Local medical professional, Bruce Koepp, has published his first fiction novel: Heel Strike. Set on Oahu, the story is a compelling thriller/mystery involving two veteran trail runners whose lives are tethered together in a tense story of deadly deceit. Caught between them is the devoted wife and mother not willing to wait at the Finish line any longer. Koepp explains: “For those of us beset with this sport, it’s much like a descent into an addictive love affair that constantly tests personal relationships where the expectations don’t always equal the outcomes. Our need to personally compete is way beyond the need to participate.” Bruce invites fiction path finders to share the visual escape and pick up the narrative at Reader’s Books in Sonoma. “It’s not a lite jog around the Plaza,” he adds.
Eminent tropical storms are lining up off the Oahu shores like anxious runners awaiting the starter’s pistol. The competiveness of trail racing draws them together while a desperate love triangle tears them apart. Both visual and metaphorical, the suspense builds with each treacherous step toward the Finish line. Not a niche story, but rather a surprising cornerstone chase into survival.
It happens on the soccer field. It happens on the basketball court. It happens in PE classes. It happens in our Armed Services and probably got its start there. It even happens on the track. And IT drives me crazy. IT is the use of running as punishment.
As an athlete or parent of an athlete you have probably seen it or experienced it yourself. You are at soccer practice and your team is goofing off. The coach has had it and so he/she sends the team out to run laps. Or you are late for basketball practice so while the rest of the team does warm up drills you are sent out to run around the gym 2 times. And my favorite of all is the PE teacher who has the kids do pushups who aren’t behaving. I thought I had mellowed out on my frustration with this until I recently witnessed another misuse of fitness as punishment. I caught the tail end of a practice (sport, location, etc. need not be revealed) where several of the players were running “lines” while a few were standing and watching. I asked why this was and was informed that the team that won the last practice game didn’t have to do the run. What is this teaching about our view of exercise? The losers do drills and the winners watch? When in reality the reason the winners are winners are that they DO the drills and they work hard and it pays off!
Why are coaches, teachers and fitness professionals using running (and exercise in general) as a punishment? What message is this sending to the kids about how the ambassadors of sport and fitness feel about exercise? No doubt my friends, that running is hard and so are pushups, burpees, raising kids and most everything else in life that is worth the effort. This concept of hard work should be celebrated instead of used as punishment. Wouldn’t we be better served if we could find a different punishment for misbehaving athletes? Pick up trash around the field or gym? Sit out the first 10 minutes of the next game? Go sit in the corner by yourself for 15 minutes. Go play chess for an hour. Stop-I am kidding! Chess shouldn’t be used as punishment-it is really closer to torture.
What’s the solution? I believe it is not a matter of changing how coaches are coaching but simply in the message they are delivering. A coach should use running laps to settle down his/her athletes that are distracted and not focusing. Running has a way of settling restlessness and sharpening our focus. A coach should send kids out to run laps to settle them down a bit. Just don’t call it punishment. Tell the athletes why they are running; it will sharpen your focus. It will settle some of your extra energy. It will warm you up. All this is true and accomplishes the same task but with a different message about exercise.
I came across a story about Deangelo Williams, an NFL player with the Steelers this year, who grew up with coaches using exercise as punishment. He said that every time a kid got “punished” and had to do push-ups, suicide runs, laps around the field, etc. he would join in with them because he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get extra conditioning and certainly didn’t want any other kids getting an advantage because they were doing work while he watched.
In conclusion; I have a great appreciation for our youth coaches and PE teachers. I have been a coach and know that it is a huge amount of work for a little amount of money (if any). I have seen how coaches have changed people’s lives and instilled a lifelong love of fitness and athletics in our youth. Keep this love of sports and activity alive by showing kids how hard work and physical discomfort are not punishment but necessary aspects of achieving great success in sports and in life.
For those of you that were faithful visitors to Jim Crowhurst’s sites that covered Cross Country and Track & Field in the Redwood Empire (NBL, SCL and CMC), you are in luck. Jim has the site back up which you can find at the link below. The site includes tons of statistics dating back many decades and will be a great resource for those 3 leagues for this coming track and field season.
The site is no longer associated with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat so donations are welcome to help with the upkeep of the site. Check the link on the site for more information in regards to donations.
In October, the Santa Rosa City Council took a big step forward to realize the vision of a Greenway to Spring Lake. The City Council voted unanimously to begin a General Plan amendment process for the Caltrans right-of-way property – the future Southeast Greenway. This process will launch in 2016 and there will be many opportunities for the community to participate and provide comments and ideas.
One of these opportunities will be on Saturday, February 20, 2016, when everyone is invited to attend a free two-hour public meeting at Montgomery High School to find out how to participate in the City’s General Plan amendment process.
At the meeting, there will a chance to meet the members of the Southeast Greenway Community Partnership, which includes the City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County Water Agency, Sonoma County Regional Parks, LandPaths, the Sonoma Land Trust and the Southeast Greenway Campaign itself. You will hear from:
Dave Koehler, Sonoma Land Trust’s new Executive Director and keynote speaker, who will describe his role in the creation of the San Joaquin River Parkway. His colleagues will explain how the Sonoma Land Trust is playing a leadership role in our negotiations with Caltrans, and coordinating fund-raising to purchase the property from Caltrans. City staff will explain the steps in the City’s process which includes hiring consultants to develop a land use concept plan, preparing a General Plan amendment, zoning designation and an Environmental Impact Report for the Greenway. City staff will also describe the many opportunities for public input and comments.
Based on this meeting and a series of public meetings to be held in 2016, the Southeast Greenway will become what our community imagines. The vision may include:
Walking/running trails and bike paths with connections east to Spring Lake Regional Park and the future Sonoma Valley Trail and west to the Joe Rodota Trail and the SMART Trail and stations
Safe routes to all the schools in the area
Neighborhoods parks and meeting places
Community gardens and restored walnut groves
Restored oak woodland, creeks, wetlands and Sumner Marsh
Opportunities for outdoor education
Economic stimulus of the surrounding area.
2016 is a pivotal year for the Southeast Greenway. Come find out how you can play a role in creating a vibrant Greenway in Santa Rosa and share in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for community imagining during the coming year.
Event:Southeast Greenway 2016 – The Time Is Now!
Where: Montgomery High School Cafeteria, 1250 Hahman Drive, Santa Rosa;
When: Saturday, February 20, from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm;
Child Care: Provided by licensed bonded childcare providers (drop off at 9:45 am);
Translation: Spanish language translation service available;
Refreshments: Free coffee, tea and light refreshments;
Bike Parking: Free and secure bike parking by Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition;
Auto Parking: Available in the Montgomery High School parking lot.
Once again we are ending another great year for the Empire Runners Club. Many of our members have achieved their goals of running faster, or running longer distances, or becoming involved in club activities by volunteering at races!
Empire Runners Club Annual Appreciation Party
Who: Empire Runners Members and their Guests
What: Awards Ceremony and Dinner catered by Tagliaferri’s Deli
When: Saturday February 6th 5pm to 9pm
Where: Finley Community Center Person Auditorium , 2060 West Colllege Ave. Santa Rosa, CA
Online Registration deadline February 3rd
The annual appreciation party is about awarding members for their participation in our races by running or volunteering. It is an evening we can enjoy, eating great food catered by Tagliaferri’s Deli, being amazed by how well we runners “clean up”. We get to wear something besides sweaty shorts and t-shirts. The women actually get to let their hair down and put on a little makeup, dress up and show the world we can be pretty and feminine too. The men get to wear pants and nice clean shirts showing that they too can look pretty darn good.!
It is a time for the non-running spouses to meet the other non-running spouses. You can get together and commiserate with each other on what you go through while supporting your crazy running spouse. Believe me, you are appreciated.!
The other great thing about this party is the silent auction, there are always great items to bid on. There are great wines, tasty fudge by our very own Chocolate Man, food items, apparel and so much more.!
I always enjoy the entertainment section and the award ceremony where we recognize so many of our members for their dedication and hard work. !
It is a great evening for socializing, telling war stories, getting to know new members and just relaxing with great food and good company. !
People talk about holiday stress and I feel sorry for them. The holidays do not stress me out at all. Other things stress me out; cooking, shopping, traffic, but not the holidays.
I actually love this time of year. When the days get darker and I have to wear gloves when I run and Starbucks cups turn red, I get really happy. This wasn’t always the case. I used to feel compelled to do it all. Decorate, bake, buy tons of perfect gifts, get the annual photo book completed, entertain and stay in shape. I was so busy trying to portray the life we see on the cover of holiday magazines, I would get to January 2 and realize I didn’t really enjoy the season at all! Then I got cancer one year and I was forced by chemo and surgeries to slow down a bit. I entered the holiday season with the perfect excuse to sit back and take in the season. My Cancer Christmas was about healing and celebrating life with family and friends. All the ideas on the covers of magazines that look so good and require so much work were not an option that year.
The decorations went up but not all of them. We baked but only when we really felt like it. I bought a few gifts but only if I saw something that had meaning or purpose instead of just because gift giving had to perfectly equal between both kids. Kids watch closely. At first they count to make sure they each get the same number of gifts. As they get older they start to calculate the value of the gifts to be sure an equal amount was spent on both kids. The cancer Christmas I bought gifts but my kids went easy on me and didn’t get too angry when they noticed an inequality. We entertained that year, but no one cared that my linens didn’t match or the food was from Oliver’s. They probably preferred this given my cooking!
It turned out to be one of my favorite holidays ever! I swore to myself that regardless of how much better I would feel the next year, I would not go back to my pre-cancer manic holiday state. For the most part I have not! Here is what I learned the Christmas I had cancer:
Gifts that matter: Buy 1-2 meaningful gifts for each child. Don’t bother with a score card. Life is not fair. Sometimes one kid will get a spectacular gift because you found something really cool for them and the next year might be a bust. My favorite gift as a child was the year my sister made me a ski outfit-yes, with a sewing machine! Pants and a jacket. I really wanted skis, boots and poles but our family couldn’t afford it. I loved that outfit and still can hear the sound of it as I skied down the mountain. Or better yet, spend a day with your kids. All day. No electronics. Ok, maybe half a day. They won’t forget it.
Demand some ME time. I like to run. I make sure to run throughout the holiday season. Some of my best runs are in December running through the neighborhoods looking at lights. Also enjoyable are runs/hikes in Annadel as it is much less crowded. Whatever your ME thing is, don’t sacrifice it this time of year! That quick errand instead of a workout can wait until AFTER your workout or your ME time. Stores open late this time of year.
Have Fun. Doing something with your family and friends should be a priority this time of year. That’s the true meaning of the holidays. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Bowling is our family favorite. Holiday light tours are also fun. A family night hike on a full moon is wonderful and even better; this year there is a full moon on Christmas Eve.
Slow down you’re moving too fast…Breath. Relax and be in the moment. Blah, blah, blah…you have heard it so much but have you done it? Play a game with your family. Head’s Up (by Ellen) is a blast and everyone in the family can play. You just need your phone or iPad and 10 minutes. It lightens everyone’s mood and will make you smile.
Don’t wait for cancer or some other life crisis to slow you down and force you to enjoy the season the way it was meant to be. Do it this year. And put happy back into the Holidays.
New Year’s Resolutions are fast approaching and, of course, we know you were planning on joining the Empire Runners Club. BUT, in case you were being recruited to join the Galactic Empire due to the new Star Wars movie coming out, here are the . . .
Top 6 Reasons to join Empire Runners Club over the Galactic Empire!
You’re More Than a Number!
With tens of thousands of identical clones, it can be difficult to stand out in the Galactic Empire crowd. Awaken your individuality in the Empire Runners Club (ERC). Plus, wardrobe colors and styles are totally up to you! (Hint: More than just white)
It’s shocking, but motivation can be a powerful thing. Get more positive support and encouragement with the Runners Club. With weekly training options and social gatherings, it’s easy to plug in, get going, and stay on target.
Variety of Terrain
Ever get bored seeing the same things over and over? Try living on a giant metal space station! No way! Explore beautiful natural landscapes with ERC at many different race locations throughout Sonoma County.
Run Together, but Race Yourself
Rather than duel your arch-nemesis in battle, the Runners Club culture fosters the inclusive community feel. ERC races feel like running with a group of friends. Search your feelings and you’ll know it’s about doing your best and having fun.
Lower Choking Hazard
Slim Up for the New Year
This one is on almost everyone’s resolution list. Don’t let the Galactic Empire crush you into believing the newest fad diet, join ERC. Running burns calories, is good for cardiovascular health, and is proven to relieve stress. Don’t let your thoughts betray you, get running!
So there you have it. Search your feelings and don’t fall for the Galactic Empire trap. The Empire Runners Club is always looking for new recruits. Sign up during your next trip to Tosche Station! We would be honored if you would join us.
And remember, try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.
Question: This is the iPad generation. Is it difficult getting them to put down the screens and run wild like when we were kids?
Answer: In this day and age children use more technology in their daily lives than ever before. With that said, we invite the parents to join us in all of our activities. We try to make it a family affair.
Do parents primarily encourage their kids to join, or do some kids find the club on their own?
We have a little of both. Parents who encourage their kids to join have heard about us through current or former parents. We do have that group of kids who seek us out on their own because they want the training for other sports.
Who are your current coaches and what are their backgrounds?
Our current coaches include Dawit Tessfasilassie who was a track and cross country stand out at Piner High school, Caroline Gonsalves, who is a local elementary school teacher with extensive marathon experience, and the head coach Mark Drafton, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and former high school 400m specialist.
How do your coaches make running “fun?” Even a common comment from adults is that running is boring.
We try to make each practice an event by changing the routine often. And we invite parents to join in our workouts. We use games for the younger group with prizes and competition for the older kids.
Bob Schor can often be seen as the “starter” for both track and cross-country races in the north bay. What is his connection to Santa Rosa Express? And why is there a scholarship named after him?
Bob was a former Santa Rosa Express Coach and continues to be involved in coaching during track season. He was instrumental in keeping the club together and brought it back from the brink of fading away four years ago when the coaching support was no longer there. He reached out to me and with the help of Kelly Gaab and Caroline Gonsalves we were able to right the ship and it has grown exponentially every year.
Do you have any well-known alumni?
Julia Stamps, Sara Bei, Jacque Taylor, Jenny Aldridge, and Kim Conley.
What do you want to tell parents that are considering getting their kids involved?
The mission of Santa Rosa Express Youth Running Club is to encourage young athletes to learn and appreciate running in a fun, safe and healthy environment. Runners learn good sportsmanship, a strong work ethic, and self-motivation while receiving training and coaching from a team of dedicated volunteers. Our coaches believe in providing a dynamic environment in which our athletes can develop at a rate designed for each individual. Running is a great opportunity for young runners to get in shape, try new distances and build self-confidence. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It doesn’t take long to feel good and see improvement, but it does take regular practice.
When: November 26, 2013 8:00 AM Location: Cobblestone Trailhead, Channel Drive, Annadel State Park
Get down and do the ever so funky Turkey Trot at the Empire Runners Club informal fun run on Thanksgiving!!!
Why do runners love to attend such an event? Is it the guilt of consuming massive amounts of turkey and perhaps tofurky later in the day? Is it that you might see the Z man in the brightest orange colored sweatshirt ever created?
Is it the possibility you might see Hutch’s turkey fan and stories about turkeys in Annandel? Note that Hutch will teach you turkey calls as well, if that’s what you’re into.
We highly suggest that you memorize these fun facts about Thanksgiving before you arrive, because there will be a scantron test before you can start running.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States.
Sarah Josepha Hale, an American magazine editor, persuaded Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She is also the author of the popular nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
Abraham Lincoln issued a ‘Thanksgiving Proclamation’ on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving.
The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition began in the 1920’s.
In 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would take place on November 23rd, not November 30th, as a way to spur economic growth and extend the Christmas shopping season.
Congress passed a law on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President. The President does not eat the live turkey. He “pardons” it and allows it to live out its days on a historical farm.
I am not sure life was ever going to be long enough for Sarah Sumpter.
It is not so much that she died too young or that the cancer moved too quickly for her. Sarah’s life—regardless of time spent, friends made, miles run, or runners inspired—could never satisfy her. There was just so little time…
When I first met Sarah, it became immediately apparent that the road before her was always going to be too short. Every finish line would be far too near. However, she also believed that the thrill of the race was not in its completion, but in the struggle. If it was up to her, the run would never end. She loved the grind.
I began recruiting Sarah to run at UC Davis back in 2007, and it was that fall in which she torched courses, shattered records, collected championships, and became a sensation. It was just months later in early 2008 when she publicly shared her struggle with disordered eating, and she had to begin all over again.
She would have several new beginnings over the remaining seven years of her life, and these victories and challenges have been documented ad nauseam, and by far better writers than me. Suffice to say, Sarah did as Rudyard Kipling challenged all of us—runners especially, I believe—she met with Triumph and Disaster in her life and treated those two impostors just the same. There was no vertical oscillation in her emotion regardless of occasion—simply forward motion—a tireless pursuit of something untouchable for most of us in this life. It is something beyond courage that outranks any nobility, and believe me, there is nothing valiant in the death of someone so beautiful. For lack of a better term, it was Grit, and she was its most precious vessel.
Sarah Sumpter did not beat her cancer back with fists balled in rage. Instead, she loved her place as its opponent and ran toward it—she ran through it—and she did this with a heart full of faith and spirit of indomitable passion for the community of people she held most dear—her fellow runners. She truly filled “the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.” She welcomed the struggles set before her and those that bombarded her body as simply the demands of the race in which she was entered. There was nothing else to do but to keep going.
So when Sarah called me back in May and said we needed to talk, I could feel the intent in her voice. By this time, she was back home in Cloverdale and nursing herself through a nagging injury that kept her running restricted. We met the next day in Healdsburg.
“I need to do the marathon now, Pup.”
At the time, the doctors were pleased with where she was with her cancer, so this was not a notion prompted by any outward indications of what would come to pass in short time. However, they do say that the great ones have a nose for the finish line, and in Sarah’s case, it seemed that she could sense the line accelerating toward her even then.
“Will you coach me?”
It was in this moment that I became aware of a piece of coaching I had never considered before.
Through the years, I have always been concerned with getting the athletes in my charge to the finish line as quickly as possible. In its crudest light, the idea was to build them up, callous them, sharpen them and set them in motion. To the finish line or bust.
With Sarah, in this pastoral setting outside the coffee shop on the square in Healdsburg, I realized our goal was to just get her to the starting line. The running would be the easy part, I recall thinking. If we could just give her a chance to start the one thing she always wanted to finish…
That is when the words of the great Kenyan cross country champion, John Ngugi, pooled in my mind before they spilled from my tongue.
“Don’t waste good time,” I mumbled.
“Good or bad, I can’t waste any of it,” she said. “It’s time.”
We would adopt this as our training philosophy moving forward—before we knew about the offer from the New York City Marathon—before she won at Kenwood on July 4th despite a nasty fall—before we discovered why she fell in the first place and never ran again just three weeks later. We would remind each other over and again…if you feel good, go.
There were long runs, hill sessions, tempo runs, long intervals, blended sessions, special blocks, strides and recovery runs—all the usual menu items for your marathoner, and Sarah devoured them in her typical understated fashion. There was also the stifling sickness brought on by each round of new treatment—an overwhelming lethargy rooted in her disease—a battery of unpredictable days Sarah fended off with whatever she could muster for that day…even walking. If she could go, she would go, and go hard.
In mid-June, when she heard from the New York City Marathon, Sarah was offered two things—entry into the professional women’s field for the greatest American race and a promise that her acceptance of the offer would remain private until we could be certain she would make it to the start. She finally had her marathon and it was just four short months away.
The next day, her newest chemo drugs arrived. Two days later, her body was “a toxic waste dump,” she said. Two weeks later, she won the 10k at Kenwood in a new course PR. She would not run for another week, but when she did, she closed her run with miles so fast that we really began to see her goal of a 2:37 marathon as a real possibility. Three days later, the chemo took her away from training yet again for another 48 hours. By the 19th of July, she had lost feeling in her left foot, calf, and hand.
The very next day, on July 20th, despite the loss of feeling on her left side, Sarah said she decided to go the Ngugi route and ran 100 minutes “because I can,” she said. Despite closing the run with several successive miles just a shadow over six-minute pace, Sarah felt it was slow.
“I needed to do something, so I’ll take it.”
It would be the last run of her life.
Not all of life’s miles are completed on the road or trail, and while Sarah Sumpter logged thousands of miles under the power of her own two feet, the distance covered by her story has not been measured because it has not yet reached its conclusion.
Sarah’s nickname, “Stump,” came to her initially by folly—a misspelling in a list of meet entries. In time, however, this name became a fortuitous moniker—a testimony to her ability to not be uprooted.
I never called her Stump because I used to think it meant “cut down,” and that was not how I knew her. To me, she was too big, too much–a giant wrapped in a feisty pixie shell. Now, however, in the wake of her passing, I find myself examining the nature of this nickname.
Stubborn. Tough. Unwavering. Of course, she was all of these things. However, she was not just these things.
A Stump marks the passing of time with an open face and honest rings. A Stump shows its scars because those scars are what created it in the first place. A Stump stands as a monument to the great heights of the past. Most importantly, a Stump is the source of new life. Its deep roots provide the means for new sprouts to grow into new trees.
What Sarah has done is leave us the gift of herself. Her death is not an ending because I don’t believe she ever finished. She is leaving us not to finish the race, but to begin anew. And each time we lace up our shoes and put foot to pavement or tread to trail, we celebrate Sarah Sumpter. We are the keepers of her legacy.
The run continues. We champion the grind. I promise you, Sarah, we will not waste good time.
(Editor’s note: Chris Puppione, the former head cross country coach at UC Davis (2004-2008), is the head cross country coach at Cardinal Newman High School. He continues to coach professional athletes and develop corporate fitness programs for local Sonoma County businesses.)
(Lead photo courtesy of Sarah Sumpter-formerly of Healdsburg HS and pictured above and UC Davis coach, Drew Wartenburg and his twitter account: pic.twitter.com/cggT1IL9 )