Dear Pine Belt Pacer:
Now in my third year as president of our club, I cannot recall a time when I have been more enthusiastic about running in the area and the direction of the Pine Belt Pacers.
It seems like we have come a very long way in those three years, and we need not look any further than the Run for Love 5K this past weekend. As many of you recall, there have been many times in recent years when 40-50 runners has been a decent crowd at a local 5K. No longer – and our club is making the difference. Last year, the Run for Love attracted 60 or so runners; this year, as a Pine Belt Pacer Grand Prix event, the run attracted double that number. While I am not so vain as to think that our club was responsible for the entire increase, make no mistake we were a factor in the race’s success.
And make no mistake, success in events like the Run for Love, the Steam Whistle Classic and the Hobble then Gobble 5K, has not come without the work of several of our members. Concerning the Run for Love, Robin Ryder and Becky Ryder attended meetings to assist with the race’s organization. Dawn Smith and Becky compiled mailing and e-mail addresses for promotion of the race. Dana Christensen and Elmer Beardshall contributed with helpful reminders in the days leading up to the event. On race day, Dawn was there to work our membership table, a membership table that featured a new membership form designed by Joni Dunbar (we attracted nearly 10 new members I might add). Dana and Steve Ulery were assisting on race day as well. And that’s not to mention the dozens and dozens of Pacers on the course and others who assisted with promotion of the event. These and other efforts made a difference.
If the volunteer spirit is not enough for you to share my enthusiasm for the club’s future, I encourage you to stand at the finish line of a local race. In a conversation this week with my good friend and Lifetime Pacer Keith Barrett, we reflected on the Run for Love. Keith, who crossed the finish well under 21 minutes, finished 18th Saturday. That is amazing -- I cannot recall a 5K in our area that had so many fast finishers. And many of the runners who finished ahead of Keith are Pacer members. Consider the wide range of ages of these remarkable runners – Robin, Mostafa Khannouchi and Tony Sanford in their 20s and 30s; Richie Sumrall and Keith, a couple of the fasters masters around; and Corey Rigdon and Cameron Sherrill, both teenagers.
We’re beginning to make a name for the club on the regional and national levels as well. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Joni finished in the top 15th at the Mardi Gras Marathon. Keith did the same in the First Light Half Marathon in Mobile, Ala., a couple of weeks earlier. This weekend, Corey will race against the nation’s best in a meet in Lexington, Ky. In addition, a record seven Pine Belt Pacers have qualified for the Boston Marathon in April.
The bragging could continue, but I’d also like to recap some of the items the club covered at the last meeting, held Feb. 8.
Development of the new membership form. The form now includes member benefits, a number of which have been added in recent months. The benefits include a subscription to Footnotes, a Road Runners of America publication; discounts to Pine Belt Pacer Grand Prix events; membership dues that are tax deductible; free coaching; and access to discounts to area businesses under our new membership card program, which will take effect in March.
New events have been added to the Grand Prix calendar – the Soccer Locker and City Runners 5K Track Challenge, the Petal YMCA 5K and the William Carey FCA 5K.
Update on bumper stickers and club t-shirts. In March, our members can expect to receive a membership packet that will include the new membership card and a club bumper sticker advertising our new slogan, "Run! For your life" and the club’s Web site.
Finalization of plans for the Good Ole’ Boy Marathon. The event will begin at noon on Feb. 18 at Mugshots in Hattiesburg. For full details, contact Keith.
A web review committee, led by webmaster Running Bear will be taking an overview of www.PineBeltPacers.org and making recommendations as to how the Web site can better serve our members and its visitors. The committee’s first meeting was held on Monday.
Update on the membership card. Three businesses have confirmed that they will participate in the business card program, and our members report we are close to agreements with at least two others, possibly more. I think you’ll agree that this is a good start for the first year of this program.
The next club meeting will be held Wed., March 15, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a run at the Longleaf Trace.
As I mentioned earlier, Corey will be running this weekend in Kentucky. Also, Steve and Dana will be participating in the Pensacola Marathon and Half Marathon, respectively. We wish all of the Pacers well.
Run! For your life.
President, Pine Belt Pacers