On Monday night, Esther Atkins published a great article that explained, from the participating athlete’s perspective, why the Jacksonville Half was such a special race. She highlighted three points: participants came for the love of the sport over personal glory; the benefits to performance of helping or being helped; and the positive buzz surrounding the whole endeavor. Everything that Esther Atkins writes about was what intrigued me about this race from go.
Back in October, when I heard about the plans, I immediately reached out to Richard Fannin, who had never met me, never heard of me, had no idea what I was doing, but asked me to give him a call to talk about it on the spot. While we chatted it was obvious how passionate he was for the sport and how committed he was to pulling his crazy plan off. Maybe because he could tell I shared his passion or probably just because he’s really nice, within minutes of making my acquaintance I had an invitation to Jacksonville. Having never covered a race, having hardly traveled since having kids, having absolutely no idea what to expect, I jumped. I didn’t know why at the time; I’m usually cautious about these things, but my gut made me do it.
Esther does spectacular work explaining why Jacksonville was a special race for those elite and subelite runners who raced there, but maybe you’re left wondering why you should care about Jacksonville. Heck, you might be wondering why we went to Jacksonville.
We didn’t go to Jacksonville to rub elbows with running legends or rising stars. We didn’t go to promote ourselves. We didn’t go to provide race play-by-play or to report on stats (we’ll leave that to Fannin). We didn’t go as fangirls. We didn’t go because it was easy for us to get there (it wasn’t).
Why did we go to Jacksonville?
We went to Jacksonville to report back to you what actually happened.
There was a lot of hype about the magic that was going to go down in Jacksonville! I believed in Richard Fannin’s mission. Ok, I was in love with the idea of athletes helping athletes, potentially sacrificing personal glory, money, maybe even their own training’s needs to help their fellow athletes achieve a dream, but would this – no – could this possibly happen? Would top athletes back out? Would anyone actually qualify? Would something as lame as the weather ruin it? Would everyone be as cool with working together as we hoped? Would there be a pack and if so, would it wield any power?
We went to Jacksonville to meet the people behind it,
particularly the people who defy convention to pursue their dreams, dreams that don’t promise much money or more than small-pond fame. Dreams, the pursuit of which for many, require being the “weird runner lady” on the PTA or the twenty-something who often feels like she’s blowing off her friends in the name of training. Pursuing these dreams often means putting off bread-winning or being the underachiever of the family because the athlete must put off a career in the name of pursuing athletic excellence. And for the veteran athletes, pursuing these dreams often means learning to accept a once almost-invincible body’s increasing limits, which is to risk failure or worse, being labeled “washed up.” Why do they do it? Why do we?
We went to Jacksonville to learn.
For years we ran Salty Running as a hobby, as a place to share our thoughts about running and to allow other smart, serious women runners to share their thoughts too. That was great, but it was safe and was something quite short of excellence. Recently, we decided it was time to go all-in, to make Salty Running into something more, something much closer to excellence. We don’t want to simply talk amongst ourselves, we want to change the conversation about running by bringing the voice of these smart, serious women runners to the fore. That means it’s time to learn more about the sport, to expand our horizons, to connect to other like-minded spirits, and to intensely seek inspiration. If we want Salty Running to be great, we need to seek out greatness and learn from it.
We went to Jacksonville to bring you in-depth coverage of the women’s race.
So often, race coverage is of the men’s race, giving the women’s race a line or two or maybe just a footnote. Don’t get me wrong, the men are great. I met some very inspiring men in Jacksonville and was just as excited for the qualifiers and disappointed for those that nearly missed as I was for the women in those same positions. It’s not that the men don’t deserve coverage or that the women are more deserving of coverage. It’s that women also deserve coverage. Their stories are compelling and you better believe they train and race as hard as the men! And, as many of you are also competitive women runners, maybe you’ll feel me when I say that I’m personally more interested in their racing. I relate to them more, which inspires me to perform better myself.
We went to Jacksonville because we believed the sportsmanship, the true nature of competition, the power of the pack, the magic, the specialness of this race could extend beyond mile 13.1.
We went to Jacksonville to bring all of that back to you.