ‘trail people’.
Thank you, have a good night, and see you on the trails.