Pizza Pals – Photo Credit Mike Wheeler
The highest compliment you can get from my mother is if she recognizes you as a “hard worker”. Besides sitting with his brother Bill for a game of cribbage once a week, or taking his “ten’er” (a ten minute nap on the floor sans blanket), my grandpa Frank rarely sat still. Sure he’d enjoy a sunny Saturday afternoon; by weeding, landscaping, burning a pile of leaves, painting, maintaining or fixing something. At some point after Cheri and I got together, Cheri was recognized by my mother as a “hard worker”, read; she would be a good one to marry (and it turned out to be true, she was). My Mom and Dad are hard workers, you wouldn’t believe how much they do behind the scenes for the races each year (my Mother In Law too). I have been a “hard worker” my whole life. This is not to brag in the least, in some ways it is to compensate. Dropping out of high school and lacking a formal education, I have always made up for it through my capacity to work. I also recognized early on in life that there was a peace that came over me when I worked, especially doing manual labor or in the service of others. After a rocky couple of years in my teens I was sent to live with my uncle for a while. The first day there I stacked wood, the next day I hauled stones, the next day I learned to run a chainsaw. My uncle measured running routes with the odometer in his car, and I ran them (this was well before GPS watches). My uncle intuitively knew the power of being active and its power to heal. This is all in part why I have been attracted to the work I have done throughout my life (construction, forestry, even race directing) and what attracted me to running and other endurance sports. All of these modalities allow me to get out of my own head and bring me a sense of peace and contentment. My work, all of our work, brings even more fulfillment when it is done in service to others, and by no means does it have to be grandiose. Most of the work that each of us does, whether it is our day job, volunteerism or hobbies either directly serves, peripherally serves or at a minimum allows us to be a good example for others. I encourage you to keep this in mind as you go about your daily work, so you may be of the greatest service to your fellow humans and so that you may attain the greatest sense of contentment and satisfaction.
These traits are certainly not exclusive to me or my immediate family, I recognize them in all of you, my chosen extended family – in fact I believe it is one of the primary things that has brought us and keeps us together. People like us are happiest and at our best when we have purpose. I often say that volunteering at an ultra is just a camping trip with a mission, we would get antsy otherwise. By no means am I fetishizing work, virtue signaling, or leisure shaming; don’t get me wrong, I like to kick back as much as the next person and balance is important. Catch me in the right situation and I will sit with a couple of pals at a coffee shop for a few hours, sit around a fire after a run, sleep in, etc. But, as most of you have gathered over the years, most of my friendships and activities revolve around work and service because that is where I spend most of my time. Since my mid to late 20’s I have been very fortunate to choose the work I do and who I do it with. Whether it is the races, my other job(s) or endurance sports, they are all a lot of work, and all are a lot of fun, or at least they can all be made to be fun (the importance of framing and perspective). So, take it for what it’s worth, I guess one of the higher compliments you can get from me is if I ask you to work alongside me – we are all a product of our environment (thanks Mom, uncle Dick and grandpa Frank). Many of my best friendships and fondest memories revolve around these races, the trails, serving others and serving each other. I am grateful for the opportunity and I am grateful for you.
A few weeks ago, before I had told folks about doing pizza at Zumbro, I sent a text message to Christine and Sam… “Would the two of you like to come over and make pizza for Cheri and I”? OK, I know that is one really strange invitation. At first it was quiet, then I received a couple of funny and sarcastic comments (don’t let Christine fool you, her tongue is sharper than her axe), then it was quiet again. A couple of days later I sent them another message, “you guys, I am serious, I have stuff to make pizza, would you like to come over?” They did, and they made pizza for Cheri and I, and on Saturday they helped scale that up to feed over 750 hungry runners and volunteers. By 7:30PM on Saturday the race had ended, most everything was packed back into the trucks and trailers. Christine, Sam, Kevin and a bunch of my family members (including my Mother) had already made pizzas throughout a long day, and there Christine and Sam were still pumping out pizzas for the handful of volunteers that remained, working hard, serving others… happy, peaceful and content.
I am honored to do this work with you. I am humbled that you continue to choose to do this work with me. Our running community is grateful for your service.
Zumbro Endurance Run
PS. My Mom said that there were a lot of hard workers at the race – don’t let it go to your head.