Saturday, April 9 was to be Potomac Valley Audubon's 10th annual "This Race is for the Birds!", a trail race and kids' fun run held as a fundraiser in support of our youth programs. The event was to be held at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's National Conservation Training Center. This 10th anniversary race was certainly memorable, though not exactly in the way we'd hoped.
On Tuesday of race week, we learned that NCTC, a federal facility, would be closed to our use in the event of the pending government shutdown. In the face of this uncertainty, we began to explore alternatives to support our 400-plus registered runners.
We worked our way through numerous options - private subdivisions, low traffic roads, public bike routes - with each ultimately being rejected due to safety concerns, availability (i.e. non-federal) or simple lack of necessary facilities for the expected numbers. These plans formed and faded as race day approached with no official news of the federal shutdown forthcoming. But still, all was not lost.
The Wellness Center at Shepherd University generously offered to host the event at their facility. Maps of the area were posted and local runners were on hand to provide suggestions for informal runs in the area. The Wellness Center provided free shower facilities and access to the track and equipment. With Shepherd's support, we were able to hold the Children's "Fun Run" on campus. Forty-five children participated, receiving prizes, ribbons and cheers as they crossed the finish line.
We can't thank Shepherd University and the Wellness Center enough for taking us under their wing. They were the most incredible partners you can imagine.
Special thanks must go to the race committee - especially volunteer race co-directors James and Suzy Munnis - for their flexibility and determination to make the race happen despite every obstacle encountered.
The community's support was truly remarkable. As race alternatives were explored, fields were offered for parking, River and Trail Outfitters made buses available, NCTC allowed us as much decision-making leeway as possible, Two Rivers Half Marathon offered free admission to their May 14 race to those registered for our canceled race
The list goes on, and we are so grateful for everyone's generosity and dedication. Though the 10th annual "Race for the Birds" did not come off as planned, the fact that it took a different shape and went forward despite the unexpected challenges is tribute to the strength and generous spirit of this community.
Thank you all for your support, generosity and patience with this "memorable" 10th anniversary race!