Sunday, September 13, 2015

Riding Off Into the Sunrise - Run for C.H.U.M. Half Marathon 2015

This race wasn't supposed to happen actually. We usually have a long break between July and October when we recover from any aggravations or start working on specific training like speed or core strength. But Susan is getting close to being A-List Preferred on Southwest which carries some really nice perks. Combine that with the long Labor Day weekend, a few friends in the Michigan area that we haven't seen in a long time and it was off to the Midwest we go! Of course, we can't travel to a state without checking if we've crossed it off our half marathon list. 

We drove from our hotel in Lansing about a half hour to the Dansville schools for bib pick up right at the 5:30 open. We had time to talk to Bonnie DePue, the center Director about the program. She was surprised to see people coming in from California so she was happy to give us a quick tour. 

Chum was actually the name of one of Bonnie's first therapy horses. From the C.H.U.M. pamphlet, learning how to ride a horse: "may challenge the body physically in balance, coordination and fine and gross motor skills as well. It is a sensory rich environment where all the senses are impacted. The riding lesson inherently works on attention span, task sequencing, problem solving, academia, self esteem and self concept." Clients include toddlers, seniors, disabled veterans and recreational riders. Later, Bonnie renamed the center Children & Horses United in Movement or C.H.U.M.

Susan with Daisy and Jack. At least I think that's them, they were too shy to say their names.

Bonnie brings Apollo to take a pre-race picture.

We had dinner at Bravo! Cucina off 127 and Lake Lansing with Susan's cousin and her two kids. This was the last weekend before the start of school in Michigan, so the kids spent a lot of time at the aquatic center before it closed for the season. With our 8 AM start and some warm temperatures this time of year in the Midwest, we hit the sack early.

The start line was well organized and parking at the schools was plentiful for the small crowd. It was just about 70 degrees at the 8 AM start and with a bunch of races coming up in the next 10 weeks, this was a 'just finish' race. We hit a good window in between summer downpours too. I remember Wisconsin weather did that a lot.

Bonnie delivered a 'runner's prayer' before the start. I didn't catch the whole thing, but it was a really nice touch. Looking through previous year's results, I noticed that participant's home cities aren't listed, maybe because there are very few who come from outside the county. The invocation gave the race a definite local feel.

Susan wore her Half Fanatics tank top. No one she talked to had any idea what it meant, so I'm guessing this is the official Half Fanatics picture.

The course was a really nice loop, well marked and had some beautiful rural scenery. About 2/3rds of it was on paved two lane roads in good condition and the rest was packed dirt road. There was even quite a bit of shade. The volunteer to participant ratio was probably close to 1:1 when you count the course monitors and aid stations. They had water and Gatorade at every station, Gu at mile 7 and lots of bright green vest on the volunteers so you knew where you were going.

Mile 1 on Mason Street
Some welcome shade at mile 3.

Yeah. That sign has nothing to worry about.

Passing by the C.H.U.M. Stable just before mile 4. The ATV's and volunteers were awesome.  
Coming out of the second stretch of dirt trail at mile 11 on the last turn toward the finish line.

The aid stations had a spirit contest. The folks at Station 5 (mile 11.5 or so) won and deservedly so. They were out the longest and were still cheering their hearts out. 
 The field for the half was actually quite a bit faster than we were used to seeing. The winner came in just over 76 minutes and other than a handful of the 75ish participants, most came in around 2:30. We know enough to make sure we race our own pace. Susan said she was thinking about part of the runner's prayer at the beginning as she was making coming down the last mile.

"We are all struggling equally. Lord, let me win, not by coming in ahead of my friends, but by being myself. Let it be an inner win, a battle won over me. I may, and may I say at the end, 'I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.'"

We had a noon checkout at the hotel, so we grabbed just a bit of the post-race hot breakfast (pancakes and syrup, scrambled eggs, bananas and bagels with cream cheese) before heading out. While I don't know how many out of towners would seek out this race, we'd definitely recommend it for locals and anyone swinging through Michigan who is looking to support a great cause. The fact that it falls on Labor Day Monday for the last three years makes for possible 3 race/3 state weekends if planned correctly.

Post-race/post-shower lunch was at Max & Erma's in the same shopping center we had dinner the night before. Nothing like a frozen strawberry lemonade with pretzel sticks and queso after a good day on the course.

I SAY this race was never supposed to happen, but when I think about it, the whole weekend was a great time to catch up with people we hadn't seen in years. The fact that the race turned out to be such a good experience means maybe it was meant to be.

Half marathon number 92 and state number 24 is in the books. Next up is another inaugural race: The Biggest Loser RunWalk Half in Las Vegas. We're on track to hit our 100th half marathon before the end of the year.


To find out more about C.H.U.M., check out their website at They are a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization currently raising money to add space for vocational training and treatments. It's a very affordable registration fee ($35 a month in advance and only $45 on race day). Both Susan and I donated every dollar we carried in our emergency race pack to thank the volunteers for doing such an amazing job supporting every last participant.

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