Tag Archives: Up

Up, Up and Away

Of all the running races I’ve done in the past 35+ years, one of my all-time favorites is the annual Up, Up and Away 5k,  held in conjunction with the Findlay (Ohio) Balloonfest.

Why does this race stand out? For one thing, it starts at 8 a.m., which is significant in August in Ohio, where the temp and humidity can often reach into  the 80s by 8 a.m. Then there’s the added exhilaration of watching the multi-colored hot air balloons fill and drift up to the sky above us as we approach the starting line. As we return to the finish line, the sky is dotted with many balloons.

And then there is the food table, sagging under the weight of slices of watermelon and bagels from Tim Horton’s.

Sure, those are all good reasons for loving this race, but the real reason we’re there is to help the Findlay Striders raise funds for the Hancock County (Ohio) Special Olympics. Following this year’s race, the local running club presented a check for $8,000. How great is that?

Once the 5k is over, we get to cheer on all the Special Olympians who are able to participate in a one-mile run/walk. Their persistence and strength far outshine the rest of us.

And somewhere in our attic is a box of race awards collected over the past 35+ years. But none of them means as much as the ones I’ve received at the Up, Up and Away. These unique awards are handcrafted by the Special Olympics athletes at the Kan Du Art Studio in downtown Findlay.

These are the only awards I actually keep out where I can see them on a daily basis because they serve as a daily reminder to be grateful for what is really important. photo (14)

photo (12)

Up, Up and Away

Yesterday was a special day for several reasons. For one, I got to run a race with my favorite running partner and best bud, Mary Ann Ring. It was our first race together since a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in 2009. In the intervening time, injuries and a major health issue prevented us from competing together.

But hey, as runners know, these setbacks merely serve to remind us that we are not invincible and we just have to work to get back to the road. So anyway, yesterday we got to run the Up, Up and Away 5k at the Flag City BalloonFest in Findlay. The race, the 9th Up, Up and Away5k organized by the Findlay Striders, benefited the Hancock County Special Olympics.

Competing together is different than competing against each other. She’s younger than me, so we’re never in the same age group. So our plan is usually just to stick together in our race against “The Others”.

Award made by Special Olympics Athlete

But here’s the thing. She announced to me the night before that she wanted to beat :25:00. Inwardly I groaned. See, I beat that mark a long time ago, but now that I’m older, my times keep getting slower. But who am I to stand in the way of her goal? Rather than wimping out and sending her on her merry little way, my brain simply informed my legs that it was going to be up to them to stick to her side…or at least within a stride or two away.

Besides, I had my own reasons for wanting to do well — thanks to my recent birthday, I’d moved up to the next age group. I’d made the mistake of checking out last year’s age group results, and I knew if I wanted to be competitive, I’d have to stick to Mary’s goal.

It was a perfect day for a race – temp about 63, bearable humidity, lots of cheerful runners, and a bunch of hot air balloons overhead to keep us entertained along the out and back route. This is actually the best kind of route, because you can keep an eye on who’s ahead of you at the turnaround. The one guy we both had our eye on was Mary’s husband, Greg, who had his own goal, so he was flying up ahead of us.

Thanks to Mary’s determination, we met both of our goals — we ended the finish line almost side by side in :24:48, which is an 8-minute pace. Not bad for two old ladies, eh?

But that really wasn’t the best part of the day. That came a little later when together we watched a 15-year-old disabled boy — who had popped out of his wheelchair to participate in the 0ne-mile fun run — complete the race running his heart out. There wasn’t a dry eye in sight.

In the 30 plus years I’ve been running, I’ve been lucky to earn a lot of trophies, most of which are in the attic, gathering dust. But the award I earned yesterday was by far the most meaningful one. It’s a small wooden star pin, adorned with the number “1” and embellished with jewels. What makes it so special?  It was made by a Special Olympics Athlete.