The Magic of JesVic – No Train Can Bring it Down!

It’s unbelievable to me that in just over a week, JesVic will be happening again.

Last year was the first time this charity 5K race and walk occured, and after the day was over the co-coordinator, Suzie, and I knew it was something so healthy for the community that it had to become annual. Now we’ve found ourselves neck deep and in control of one of the biggest charity events this town has ever seen.  It’s freakin overwhelming.

What if the timers malfunction?  What if we don’t recruit enough volunteers?  What if there’s a glitch in the registration?  What if a train goes through in the middle of the race?

Don’t laugh – That last one almost became reality last year.  We cleared a time slot with the train company during which we were assured the tracks would be clear so no runners or walkers would get cut off.  Half-an-hour before the race began, as Suzie and I and about thirty volunteers fluttered about, a contact I’ve known for a few years from the train station called my cell to say that there was an overnight accident on the tracks, and as a result a train could very well run through the middle of our race.

I experienced about twenty seconds of pure horror after that.  Everything was running perfectly smooth until this one glitch, and it could be the difference between a success and a flop. After working so hard on this event, planning it to the very last detail, it could fall apart just like that. By the time those twenty seconds were up though, I had accepted that it was out of my hands.  Who could stop a train?  Certainly not me, so all we could do was announce at the start of the race what the predicament was, state our disclaimer that we as directors did all that we could do on our end, and plead them not to race the train if they saw it coming.

To my slight embarassment there were some snickers after this announcement, but mostly I was relieved to know that people were not furious that their race may be hampered by something so ridiculous.  And hampered it would have been; the first time the course crossed the tracks was over a bridge, but the second time there was no bridge, and it was about 400 meters from the finish of the race.  A train would cause a build up of runners on the far side of the tracks, and after the train had gone by, 400 meters would not provide much time for these runnres to spread apart.  Not only that, but they would be rested from the wait and would most likely be sprinting as quickly as any train could go towards the finish, and it would be up to the finishing chute workers to organize the barrage of runners in the correct order and not miss a time for any of them…a time that would have been skewed by the train wait anyway.

Stop!  Stop thinking about this!  Just start the race and hope for the best!

The gun sounded; the racers were off.  Watching the 300 participants bound from the line – some less bounding and more creeping – was nothing less than magical and almost as touching as the 30 volunteers who showed up to work at the race.  Train-track related stress subsided, and I allowed myself to soak in the magic.

You see, this was a charity event.  Within the past two years, two women from our community had passed away to cancer, Jessica Wade and Vicki Hitesman, and this race was in honor of them. How many people showed up to race, walk, volunteer or spectate was a true testament to the people that Jessica and Vicki were.

Most of those men and women who took off from the starting line and were now heading down Main Street weren’t thinking much about a train, I realize now.  They were thinking about Jess and Vicki, and how special it was to be a part of this.

There ended up being no train problem at all.  My contact from the station called me a few days later to let me know that someone may have done us a favor anyway – that for some mysterious reason, there was a train held up in the next town over.  When my friend had called the head honchos of the train company to ask them to hold the engine for us though, they had laughed at him.

The race went off without a hitch.  The race raised $6,400 in its inaugural year, and it was donated to the Evangelical Community Hospital hospice program and to local families dealing with cancer and medical bills.

With one week and a day to go until the second JesVic, there are more than enough stresses going through my mind at any given moment.  Mostly though, I’m excited to watch 300 people come off the line again, and hopefully more.  I’m pumped to watch all the volunteers show up, because last year we had them coming out of the woodwork, and every one of them went above and beyond to make the event a success.  I can’t wait to see the community pull together to celebrate the lives of some very much loved individuals who have passed before us.

Breath, Shannon, Breath. Control what you can.  Forget everything else.

One week and a day to go, and train or no train, there will be a day of celebration and comeradrie.  I think that’s what’s most important.

Writer’s Note: If you are interested in racing or walking in JesVic 2008, taking place on Saturday, June 7, please email me at smhoffma@bloomu.edu, or check out the site at http://myweb.bloomu.edu/smhoffma/index.htm.

Additional note: The course has been planned to go in the reverse direction this year, so as to get the train tracks over with in the beginning.  If we hear a train coming, the race can be delayed a few minutes.

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