The other night I attended the annual race directors meeting at the Wendelville Volunteer Fire Hall. The idea, and it's a good one, is for everyone planning a race to get together and hear from a variety of speakers on how to make their races better. There's also a schedule of races issued, so that in theory seven races aren't held on a particular Saturday in July while the next Saturday has zero. It doesn't happen, of course, but it's a worthwhile concept.
I've been the opening speaker for the last three years of this meeting, which I believe puts me right up there with Shecky Greene and Sid Melton when it comes to opening acts. (Maybe the session should be held in the Borscht Belt.) I give a pretty standard speech about how to submit results to the newspaper for publication, ask them to keep an eye out for stories, and to feel free to call if they ever need unfiltered opinions on how to make their races better. I got a round of applause this time when I mentioned that I had run in 41 races in 2008; maybe I should say, my checkbook got a round of applause.
I also mentioned that I was in charge of the Runner of the Year race series for The Buffalo News. However, I added, as usual, that I didn't have much room for altering the schedule, what with several must-include races and trying to make sure there are a variety of distances. Besides, very few people pick out their races based on the schedule as far as I could tell.
But that never stops people from doing a little lobbying when everyone gets up to talk about his or her race. As we went through about 50 people and races, we finally got to Pastor Gary of Hamburg, who puts on the "Runnin' with Jesus" series. Pastor Gary has a good sense of humor, and at first mentioned that he had started with one race and was up to four. Then he said something like this:
"At one point I called out my prayer warriors, and asked them all to send a direct message. 'Please, God, help us out here.' We all prayed and prayed and received no response. Then I found out that my prayer warriors were praying to the wrong person. They were praying to God to have our race included in the Runner of the Year series, but they should have been praying to Budd Bailey," he said.
That got a good laugh, and suddenly about 50 sets of eyes turned toward me for a response. I had a second to think while the laughter died down. Then I replied, "God answers all prayers, but sometimes He answers no."
Not Oscar Wilde or Woody Allen, but not bad under the circumstances. Who wants to talk back to Pastor Gary? Afterwards, he came up to me and said with a smile, "I liked your answer. Good spirit."
Sounds like the stakes have been raised on this Runner of the Year thing.