“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” —Walt Disney
By Paul Peavy
Many of you have been meticulously planning sporting events for years. Always focused on what is placed where and when for optimal pleasure, performance and customer satisfaction. Let me take you to an event that was created, incubated, planned, modified and carried out with rousing success in less than a six-day span.
If you have been doing your event for years and you have thought about adding or tweaking but decided not to because…well…something in your gut told you it was right but your brain told you it was too complicated, let me introduce you to a team that did something that did not make a lot of sense in their brain but it did in their heart, straight from the heart.
First, let me introduce you to Team Ready, FIRE, Aim!
Shannon Colavecchio is a PR firm director, she is so passionate about fitness that she started her own fitness company.
Chris Turner is a legislative analyst for the Florida House Democratic Office who was so passionate about raising money for breast cancer research that he ran The Donna Half Marathon in pink shoes and a pink kilt!
Michael Williams is the social media coordinator for the Majority Office of the Florida House of Representatives. He is so passionate that that with the push of a “send” button he created a tsunami of action.
At approximately 2:50 pm on April 15 two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three people and injuring at least 141 others. Tallahassee’s Laurie Cox had just phoned her friends and told them not to come to the finish line because her husband, Alan Cox had already finished and was picking up his medal. If their friends had tried to walk up to the finish line area they could have been at the spot when and where the bombs went off. She and several other Tallahassee families were at that spot just 15 minutes before the explosions.
Michael Williams was sitting in a committee meeting scrolling through Twitter while a co-worker sat next to him following his sister’s progress in the Boston Marathon through the marathon website.
“Cryptic tweets started filling my timeline,” Williams said. “‘What just happened?’ ‘Did something just explode in Boston?’ A few tweets like that and within seconds my feed was filled with tweets like that along with the first pictures of the finish line.
“I glanced over at my co-worker’s phone that showed his sister was currently around mile 21. I pulled him out of the meeting and told him what had just happened and told him to call his parents who were on their way to the finish line at the time of the attack. He was able to make contact and find out everyone was fine before the flood of phone calls started jamming the lines in Boston.”
Williams said he spent the rest of the day glued to the television feeling all too much like it was 9/11 all over again. “I drove home thinking about how tragic this event was for the people at the finish line but then I started thinking about my co-worker’s sister. She had just run 21 miles and with 5.2 miles left when was waved off the course and told her race was over.
“Knowing our group of friends would get behind the idea, I texted Shannon with the idea of a 5.2-mile run to finish for them. And as an afterthought, maybe we could raise a little money. I was thinking it would be 20-30 people running and maybe we’d be able to raise a couple hundred of dollars.”
The simplicity of it all also seemed obvious to Chris Turner when he got the text, “A simple text message sounded like a good idea. Let’s do what we can, to honor and help those who were attacked. Let’s get a group together and run 5.2 miles. Then, let’s have some pizza and beer. It will be fun!”
Shannon describes the shift in thinking and planning and…everything that was about to happen:
“I won’t lie and say that we did not have moments during the days leading up to the 5.2 miles run when we questioned ourselves. ‘Are we crazy?’ ‘Are we seriously going to be able to pull this off?’ ‘Do we have enough port-a-potties?’
“The calls and text messages flew back and forth as we three—none of us experienced in race planning scurried to keep up with the to-do list, which kept growing as our RSVP list ballooned from less than 100 to more than 1,000 by Thursday before the race.
“Suddenly, we had to move the race location and deal with city and state permits, port-a-potties, and more. We were fortunate to have the support—and donated supplies—of the Gulf Winds Track Club, our local running group and one of the best there is.
“We also knew the right people in the right places—state government, city police, county sheriff’s office, etc.—to get things done quickly. We literally secured our city special event permit with 12 minutes to spare before close of business Friday. Businesses donated supplies and raffle items. Friends helped with the long list of race-day tasks.
Here’s how Chris remembers his daily countdown:
“Five days to race day: The initial planning was done. We had a location, a route, and a plan. We thought it would be simple. A group of 40-50 people running. No big deal, right?
“Four days to race day: We started to realize this was bigger than us. This wasn’t about our small group honoring those. This was about the community. We were already over 300 RSVPs, and we had to switch locations. Luckily, we all work best under pressure. We are runners. We run through the pain. If it’s a 5K, a half marathon, or an IRONMAN, we run. Heat doesn’t stop us, rain doesn’t stop us, and common sense definitely doesn’t stop us. It’s part of our resiliency.
“Three days to race day: Here is where things got hairy. We were over 600 RSVPs for this event. We had to relocate to a new venue, design a new route, and then go through all the logistics necessary. Port-a-potties. Security. Permitting. Supplies. We thought we had everything taken care of, but had to turn on a pinhead and rethink. Luckily our local running community was able to help, and luckily the three of us know the right people.
“Two days to race day: Insurance had to be changed, permits had to be redone, and the route had to be changed. With a few minutes to spare, we were able to get everything done. Everything was approved. This didn’t happen because Shannon, Michael and myself were good at planning. This happened because our community came together and made this happen. This wasn’t a regular race, and this wasn’t just about Boston. This was a reminder that we, as a nation, will not back down from acts of terror. That if you strike us, we will remind you why we are strong. This wasn’t about the pride and glory we received, or any type of ego boost. We did this for everyone. Boston Strong.
From Laurie Cox:
“I literally had tears in my eyes driving into the parking lot seeing all the cars before seeing all the people who showed up in support of the 5.2 for Boston. Having been in the location of the first explosion just 15 minutes before the explosion with Penni Steverson (Steve’s wife) and Tanya and Anna DeVlieger (TJ’s wife and daughter) I was overcome with emotion. The singing of the National Anthem made me so thankful to be in a country where we are free to run without fear.”
From Shannon Colavecchio:
“We had managed to bring together all these people, from four local 2013 Boston Marathon runners to avid runners to residents from across Florida who had never run in ANY race before. They had come out, in numbers rivaling the two largest annual races in Tallahassee, to help us raise money to send to victims and their families. It made me cry. It made me smile. It reminded me of the power of a sporting event to bring people together – in this case, because terrorists had invaded one of the nation’s most popular and iconic sporting events: The Boston Marathon.
“Sunday afternoon, April 21 at 5 pm just six days after the Boston Marathon bombs went off over 1,500 people stood together, put their hands over their heart, sang our National Anthem and completed a 5.2-mile course that others were robbed of six days earlier.”
Roughly five minutes after the race start and more than 1,500 people, several dogs, a few Leon County Sheriff Officer’s cars, and three horses passed by them, Chris leaned over to Shannon and said, “We did it.”
The final financial total donated came to over $1,400. This incredible financial, physical, and emotional outpouring came because Team Ready, FIRE, Aim! took one simple text and did something that no one had neither experience nor excuses for.
“And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Shannon said. Of course she, Chris, and Michael would say that because they know that know the best stuff comes when you let the doubt in your brain be drowned out by the pounding of your heartbeat!
Paul Peavy is a licensed mental health therapist with a passion for fitness and running marathons. Visit him at www.paulpeavy.com.