Throughout the year, I have been working on this fundraiser as my Americorps VITSA project for The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, and gaining a substantial amount of knowledge about professionally putting together a fundraiser, mental wellness, and, most importantly, the overall goodness of people and their desire to do good for others.
For the 2011 race, the New England weather decided to dump all its leftover rain onto Manchester, New Hampshire to create perfect running conditions…for ducks. For months, we all crossed our fingers for sun for the 2012 race. What we got were temperatures that soared into the 90s.
With some quick thinking, we put in a second water stop, a sprinkler system, and a hose at the end of the chute that participants could spray themselves off with. Personally, I wasn’t expecting too many people to come out in that kind of heat. Boy, was I wrong.
Not only did people come to register race day, but they showed up with smiles on their faces and a positive attitude, ready to take on whatever was thrown their way. They were happy to wear their neon and support something they saw as an important cause – to provide charitable care for the clients of MHCGM, to reduce stigma around mental illness, and to highlight the importance of all aspects of wellness.
We had a banner by the registration tables that read, “I run for mental health because…” and allowed people to write in their own answers. Here are a few responses that were given:
“For my friend”
“My family suffers from mental illness and addiction, and we appreciate your support.”
“It affects everyone.”
“I want to remember my brother.”
“I want to stop stigma.”
“I have bipolar and it doesn’t run my life, I run it.”
I found this as powerful proof of the belief in our cause.
Though running around on the course for most of the actual race, I was pleasantly astounded at how many people genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves, despite the heat and despite the challenging course.
One story from the race, in particular, stuck with me. The volunteer placed near the last brutal uphill climb spotted a participant who seemed to be near the end of his rope. Our volunteer did his best to cheer him on, assuring him that the finish was not far. The runner, looking fatigued and more than ready to be done looked up, and with little reluctance in his voice, said, “Don’t let this grimace of death or all this sweat fool you. I’m actually a runner from Kenya,” and, with that, chuckled and chugged his way to the finish.
I don’t know what his reasons were for signing up for our race, or if he knew what he was in for, but the fact that he persevered with a positive attitude and a good sense of humor, makes me truly believe in people’s desire to do good.
Simply put, people are awesome. People want to do good. People will show up on a 90 degree day to a 5k with a course that is renowned as being one of the toughest in the country to run or walk and time after time prove their compassion.
Thank you everyone who participated through running, walking, volunteering, cheering, and donating. You are an inspiration, and have truly made my year in New Hampshire a memorable one.
For more pictures of the event, visit the results page or our facebook page.