From the Worldwide Faith News archives

A (flickering) torch is passed

Date 21 Jun 2002 08:17:15 -0400

Note #7314 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


A (flickering) torch is passed

BOP's 5K 'fun' run bruises far more than the feet

by Jerry Van Marter

COLUMBUS, OH - The beginning of the end burst into view when my 10-year-old son, Luke, announced that he wanted to participate in the 7th annual Board of Pensions 5K Run/Walk/Roll.

I long ago gave up trying to match my spouse, Eva Stimson, stride-for-stride. She runs or swims nearly every day, after all, while my own exercise regimen consists of flexing my elbow often enough to keep my favorite beverage flowing down my throat.

I'm used to finishing second in my family in BOP's annual "fun run." But the prospect of being reduced to third was almost too much. Fortunately, Luke's twin sister Rachel is not a morning person and couldn't be bothered.

Neither, apparently, could BOP president Rob Maggs. Rob, a real trooper if there ever was one, has been present each year to greet "fun run" participants and then stroll leisurely around the course. When Frank Maloney, the accomplished stroller who's the BOP's executive vice president, greeted this year's gaggle of Presbybirds in the wilderness, I asked Karen Babik where Rob was.

"He's having terrible problems with his feet," she explained. "Well, duh," I replied, "in another half-hour I will, too." I missed Rob and hope his foot problems will clear up soon.

Another seven-year veteran I'll miss is Paul Stavrakos, a tireless runner who's retiring from the BOP staff at the end of this year. Before the race began, he asked race organizer Bernie Carey if there was a special category for the "near-retired." Consistently helpful, Bernie said "no." I appreciated her consistency, as she had also said "no" when I asked if there was a category for "staggerers."

Anyway, there we were, in the near-pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning, lined up and ready by the banks of the pungent Scioto River. Luke, God love him, was determined to keep up with the front-runners. As one who considers mere survival victory, I was amused.

High-tech has found the BOP "fun run," as well. Sue Montgomery, a gutsy racer who used to show up in a Delta airport-ramp vintage wheelchair with mega-thick gloves to protect her hands, rolled up to the starting line in a racing chair that looked straight out of Star Wars pod race. Sue got a two-minute head start, which I sure could have used.

As usual for me, the "race" was anti-climactic. Eva left me behind early on. Luke kept up with the front-runners for about half-a-mile. I caught up with him at the 1-mile marker and we half-jogged, half-walked the rest of the way.

I was thrilled to see another of my favorite "regulars," Judy Freyer - the BOP's financial wizard - setting a brisker pace than usual. With the market still in the dumper, she was unencumbered this year by the electronic devices she ALWAYS carries to keep up with stock prices. She set her personal-best time, just 294 points behind some guy named Dow Jones.

As we neared the 2.5-mile marker, I shared my winning strategy with Luke: save just enough so that when the end comes into view you can charge across the finish line, looking like you could keep going all day if you had to. 

I wish I had shared my strategy with Luke AFTER the race - when he broke into his finishing kick, I had to sprint like a fleeing suspect to finish in a tie for second in our family race.
So every bone in my body aches ... but my ego's in tact until next year's 8th annual. See you in Denver.
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