The Mastadon Challenge 15k – My Apologies to the Mayor!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dear Mayor Morse,
Thank you for cheering for me, and for all the runners at the Finish line of the Mastodon Challenge! That middle finger was NOT meant for you, as I hope you figured out. I am terribly embarrassed about that, and must apologize to you and the residents of Cohoes for subjecting you to that very uncharacteristic display of unsportsmanlike conduct. I really do make a conscious effort to be a kind, encouraging runner!
I would like to clarify that that finger was meant for my team mates… This is not helping me sound sportsmanlike, is it? What I mean to say is that one of my team mates who shall remain nameless (but his name rhymes with DAY) shouted “You only have 2 miles left to go!” as I ran toward the Finish. At this point I was pushing so hard to catch that dude in front of me that I thought Cohoes might see what I had for breakfast, and the thought of 2 more miles was not amusing. So I responded with what my team would surely find amusing. And Uncle Chuck always gets away with it (he’s one of our team mates and I stole his signature Finish line move). My team mates were in fact entertained!
I hope this doesn’t reflect poorly on Team Loco or our affection toward the Town of Cohoes! We are not a team of degenerates or even self-entitled athletes! My team mate Sully is a teacher in Cohoes, and is very passionate about supporting the community. He encouraged all of us to show our support by participating, because the race benefits the Cohoes Multi Service Senior Center and the Cohoes Universal Pre- Kindergarten! After being cheered on by his students yesterday, Sully went on to win his Age group AND get a PR!
Look what Sully won! 
Kelly and Clay also raced (might rhyme with DAY and did NOT walk). I love being at races with them! Clay has this way of reminding me that no matter how fast (or slow) I run, I should never take myself too seriously – This is supposed to be fun after all! And you know that song they were playing at the Start line? “This is my fight song, take back my life song” Well, Kelly could be the star of that music video – Just check out her blog and you’ll understand why!
And then there’s Steve! He placed 3rd overall in the Loco Male division, and we are really proud of him for that, as he ran the Boston Marathon barely three weeks ago, and sacrificed his own race goals to stay with another runner who was having a bad day and wanted to quit. She didn’t! Steve was also the guy who reportedly said the following to our teammates on his way to the Mastodon Finish line “Hey guys! How’d you do? Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it? Did you see those flowers
at Mile 7?”
Maybe I should take some lessons in etiquette from Steve! The Finish line is in sight, and he is more concerned about how his teammates did than his Finish time!
He brings up a very important point Mayor Morse … I would like to compliment you on what a beautiful town you have, and the flowers are just the beginning! As an Albany resident, and first-timer at the Mastodon Challenge, I didn’t know much about Cohoes.
But from the moment I rolled into town yesterday, I felt welcome! I was confused about where to park in relation to packet pick-up, and asked a fellow walking down the side walk. He pointed me toward a parking lot, and after realizing that we were both running the 15k, offered to walk with me to registration!
Steve pulled up at that moment, so I chatted with him instead of walking with my new friend. Since I still had to register for the race and wasn’t even sure how much it cost or where to go, I left my car keys with Steve and rushed off to Craner Park. In my haste to sign up, I’m not sure if I even locked my car. I was about a mile from where I parked when this occurred to me!
“I don’t think I have time to go back, and register, and use the porta potty!” As I was fretting over this dilemna, and praying that my car was locked (as my tri bike was inside) Steve drove by.
“I’m going to try to find a closer spot!” He yelled out the window of his truck “And I have your keys. And I locked your car!” Prayer answered, instantaneously.
In order to finish this before Mastodon Challenge 2017 (which I won a Free entry too!) I present to you the Top 9 things I loved about this 9.3 mile race (Take credit for any or all of this)!
1) The guy who gave me $5   Since I didn’t know how much race-day registration would cost, I brought a blank check along in a plastic sandwich bag. This should have made signing up a seamless process. Except that I misread the registration form and wrote the check for $35. The cost was $40!
“Oh no! Is the cost $40?!” I exclaimed. The volunteer confirmed that it was. “I don’t have another check!”
“I do” a fellow runner said calmly. I objected, saying that I would see if my friends had money I could borrow. But he’d already laid a $5 bill on the table and was walking away. “Thank you! Thank you!” I called. I still feel overwhelmed with gratitude by this simple gesture from a complete stranger. Miracle Number Two of the day!
2) The Town of Cohoes   As we ran down N. Mohawk St. I couldn’t help but be charmed by Harmony Mills. I might have to return to Spa Harmony West for a massage. And to explore! Before doing this race, I had no idea that in September of 1866, while breaking ground for construction of Harmony Mill No. 3 (the largest industrial mill complex in the United States), the bones of a mastodon were discovered, deeply buried in two potholes that had been worn into the bedrock at the end of the last Ice Age. What?!
And until Kelly and I stood on a grate behind the Clinton’s Ditch sign, I wasn’t aware that the Erie Canal was planned to overcome the navigational barrier of the picturesque Cohoes Falls. So the original “Clinton’s Ditch”, the Erie Canal of 1825, was built through the city of Cohoes! There’s a lot of history here!
3) The weather  Admittedly I was a little chilly before and after the race. But considering the rainy week we had, this crisp, sunny weather has me swooning over spring racing. Running comfortably in a tee and shorts is an anomaly you have to embrace when it comes your way! As I ran past a puddle near the school, I caught the reflection of bright blue sky in the shallow water and once again smiled with gratitude!
4) The runners  From the gentleman who gave me $5 and the stranger who helped me find parking, to the runner who shouted “Woohoo!” every time he got to the top of a hill, and the friends running shoulder to shoulder, I came away from the Mastodon Challenge proud to be part of the running community! And my Loco family!
5) My team  Some teams are 100% about results, and that’s cool. But I have never fit in with those teams. Which is why I am so thankful for Team Loco – They give it their all in a race, and look for ways to give back on the other side of the Finish line! They are as excited about a friend doing his first 15k (Congratulations Dave!) as they are about my podium finish. They are also raising money this season for a charity that will give clean water to villages in need!  As is apparent, they rock!
Team Loco, often mistaken for Team Taco for obvious reasons
6) The course  There were hills… and I have this bizarre love for hills! There were 38 turns I think, which was fantastic in my opinion. And I quickly developed a race strategy based on the turns! Every time I saw a turn ahead, I chose a runner ahead, and worked to catch them before the turn. Just one runner though – Then I saved my energy for the next “interval” of course!
I don’t have an exact count of how many parks we ran through, but we definitely hit Lansing Park, West End Park, Berkley Park and Greenbriar Park. Who knew Cohoes had so many parks?! All well-maintaned, and bright with blossoming flowers!
We ran on the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway – TWICE! I very much enjoyed running in the shade of oak and maple trees. And did anyone else see a waterfall beyond the woods?!
The course also took us through pleasant neighborhoods where friendly onlookers waved, and on a stone path, then down a gravel trail and… If you are an ADD runner, you should do this 15k, OK?!
7) The volunteers   With over 38 turns, we runners would have undoubtedly gotten lost were it not for the volunteers! They stopped traffic for us, shouted out directions at every turn, and told us we were doing amazing! Thank you Mastodon Challenge volunteers for giving of your time and energy to make this 15k such a great event!
Even Kumi Tucker from Channel 13 was there! 
8) The students  What the heck was I doing on my Saturday when I was 14? Not volunteering at a race. Maybe if I had I wouldn’t be the runner making obscene gestures in front of you Mr. Mayor. But there were dozens and dozens of students from the middle school and high school who handed out water, and volunteered at intersections… And I was impressed! Thank you to the high school girl who told me there was only one other female in front of me! I was so shocked I almost fell into a puddle. And I recalled Sully mentioning that there was a prize purse! At that moment I prayed “So God, if I win money today, I am going to give it away, OK? And I know just the person it will go to. Amen!” I pushed my legs obscenely hard from that point on.
9) The $50 bill y’all!  On the rare occasion that I won 1st or 2nd place in past races, I received some pretty spiffy prizes. But as I am returning to racing after a season of injuries, I thought my days of winning anything were behind me. And I certainly never thought I would win actual CASH!
I spent the last 5k really fighting to stay in that spot. So you see Mr. Mayor, being 2nd Place Female Overall was Answered Prayer Numero Tres of the day!
And to the gentleman who gave me the $5 to cover my race entry: THANK YOU! I bet you had no idea that your $5 would become $50 by the end of the day! If I could find you, I would surely pay you $10 of that money I won. But I can’t, so I am paying it forward. And when I pass it on, I hope somehow that $50 grows into $500, and that gesture will be an answered prayer to someone else as your generosity was for me!
With Gratitude,
Sara K. Madden

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