This past Saturday night I participated in a unique running event, the 4th Annual Stroehmann's Back on My Feet 20in24 Relay Challenge. Back on My Feet describes their mission as
a nonprofit organization that promotes the self-sufficiency of those experiencing homelessness by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.
The Relay Challenge is teams of 5 runners completing laps around the Art Museum/Boathouse Row area of Philadelphia. Each lap is approximately 8.4 miles in distance, and the Challenge has differing levels of difficulty. Bronze teams, of which I was a part (the "Cherry Over-The-Hillers"), consisted of each team member completing one lap, for a team total of 42 miles. Bronze teams can complete either at 10 AM or 6 PM on race day. Silver teams do 2 laps per runner; Gold teams do 3 laps per runner, and the namesakes, Platinum teams, do 4 laps each, or 20 laps in 24 hours.
There is also an ultra-marathon held, the goal being to complete the most miles/laps in a 24-hour period, beginning at 10 AM on Saturday. This year's winner completed 145 miles, or 17.26 laps. There is also a Midnight Madness one-lap run, as well as a morning "Pajama Run" at 6 AM on Sunday.
I was invited to join the team this past January by a high-school friend, Marci DeCosmo, and the idea was to get 2 teams together, one male team and one female team, so that we could have running partners. The trail gets very dark at night, and this would provide an extra layer of security after dark. In actuality, 8 of the 10 committed runners became injured before race day (of whom, 6 could not run) so we were left with one team of 4 runners: myself, Marci, Marci's brother Al Raymond, and team captain Stan Thompson. Because teams are required to have 5 runners, this meant that one of us was going to have to run twice, and Stan volunteered for that duty.
So at 6 PM on Saturday, Stan started out on lap #1, completing his lap in 1:16, and handing off to Marci for lap #2. Marci (and her sore hamstring) ran a 1:12, and then it was my turn. I ran a 1:20, struggling with a sore calf that I injured back in June. Al took over on lap 4, blazing through in 1:08, and then Stan (after getting a massage during my lap) ran another 8.4 miles, coming home in 1:25. Our team time was 6 hours, 23 minutes, good for 6th place out of 11 Bronze teams running at 6 PM.
The highlight of my run was passing a Kenyan runner on the course. What's unsaid is that he was over 10 hours into the ultramarathon, running at a slow trot, and I was less than 20 minutes into my lap, but no one needs to know that (haha).
Our team raised close to $1,000 for Back on My Feet (which was the real reason for the day), and we enjoyed our time very much. This was the first real running festival in which I was a participant, and it's quite possible that I will return next year for the Midnight Madness Run.