November 04, 2005

World Run Day

November 6 is World Run Day, “an international day of running and charity.” All over the globe, people will run (or not) and make donations to various charities. This year, the event has an option that lets you earmark your donation for Gulf Coast hurricane relief efforts.

Cruise Run Day’s website, to see how you can participate. Run in a sponsored race somewhere on the planet and your entry fee will help a local charity. Or, register yourself as a “virtual runner,” and, on November 6, go run around, time yourself, and send your results (and your donation) to Run Day, which will post them online. Or, if running’s not your thing but you’d like to join in the spirit of this “global fitness and charity challenge,” make a donation, grab a bag of organic whole-grain pretzels, and sit back and watch the runners’ results come in from around the world.

Running in itself is energizing, but running for or with a cause can unleash power you didn’t know you had. Runners can be intense, but runners on a mission are unstoppable. They will reach their finish lines, real and symbolic.

If you’re a marathoner, consider heading south in February to run for New Orleans. Bill Burke, director of the Mardi Gras Marathon, is determined to get the race on its feet in time for its planned February 5th running. Net proceeds will go toward rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. That's a cause worth running for. The route is being reworked and won’t be nailed down until Christmas, but some of the city’s best running terrain around Audubon Park and the Garden District is accessible and sure to be included.

I’ve met some runners with interesting personal causes. Ruthie (Ripley, believe it or not) from upstate New York set a goal for herself in 1995. Her mission? Run a marathon in each of the 50 U.S. states. In 2002, breast cancer slowed her down a bit, but it didn’t stop her. In October 2004, Ruthie crossed the finish line at a marathon in Colorado, her 50th state.

And Joanne from Phoenix, who’s vying for membership in the Seven Continents Club, a group of people who’ve run marathons on all seven continents. (Are there six or seven continents? Depends on whom you talk to.)

Joanne knocked off Asia with the Great Wall Marathon, one of the toughest 26.2-milers on the planet. (Look at the photo above and imagine running miles uphill along a pitted, pocked stone wall. Better brace those ankles. And I can tell you that the Great Wall has sections that are nonstop, killer staircases. Yikes! Pass the PowerGel – and the Tiger Balm!) Joanne checked off Africa by tackling the Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania. (Or was it the Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon, the one that calls itelf “The Original and Still the Best”?) Soon, she’s off to run a marathon along the Inca Trail between Cusco and Machu Picchu. And, she’s already got a spot in the next Antarctica Marathon.

If you’re interested in that one, you’d better get your name on a waiting list. The 2007 Antarctica Marathon is sold out, but Marathon Tours, a company that caters to people who see marathoning as a fine way to spend their vacation time, “is now accepting applications for 2008.”

I'd think twice (or three, four, five, six times...) before committing to that race because there’s a risk it'll be run at sea. I recall reading an article a few years back that described how the dozen or so people who’d come to Antarctica to run the marathon spent long, frigid, wind-whipped hours, heads down and bodies encased in GoreTex, plodding 26.2 miles worth of laps around the deck of their ship – a ship that was supposed to have delivered them to the world’s remotest continent but couldn’t because ice and storms made landfall impossible.
Forget Gatorade. I hope the ship's cook was able to line the deck with aid stations serving hot chocolate.

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