With a few months training behind us, our hotel room was booked and our bags were practically packed. My wife and I were headed to Buffalo, New York to run Rapid Running's Buffalo Half-Marathon. Then, just nine days before the June 30 race date, the unthinkable occurred: Rapid Running cancelled the race.
Well, to be entirely accurate, Rapid Running "indefinitely postponed" its race, a phrase that (for now) has allowed the company to retain the entry fees of approximately 2,000 entrants according to it policies.
Reasons for the postponed being kicked around by local Buffalo news outlets and online running forums range from a lack of race sponsors to issues with acquiring enough police for road closures.
Rapid Running claims that it is moving its race to the fall to accommodate a larger field of runners, yet it is still unclear if this will even happen.
Whatever the reason, Rapid Running's credibility as a company is highly questionable, with thousands of jaded entrants like myself wondering if the whole thing wasn't some elaborate scam to take our money and run (follow the story and you'll see what I mean).
It isn't the $200 in lost entry fees that concerns me. It certainly isn't that I won't be spending my precious vacation time in lovely Buffalo next weekend that has me in an uproar. No, Rapid Running has taken something far greater from me.
In a world with increasingly little to look forward to, running has long been my escape from the stresses of work and home.
When I'm running, the economy isn't collapsing.
When I'm running, the governor isn't attacking my pension.
When I'm running, the world is a simpler place.
Rapid Running injected the purest thing in my life with the corruption and incompetency of the outside world.
Luckily, you can always go home again.
Upon learning of the Buffalo Half-Marathon's postponement, my wife and I entered the Pine Beach 5k last Sunday. Well-organized, lively, and full of great people, the event helped me let go of the disappointment Rapid Running had brought me.
Hundreds of runners line-up at the giant inflatable starting arch before taking to the streets of Pine Beach on a beautiful, sunny morning. Prior to and after the race, Vista Park was hopping with vendors, musical performances, and free food from Outback Steakhouse.
The Pine Beach 5k wasn't the first time local road races have impressed me. As a member of the Ocean Running Club, I've competed in dozens of events - from Jingle-bell Runs to Winter Series races at Ocean County Park to Summer Series races through the paths of Winding River Park.
Every time, whether the conditions be icy, rainy, or smoldering, the volunteers and organizers of these local races come through.
My wife and I have competed in the Rock 'n' Roll marathon series, as well as the Philadelphia and New York marathons. While being part of those events is incredible in its own right, there's something about lining up on familiar roads with familiar people that makes running local special.
Each Tuesday, Ocean Running Club's Summer Series 5k starts at 6:45 p.m. at Winding River Park. I intend to be at the starting line. And while its a long-shot, I've sent an invite to Rapid Running's race director to come down to Toms River and see how to get it right.