Almost every year since it started, I participate in the Run for Food, a fund-raiser started by two members of the Sioux Falls Area Running Club to raise money for The Banquet, a feeding ministry in downtown Sioux Falls.
Over the past 12 years or so, they’ve raised more than $61,000. It started simply enough: With Rob Sevold and Jeff Schmitt, childhood friends and longtime runners, deciding to swing by the Banquet on their normal Thanksgiving run and drop off a donation. Then they began inviting their friends, and then they made fliers and told more people, and before you know it, hundreds of men and women and their families began gathering Thanksgiving morning to run with them.
One of my favorite parts of it is that it’s no frills – no clock, no shirt, no entry fee, no actual racing. Nothing. Just a reason to get out and run that morning with a bunch of other people.
It’s one of my favorite parts of the holiday.
Turnout depends heavily on the weather, as you can imagine, and that varies in South Dakota in November. This year, it was beautiful, and there was a huge crowd when Kelly and Patrick and I pulled up to the Banquet. I had planned to meet up with my friends Nanci and Jeri to run.
Earlier in the week, Jeri had sent me a message saying she was hoping to practice even pacing and wanted to run fairly solid 8:30s for the run, to get over the mental hump that a 10K can present. I can understand that – it’s a short enough distance where you feel like you should be able to hustle, but long enough where if you start too fast it’s going to feel terrible. She was looking for someone who was steady and asked if she could just sort of follow along.
Of course I said yes, then told her she could count on Nanci for that – Nanci is training for Boston and by all accounts is a better runner than me. My plan was to just go run. For the past year I’ve been trying to focus on consistency and not worrying about how fast I go – which shows if you look at my plodding log. But the question from Jeri was a challenge – I haven’t tried to run any particular pace in a long time. Could I? I feel so far from the runner I used to be, a little embarrassed that 8:30s for 6 miles wasn’t a sure thing.
But I know it’s always easier to do that kind of thing with a friend, and with the belief that I was helping someone else out.
We set out, and I realized about a quarter mile in that Jeri was in front of us. We had lost each other a bit at the start, as the crowd set out and the 3-mile runners split from the 6-mile runners. Patrick went his way, Kelly fell back a bit, and Nanci and I looked around. Up ahead I saw Jeri, and she looked solid and steady. We slowly gained on her. I had warned her that I tend to start slowly – lessons learned over many years. We caught up to her around Fawick Park and ran next to her for a while, until she said, “I can’t talk at this pace, I’m sorry.”
We laughed – been there – and held steady.
I don’t run with a Garmin. I run with a Timex Ironman watch, my fifth or sixth iteration over the years, and if there are mile markers, I take the splits, if not, I just run by feel, by perceived effort, and for runs on my own, for time. I throw my phone into a pocket and run Strava in the background, just looking at it when I’m done.
For me, it’s taken the pressure away in a good way – when you’re getting back in shape, it can be demoralizing to see what your pace is, we all know that. And sometimes what feels hard one day feels easy the next. My runs are generally classified as an easy run or one where I’m running a little harder, whatever that is. Over the past few months, I’ve watched the average paces tick back down, down, down, until I’m in the 8s more often than I have been for the past two years. It’s a good feeling. And there are still plenty of slower runs, which tells me I’m doing something right by allowing it to vary and taking easy days easy.
(And really, for the most part, they’re all easy days, more on that changing in another post.)
We hit the turnaround, and Nanci and I talked about holiday shopping, running, and the exorbitant occasional costs of home ownership. We said hi to nearly every runner on the out-and-back, always surprised by how many people I know out there, or who know me. Around mile 4, some women I know came past us, and we talked briefly about winter mittens. These are the kinds of 30-second entire conversations you can have on a run.
We came through toward the end, missed our turn back up the ramp and instead climbed the stairs near 8th Street. Jeri hustled up the stairs and ended up finishing just ahead of us, at a fabulous clip and looking strong. We came through, clicked off our watches and caught back up with Kelly and Patrick, Rob and Jeff.
Jeri seemed happy. Nanci thanked me for the run. Patrick got a chocolate milk to bring home for my kids. Kelly said she had people to run with the entire way.
I felt like I ran an even effort out there, talked the whole way with Nanci. And when I looked at my phone after, I was surprised: 8:27, 8:35, 8:33, 8:26, 8:24 – with a random 12:00 first mile because I turned my phone on and then walked around for a while – and an 8:08 final quarter for the 6.3-mile run.
I couldn’t have run that evenly if I had tried. I know that. Two days later, I ran just over 10 miles through southeastern Sioux Falls, again just looking for an easy run. It was the same thing, a bit slower – 9:31, 9:33, 9:27, all the way through.
Later on Thanksgiving, we had a bit of time between events and Patrick and I went and rode the single-track along the bike path that I wrote about last week. We weaved between the trees, stopped for coffee and then came back, getting in just over 12 miles on our bikes at a casual and lazy pace, doing nothing but enjoying being outside and checking out the work that FAST has done, and continues to do. I’ll be running those trails soon, I think, for something different when I’m over there.
I don’t know why both of those runs made me so happy – maybe because they felt really good. Maybe because there’s something to be said overall for not fluctuating wildly in something – I need a little consistency just about everywhere in life, and I’m finally finding it.
It’s good to find it on the run, too, right now. Settling in, holding steady, building back up, one mile at a time.
I heard from Rob on Friday that the run had raised more than $40,000. It was an impressive number. Then, a day later, he texted me again. It was even better: More than $61,000.
Did you read that? This community raised more than $61,000 in one day for The Banquet. That’s from you and me and businesses and corporate matches and people stuffing cash and checks into buckets at the start.
All because two guys wanted to go for a run and give back on a day when everyone is thinking about what they’re grateful for. Family, a warm house, a meal together with the people you love.
Steady miles. Generous giving.
Thanks, Sioux Falls.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at email@example.com. Story ideas are encouraged.