The American Odyssey is a homegrown overnight relay race that was created by AthleteBiz board member Bob Fleshner. The event delivers 200 miles of memorable experiences for in excess of 100 teams of 3-12 runners. The race starts in the shadow of Civil War battlefields in Gettysburg, PA and ends in the heart of Washington DC.
I can assure you that this blog post has nothing to do with my bank account. That being said, I am rich. Rich beyond measure. How many people get to do something they love while bringing happiness to so many others? And, how many people have friends, both old and new, who will come out and volunteer at crazy hours of the day and night in remote locations and then say “it was fun!”?
The week leading up to the annual American Odyssey Relay is tough. Every year I wonder why I put myself through the stress. It’s not easy to put on an event that takes place over 200 miles, requires close to 30 permits, 200+ volunteers and 36 different properties to use as transitions. It’s even tougher when you tend to be a perfectionist.
About three days before race day I typically tell at least one person that I can’t wait until the race is over and everyone is safe. And then the race happens. And it’s something of a blur because there’s so much going on at once. Then it’s over. And, then I’m sad that I have to wait another year for it to happen again!
The day after the race we (among other things) retrieve signs from Leg 36. It’s a several hour project given all the places we need to get to. But, it’s very therapeutic. We talk about the race. What went right and what we’d like to change, etc.. I then drop my colleagues at the airport and I start to reflect on the event. In no particular order, here are just a few of the things I thought about this year:
- David standing on the bridge between MD and WV stopping vans to explain Transition 24—at 3:00 AM
- Steve, Richard and Paul dealing with construction and an always crowded T22 at 1:00 AM
- Andrea (and her fellow bikers) riding her bike back and forth on Leg 36 for hours, preventing runners from getting lost and helping tired runners as they seek the finish line, not too many hours after her husband, Russ, fresh off a week of travel, headed up the Boonsboro Oasis transitions
- Adam working tirelessly all night long and then finally crashing at the finish line before suggesting that he could do even more next year
- Tish handling both T6 and T26 and then coming to the finish line
- So many other incredible volunteers—too many to name—from Team Red, White and Blue to Hope Connections to everyone else who gave up hours of their day to assure that The American Odyssey Relay was a success yet again in 2016
And, then, there are the runners, so many of whom have become “friends for life.” When I see Jason flying into T11 at the Smithsburg Valley Church during his first Odyssey ultra with a huge smile on his face, nothing compares. Oh, speaking of the Smithsburg Valley Church. . . .just wow! Their warm welcome and refusal to let our runners pay for any of the food or drinks is a classic example of what makes this a true Odyssey family!
We had runners from 31 states this year, which is about average. I love when these runners get to experience our incredible course and tell me how beautiful it is, because they don’t get to see it and run it every day like we do. Putting the course together with the help of so many local people was such a labor of love. Speaking of which. . . how about the Boonsboro Oasis? Every year, Becky and Sue work tirelessly to support our event. They smile and get it done. Which is so typical of the Odyssey family.
A few days before this year’s event, one of my colleagues said to another, “Bob always gets cranky in the days leading up to the race, don’t worry about it.” So, next year, when I’m getting cranky just before the race, someone please remind me of just how rich I am. That’s all it will take for me to start smiling again.
Want more from Bob? Check out The Old Glory Relay: A BHAG to End All BHAGs