By Frank Murphy, RRCA Indiana State Representative
In 2017 I attended the 59th RRCA Annual Convention in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, I was a newly minted running coach and had just joined the board of directors for my local running club, Fort Wayne Running Club
. I was excited to attend the RRCA Convention and become better equipped to help people in my community progress in their running journeys.
One of the highlights of the RRCA Convention is the silent auction. Items are donated from all over the country to raise money to support RRCA initiatives. There are race entries, hotel packages, running gear, and so much more to bid on. It’s like shopping on Amazon, but a lot more fun … and a lot more competitive. If you really want something, you’ve got to watch it closely or someone will snipe you in the closing minutes.
One of the items I bid on were entries into the Houston Half/10k in Texas. While I live in Fort Wayne, IN, I do have family in the Houston area. I figured if I won these entries, I could send them to my dad and brother and maybe they’d walk the 10k. Neither of them had ever entered a road race, but they knew I was an avid runner. Maybe they’d be interested in seeing what all the fuss was about.
Surprisingly, I did win the auction. I sent the entries to Houston … and they weren't very excited with the idea. My initial thought was “oh well, I took a shot … at least it was for a good cause.” But then my older sister got wind of the opportunity and said she’d like to try the 10k … and that was enough to get my dad on board. Once that was settled, I realized I wanted to be there, too. So I decided to fly down to Houston and walk it with them … and that was enough to get my brother on board.
It was the perfect storm. The weather was gorgeous. The pre-race atmosphere was electric. The course was interesting. The volunteers were amazing. As my sister crossed the finish line, her name was read out over the loud speaker (and her last name was mispronounced) and total strangers were cheering for her. Someone draped a medal around her neck and she cried out several times, “this is my first medal!” She was overwhelmed by the finish line experience. And my dad finished third in his age group (80+).
As awesome as everything was that day, most remarkable was the sense of community among the participants. My family repeatedly commented on how friendly and encouraging everyone was. Despite being an out-of-towner, I knew these people ~ they were my tribe! And they made an amazing impression on my family.
And then my dad noticed some of the runners had medals that were even bigger than his. How did he so rapidly go from happy to get his own medal to jealous over someone else’s? He asked why, and I told him because they had ran further (the half marathon), so they got a different medal. He averred right then that he was going to do it again … and get the bigger medal next time.
And so after a whirlwind weekend in Houston, I returned to Fort Wayne. The seed had been planted and my family had changed. They wanted to be a bigger part of this running community.
Shortly thereafter, my sister signed up to run her first half marathon. My brother decided to join her. I drew up their first training plan, and they finished well. Several more races followed, and they were setting PRs on a regular basis. It was exciting and encouraging to watch their progress. My brother’s two sons and a friend of theirs started running, too. My sister’s daughter also started running.
Within six months of that first half, my brother and one of his sons completed their first full marathon. It didn’t take too much longer for my brother to complete his first 50k. Within nine months, my brother joined me in a 24-hour timed event, and we both finished with 66.7 miles. My dad also finished his first half marathon within that first year.
In February 2019, my family registered for the Jackalope Jam in Cat Spring, Texas. This is a timed event with 6/12/24/48/72 hour options. While each of us ran different events, we shared the course (a half mile stretch of dirt road in an out-and-back format) and got to encourage each other to do something we’d never done before. My sister and her daughter each completed their first full marathon. My 81 year old dad came so close to completing a 50k (30 miles!) and my brother’s son (17 years old) completed his first 50 miler. I completed my first 100 miler, and a close friend got to 122 miles. My brother? Well, he got 150 miles in 72 hours. My brother and I were blessed to run (well … walk, actually) the last few miles together. It was an amazing family weekend as we completed over 500 miles together!
It started with a random bid on a silent auction item at the RRCA Convention (I’m so glad that guy from Alabama finally stopped jacking the price up and let me win). And when my family met my running family, it sealed the deal. Thank you to every runner who has cheered for a stranger. Thank you to every runner who has encouraged someone in the back of the pack. Thank you to every runner who has humored a newbie’s silly questions. Thank you for breathing new life into my family.
And a very big and special thank you to the Houston Striders
for donating those entries to your event.