When I was growing up my mom frequently told me, “Charity begins at home.” She usually told me this when I would refuse to share a book or a toy with my brother but then turn around and share that very item with a friend or classmate. It was my mom’s way of reminding me that I needed to take care of my family first before I tried to take care of others.
It’s a lesson that has taken some time to sink in, honestly. For years I donated money to a nonprofit organization that provided food for needy people in the Caribbean. I didn’t really think twice about it – food is important to me and after all, needy people are needy people and it doesn’t matter where there are, does it? Or does it?
A few years ago I sat through a United Way presentation. And one of the statistics cited in the presentation really struck a chord in me. The statistic? One in four people in our county used one or more of the services provided by United Way agencies in our county. Imagine that. If you go out to lunch with three coworkers, chances are that one of the four of you are receiving services from a United Way agency.
Of course, not all services provided by a United Way agency are for those in need. If you belong to the YMCA and go there to use the gym or to play pick-up basketball games, you’re using a service provided by a United Way agency.
Even with that explanation, the statistic of one in four really hit a nerve. I attended a United Way presentation again in fall 2011 and discovered that the statistic had changed to one in three, likely due to the economic situation in our country. One in three.
While Americans in our own country, our own states, our own communities are suffering from homelessness, hunger, and health issues, we seem to be intent on sending our own contributions anywhere but here in America. We seem especially focused on Africa.
I don’t understand this. While I’m glad that the spirit of giving and volunteerism is alive and well in America, even in these tough economic times, why are we sending our donations of money, items, and our time overseas? If charity begins at home, then why aren’t we taking care of our fellow Americans first?
The days leading up to the inaugural Edinburgh Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon 2012 were overcast with scattered showers. The weather reports predicted cold temperatures (1° C) and chilly winds with chance of scattered showers for race morning. So, of course, race day dawned sunny with not a cloud in the sky and, although a bit nippy, just the barest of breezes sweeping through the starting area in Holyrood Park.
The expo was set up in the park, right where the finish festivities – concerts and awards presentation – would take place after the race. Because of the open setup, everything was in tents. The bib and chip tent was off to the left and the t-shirt and gear bag tent was straight on so most people began by queuing in the t-shirt/gear bag line. I think better signage would be helpful in the future. Or another suggestion would be to have a big tent that starts with bib/chip pickup then flows to t-shirt/gear bag pickup and then flows to the souvenir store.
I mention the souvenir tent because I also almost missed it. The souvenir tent was a compact affair with the sample items hanging on the walls with signs indicating sizes and prices. Easy enough, right? Not if you’re queued up behind a half-dozen Italians who needed to see all the sizes available for all the items. And then, as one bought an item, another one would see it and want one just like it. Only in a different size, of course. So then the clerk would have to pull out all the sizes again while trying to wrap up the first transaction. Repeat six times before it was finally my turn.
All I wanted was my usual commemorative t-shirt plus a beanie cap. The t-shirt has become my tradition at races away from home – because sometimes a finisher’s t-shirt isn’t appropriate attire. The beanie cap was for the weather. Although I packed an assortment of Bondi Bands which could be pulled down over my ears, given the dire weather warnings on the BBC, I wasn’t sure they would be sufficient. By buying that beanie cap, I took my first step toward breaking my cardinal rule of racing.
Gear acquired, I headed back to the hotel, stopping to buy a bacon roll from one of the food vendors. I promised myself another such roll after the race. Mmm…good incentive.
The night before the race, I listened to the weather report again. The report said frosty and windy and chances of showers. I considered my planned race outfit. I watched another weather report. I looked at my race outfit again.
The road to hell is paved with broken rules, right? My cardinal rule for races is that you don’t wear race swag until you’ve earned it. If I broke my rule for this race, who knew what other evil acts I was capable of committing?
I tried on the race t-shirt. Not the cotton one I bought at the souvenir store but the tech t-shirt given to all registered runners during packet pickup. It fit perfectly. My long-sleeved shirt went on top. I waffled but the next weather report convinced me – I needed the layer. And the beanie cap.
As noted earlier, race day weather was gorgeous – chilly for sure but I could have survived without the extra layer. And probably the beanie cap, too. Ah well, at least I was prepared for the worst weather.
If I needed a theme for this race, it would be “Chilly and Hilly.” A fellow runner I met on a day tour the day after the race commented that the hills only seemed to go up and never down.
That, of course, was a slight exaggeration. We had at least two nice long downhills – heading out of Holyrood Park into the City Centre and then the final mile back into Holyrood Park for the finish. Thank goodness the race directors weren’t cruel and didn’t plan an uphill finish.
The scenery went from residential to coastal to residential to park to city to park to city to park. Running along the sea wall took me by surprise – I didn’t expect us to be that close to the sea during the race. Lines from my favorite poem, Sea Fever by John Masefield, flitted through my head during those miles.
The residential areas were another surprise. Little clusters of people gathered here and there outside their houses to clap, smile, and offer words of encouragement. Since I’m a slow runner (just ahead of the 2:30 pace group through the first 2/3 of the race) the thought that people would spend a chunk of their Sunday morning cheering for strangers was quite heartening.
As usual, the race organizers set up entertaining bands and DJs at just the right spots. The volunteers on the race course were great about managing the traffic. There was a lot of waste, though.
Instead of cups of water and Gatorade at the hydration stations, they gave out bottles of water and Powerade. I thought that was great because I took a bottle of water at the first station and carried it until it was empty and then grabbed a Powerade bottle. But other people took a sip or two and then chucked their bottles. Or, even worse, they’d grab two bottles, take a couple of sips out of one and chuck it, and then do the same with the other bottle further down the road. It was especially sad to see 500 mL bottles of Powerade – almost full – chucked in the gutter.
I learned from fellow runners at a whisky tour a couple of days after the race that the bottled water and Powerade was likely in response to people getting sick from cups of city water at the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas event last December. I don’t know if they ever proved that the people who got sick actually got sick because of the water but apparently the Rock-n-Roll organization wasn’t taking any chances. It’s too bad that their cautiousness resulted in so much waste.
The end of the race was a fast downhill portion and when I turned towards Holyrood Park and the finish, I could hear the announcer greeting the runners as they covered the last bit of the distance. I made the final turn to the finish gate, looked up, and there she was – the little energetic blond from the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon. Microphone in hand, she cheered for the runners, exhorting them to smile, encouraging them as they took their last few steps to cross the finish line, and giving high-fives to everyone who swerved over to her.
As I’m writing this, I’m already looking forward to seeing her in October at the San Jose Rock-n-Roll half-marathon.