As a Georgia girl, I certainly enjoy my share of country music. One song that always sticks in my mind is by Aaron Tippin who sings, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” Released in 1991, it became an anthem for Gulf War soldiers who were looking for purpose and meaning during a mission that put their lives in danger half a world away from their families and friends.
While most of us will never know the pressure of a war zone, it is certain that we all look for meaning in our own lives and a purpose larger than ourselves that provides a solid groundwork for our actions and beliefs. As runners, we’re frequently asked why we do what we do and what kind of wacko signs up to run distances that most people rarely want to travel, even in their cars?
While we can all conjure up various reasons from better health to simple love of beer, I still believe that most runners I know simply run because they love the challenge and they see a purpose so much bigger than themselves. We see running as a way to not only control a portion of our lives, but also to validate our ability to tackle other more complicated issues that naturally arise over the years. Running relieves stress, works off excitement and provides comfort in demonstrating that our minds are in many ways much stronger than our bodies. So if you ask me what I stand for, I might simply say, I stand for not sitting. I stand for running.
I stand for not sitting by and waiting for life to come to you. Run to it! I stand for getting involved, getting to know people, learning, growing, travelling and discovering. Run for it! I stand for a community of runners that are doing the very same thing in communities all across America. I am awed by the running community here in Colorado Springs alone that does such mind blowing work that stretches so far beyond the confines of a track or trail.
This year, I’ve again had the pleasure of joining the PikesPeakSports.us Triple Crown Runners, also known as the Mighty Marmots. This group, led by the incredible Tim Bergsten, has hands in almost every philanthropic organization in town. Its team members are pulled together from business owners, athletes, politicians and citizens from all walks of life. Tim rallies this group and serves as a beacon for progress as well as being a tireless advocate for progress and reform. He runs after ideas with a purpose and passion rarely found in others. Therefore, I stand for Marmots!
I joined the Project Purple team this year and plan to run the Denver Marathon with this truly unique group in October. Project Purple hardly sits by and watches as pancreatic cancer continues to claim over 40,000 lives per year. Led by the legendary Tonia Smith, a local pancreatic cancer survivor and accomplished ultra-runner, they are people who incorporate an important mission into the relatively simple act of running. In doing so, they continue to make running bigger than the actual act itself. They stand for action and the refusal to accept tragedy as an inevitable curse. I stand with them, or more appropriately, I stand for RUNNING with them to raise awareness and provide support that will hopefully one day eradicate this horrible disease.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with John O’Neill from Colorado Running Company on and off over the last several years and am always impressed that under his tough and sarcastic exterior lies a man so devoted to runners and more deeply to all people in helping them find purpose, direction and motivation through exercise. His down-to-earth leadership and generosity is seemingly endless and I’m proud to say I stand for continuing to frequent his business as my small way to contribute to his overall positive influence in our community.
I stand for Mountain Equipment Recyclers, owned by Mike Mazzola, who advertises his business as “Outdoor Gear with a Greater Cause”. For every donated item to the store, Mountain Equipment Recyclers donates 50% of the sale to local non-profits. For every consigned item sold, 5% of the sale is given to the same organizations. With this policy, a donated or consigned item, whether it is a $10 shirt, or a $1,000 bike, benefits a local non-profit. In this manner, Mountain Equipment Recyclers has managed to donate over $53,000 for numerous military and non-profit partners such as Project Sanctuary, Home Front Cares and the local Trails and Open Space Coalition. I stand for the passion and dedication that this business exudes.
While I could likely write an entire epic novel on the organizations and individuals in this town who truly stand for progress, thought, growth and generosity, these are a few from the running community that stand out in my mind. It is these people and actions that drive what I do and inspire me to be more than a wilting passenger in the fleeting days I’ll have on this earth. I stand for running, I stand for movement of both body and mind and I stand for not just working to make your life better, but making your life better through working for causes that matter.
I stand for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, where my kids and I volunteer each week facilitating adoptions and providing care to the animals. I stand for Court Appointed Special Advocates for children (CASAs), where I volunteer to help end child dependency and neglect. I stand for being aware, focusing your strengths and learning how to apply your talents where they are most needed.
It’s this idea that I hope to pass on to my children by continuing to encourage them to volunteer, get involved and simply care about their surroundings and the people that make up their community. I hope that every time they see me run, they see much more than a goofball in a skirt and running shoes. I hope they see me STAND.