What a weekend, what an event! The 2014 edition of Team Owen/New Bedford Half Marathon was one for the ages. Just an incredible experience. Mere words cannot adequately express the joy an amazement that was felt and witnessed by all. I will try my best to summarize what this weekend meant for Team Owen.
Team Owen has been in existence since my first Western States 2010 experience. Since then, Team Owen has steadily grown and spread its message of positivity. We believe in attraction rather than promotion and we feel it works quite well for us. Since 2010, Team Owen has steadily grown into what it is today. A big ol group of positive people looking to spread awareness and find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. And we also run to honor and remember that one little special boy, Owen, who has and continues to inspire and change lives. And this year was our biggest edition to date. This year would also be extra special because Heather, Andy and Adyn would be expecting a bouncing baby girl named Drew.
This winter had been particularly brutal in terms of running conditions. Cold, snow, ice and wind reeked havoc on everybody's training regimen. But every Sunday through January and February, Team Owen had their weekly training runs in spite of the conditions. Every weekend we had at least 20 to 30 runners braving the conditions and running for a cause. Tougher than a two dollar steak Team Owen is. It was not easy but nothing in life worth doing is ever easy! Every week we were meeting new team members who wished to join Team Owen. Lots of new friends, lots of new SMA warriors. And lots of returning Team Owen warriors!
My good friend Uncle Russ "Katman" Katearle came through, supplying Team Owen with our running gear. We sold dozens of new shirts and sold over 100 winter beanie hats. Also the new sweatshirts were a big hit. We could't keep anything in stock but my friend was always there if we needed something. Three cheers for Uncle Russ.
I was also challenged by the Gambler Kenny Rogers that if I raised a certain amount of money, I would wear a Tutu during the half marathon. Well I figured it's only my dignity at stake so what do have to lose. Time to unleash the Greek Columns lol. Well the amount was set at $5000.00 and we got close. I decided I would be a good sport and do it anyways.
And then we received some troubling news. Our beloved Gwendolyn Strong had become seriously ill and was in the hospital. For those who don't know, Gwendolyn is the daughter of Bill and Victoria Strong. Gwendolyn has type one SMA and is 6 years old. She is a special little girl and an amazing power of example. Gwendolyn is a fighter but with SMA, also quite vulnerable. Gwendolyn was in the hospital and was battling this dreaded disease. Per usual, her parents exhibited the usual grace, dignity and courage but were understandably worried. This disease is relentless and unforgiving but the Strongs continued to stare in the face of adversity and not blink. If you are looking for role models, look no further.
Slowly, amazingly, Gwendolyn started to get better. She continued to fight and press forward. Gwendolyn is simply amazing, a role model and power of example! I can only aspire to be as tough as this 6 year old little girl. And I say that with no hyperbole, she is as tough as they come. What I noticed is as I posted updates of little Gwendolyn, we seemed to get an uptick of people wanting to join Team Owen. Many were moved by the story of this special little girl.
In the beginning of March, original Team Owen Members and kick ass SMA warriors(Claudia and Gillian Sampson) put on a Team Owen Crossfit WOD at the New Bedford Crossfit Box. It was a great event and certainly an ass kicker. I know mine was kicked. Close to 70 people participated and approx. $1900.00 was raised during the event. A special thanks to Brad Cardoza for sponsoring and having us at the CFNB gym. As always, a special thank you to Gillian and Claudia. Two of the most selfless and helpful people I know. A bit crazy, but as good a friends as you can find! We are successful because we have friends like Claudia and Gillian in our lives!
A week before the half marathon, Heather gave birth to the beautiful Drew Simmons. We are all over joyed for Heather, Andy and Adyn. She is a beauty.
As the race weekend approached, the typical craziness ensued. Getting shirts to people, ordering more shirts, planning this and that. It was hectic but well worth it. I always worry, did I do enough? Will people show up? How will the race go? It is all unnecessary but nonetheless I fall victim to the worry trap too. What is too worry about, Team Owen will always come through.
The morning of race day was a glorious morning, a bit chilly and breezy, but the sun was brightly shining. Once again we would have great running conditions. Team Owen members were asked to arrive at approx. 1030am so we could take our picture on the library steps. And again I was amazed at the amount of people who started to filter in towards the steps. There were nothing but big laughs, big smiles and big hugs! The electricity and excitement was unbelievable. Other runners and spectators who were not part of Team Owen kept shooting glances our way probably thinking, "who are these bad asses and how do I join em." lol As we made our way to the library steps, a sense of pride and emotion took hold in me. I couldn't believe how many people were dressed in Owen Blue. I wanted to turn to the Team and address them but I was afraid I would get choked up. I guess I was chicken and didn't want to start blubbering lol. I really had a lump in my throat from seeing this amazing Team assembled. We had at least double the runners from years prior and there were still 50 or 60 Team Members who did not make the picture.
The gun was ready to go and this year I would have the honor and pleasure of running with my great friend, the lovely Lauren Lundy. For those who don't know, Lauren hails from NYC and is a SMA ass kicker bad ass. She is a champ and we are lucky to have her as a close friend. SMA sucks balls but I am grateful for the friendships I have gained. I am a better man for knowing people like Lauren.
The gun went off and we were on our way. Team Owen easily had over 200 runners this year. Everywhere you looked there was another blue shirt with angel wings on the back. I couldn't have been any happier. There would be no racing going on today, no personal bests to be attained. This would be a pageant run, a run to savor and enjoy. This run was so much fun and the Tutu was a hit to say the least. We had a great time. It was great hearing the little kids on the sidelines giggling and laughing, look the man has a tutu on. The New Bedford Half Marathon 2014 edition was a huge success.
Once the race was over, we headed to Buster's Bar and Grill for our after race party. This event was another smash and was well attended. Lots of laughs and lots of good times shared with good friends. Thank you to Mark Stone for providing the venue for this years party.
In the 4 years Team Owen has been in existence it has continually grown. It has taken hold in our city and we are so grateful for the support. But I feel Team Owen has become something more, something greater, something special. This year we estimate that we have or will have raised approx. $20,000 for the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. Our grand total of monies raised will be approx. $95,000 in just 4 years. There is now a SMA awareness in our community which didn't exist 4 years ago. Team Owen HAS become something more. Maybe it doesn't need to be explained. Whatever it is, I hope it continues. Because with Team Owen, there is HOPE. And HOPE is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
ing to inspire!
On behalf of Andy, Heather, Adyn and Drew we thank you for all your support