Running has been a way of life for me for a long time now—one I inherited from my father, a career Marine and accomplished marathoner who ran the Boston Big One back in the ‘80s in under three hours.

I’ve been fortunate to marry a fellow runner who, like me, enjoys four seasons New England running; and to have a couple brothers and a sister who tackle all sorts of outdoor fitness activities.  A couple weeks ago, three of us competed in the Tuckerman’s Inferno Pentathlon, which involved running, kayaking, cycling, hiking and skiing your way across 38 miles of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.

That’s our idea of fun on the weekend!

I enjoy running for lots of reasons:  It’s great exercise; I do some of my best thinking on long runs; it’s a wonderful way to meet friends and explore the countryside or a new city; I can eat pretty much whatever I want; I sleep better; all I need is a good pair of shoes; and the list goes on…

A few years ago, I started the President’s Running Club at NECC (our motto: “We run the campus!”)  The club is open to all students, faculty, and staff at the college, and to all kinds of runners.

Each semester, we get together at least once a week to socialize, run laps around the campus (at different speeds for different runners), and prepare for a 5K race.

For new runners we have our “Couch to 5K” group, coached by NECC Chief Information Officer Jeff Bickford, and other groups are formed based on the interests and abilities of the runners who show up.

Oh, and if you can’t actually show up, you can download the PRC App and check yourself in and out online (we’ll take your word for it).

Today, thanks to the members of the President’s Running Club, I was reminded of one other big reason I’m a runner: It brings out the best in everyone.

Fourteen PRC members who began the semester looping the campus in January’s snow and frigid temperatures ran the 5th Annual Step Up for Colleen 5K in Andover today, a scholarship fundraising event and memorial for Colleen Ritzer, a lifelong Andover resident and former Math teacher at Danvers High School who passed away in 2013.

NECC’s team included Abdoulfatah Abdillahi, Oscar Azaret, Jeff Bickford, Jacqueline Dick, Pam Donahue, Logan Foster, me, Margaret Glenn, Catherine Greene, Al Hitchcock, Dave McAskill, Laura Mondt, Niris Ortiz, and Sue Tashjian.

At the starting line with President’s Running Club members Lane Glenn, Margaret Glenn, Dave McAskill, Logan Foster, Oscar Azaret, Jeff Bickford, and Pam Donahue.

 

Logan Foster, an NECC student majoring in Computer Science, finished 8th place overall in just over nineteen minutes; about sixty seconds ahead of fellow student Abdoulfatah (Abdou) Abdillahi.

The rest of us, um, came along afterward.

But this race, like many races our club runs, wasn’t really about competition and who came in first.  It was about fitness for a good cause, camaraderie, enjoying the outdoors, and the best that everyone there (over 3,000 runners and probably just as many spectators) had to offer.

Here are just a few of the inspiring sights and sounds from today’s run:

  • Express yourself with a splash of color: Each year, thousands of racers in the Step Up for Colleen 5K wear pink shirts to create an enormous “Sea of Pink” in honor of the town’s beloved schoolteacher who lived by the motto, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”  That joyous, colorful spirit caught on in the crowd, too, where you could find spectators in pink tutus, pink raincoats, pink business suits, and even a few dogs in pink canine capes.
  • Music matters: From bouncy pop DJ’d by race sound engineers Evolvement Music at the starting line, to excited children blowing horns and clanging bells up and down the sidewalks, to an honest-to-goodness live Dixieland band trumpeting inspiration at the halfway point, races like these offer a soundtrack as good as any playlist on your iPod.
  • Everyone’s in on it: Race spectators are the best!  Especially when they are lining up family and friends to set up pit stops and serve water and Gatorade to sweaty runners at the end of their driveways, dressed in funny costumes and waving cheerful signs.
  • A twelve-minute mile is just as far as a six-minute mile: Most runners are a friendly, encouraging lot, and all along the streets and trails of Andover, no matter how fast they were going, you could hear them urging each other on—up hills, through the rain, down the last mile, and across the finish line.

And when you have friends and encouragement like that, you can run through anything.

At the finish line with President’s Running Club members Laura Mondt, Catherine Greene, Logan Foster, Margaret Glenn, Lane Glenn, Oscar Azaret, Dave McAskill and Abdoulfatah Abdillahi.