by Kristen Hislop
Fun Facts: 40 women globally competed; women from 29 states competed; 2,022 ran.
2020. The memes are already old and worn out. We went from living life to wondering how we could possibly navigate these new waters. In those first few days at home, many people set about drafting lofty goals with creative activities to achieve their true and full potential. Pretty quickly, everyone realized, we need toilet paper and sanitizer, and this is likely not going away any time too soon. Moving up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was the move to focusing on security and safety. Try to keep as much as possible the same, and just leave those races on the calendar, as they hopefully will happen. As postponements and cancellations rolled in, anger grew and then was replaced with sadness. Runners were missing their friends. Many had trouble getting out the door for a workout. Why bother when every race was erased from the schedule?
It was just about then that we pulled the plug on the Freihofer’s Run for Women. We knew it couldn’t happen in downtown Albany with over 2,500 athletes on the roads. But we also knew that it couldn’t stop happening in some way. The 42nd edition had to happen. We had to let our participants have that sense of accomplishment. Empowerment, love, acceptance, determination and courage drive this annual event, along with an incredible camaraderie with other women in a fun experience.
Prior to 2020 I had never done a virtual run. While I like medals, I like hanging out with friends and having a race experience more. I really wasn’t sure how the whole virtual concept would work, but I bought in 110%. After all, if Patrick Lynskey (the other co-director) and I didn’t believe in the event, why would anyone else?
We did have some people request refunds, and 136 asked that their registration be donated to the 3 charities associated with the race. But the rest said they were game for a virtual event. I asked vendors who would normally be at the expo if they would donate prizes. The response was great, with over 50 prizes donated for women who were participating in the virtual event, had donated their registration or signed up for the contest. My goal was to give these businesses exposure and love during these tough times.
The last time there was a medal (we did a necklace charm for the 40th edition of the race) was the 35th running. So, in the tradition of virtual runs, we added a medal. Of course, the Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies are a major driver for many women, so everyone received a Freihofer’s product coupon.
Our ambassadors jumped on the task of promoting the race and did a phenomenal job of getting the word out. Jen Casey persuaded 40 women from around the world to participate in the virtual event, including women from the United Kingdom, as well as Louise Bataillon (now living in France) and her daughter Florence (now living in Montreal). Louise was one of our Training Challenge mentors and spokespeople when she lived in the Capital Region!
29 states were represented for the virtual event. It was great to hear from women who have lived in the Capital Region and were now able to again join us - virtually! Carmen Troncoso celebrated her 30th Freihofer’s Run for Women from Texas. She had a hot and humid run, but raised a beer and toasted all the participants from afar!
Melissa Gacek, an elite masters runner from Minnesota, ran an 18:22 5K and thanked us for the push! Molly Kane ran hers on the track with family support and an awesome poster. This was number 20 for Mary Buck! I love the photo Anna Larson sent in - post run inside in front of the fan.
Since you could choose when to do your run, women were up and out early, or logging the 5K after work, some choosing a hot and humid day, and others who ran as I did on May 30. It was great fun watching the results, comments and photos come in on the results page and social media. There were just as many celebrations, awesome posters and cookies as if we had been in downtown Albany! It was great to see families and friends embrace the virtual event and make it special.
Some women ran indoors, like 7-year-old Angelina Tamburrino and Christine Honiker, who ran her first official 5K on her Peloton treadmill. For others it was all about the family. Mary Weeks wrote: “FREIHOFER'S 5K 2020 is NOT cancelled! This is at least my 13th consecutive running of Freihofer's, even if this is a ‘virtual’ one. Gorgeous morning for the race. Hard to push yourself against a watch, but the tradition of Freihofer's must go on. Each year, we have our Irish Family of ladies (sisters, daughters, mothers, cousins) come together for the Freihofer's Run in Albany, usually 15 of us. This includes two of our Mom's (one turning 85 this year and one 87)! We call ourselves the "Shannon-igans" since our family name is Shannon. We always have a great time going out to dinner the night before, then back to the hotel for ice cream and wine, and then finish with the Freihofer's 5K on Saturday. We miss being able to be together this year, but look forward to getting together again next year in Albany for our favorite race!”
Many times those families expand year over year. Jennifer Betsworth ran last year 34 weeks pregnant. This year she ran with her son watching! It was a good year for team Jennifer, as Jennifer Aerts ran 5 months postpartum and had her fastest 5K in over a year - you go Mama! Brittany Mangione also ran her first 5K as a new mom. We had so many great mother/daughter runs along with the multiple generation teams.
As always, the stories bring tears to my eyes. Erin Rousseau wrote, “I'm a grad student over at MIT and have been living on an empty campus for the last few months. We aren't able to go into lab or do research, so it’s been pretty isolating. My mom suggested that we run this year’s virtual Freihofer's Run for Women as a way of staying connected. It ended up being a ton of fun. She ran in the Capitol Region and I ran over here in Cambridge while we called on the phone. It felt really nice to do something together while being far apart.” We are so happy we helped Erin and her Mom celebrate together.
Country roads, hills, certified 5k courses, treadmills and neighborhoods provided the routes, family and friends provided the support. But what was different this year was that many of the 2,022 women ran alone. It was all them. They did it - no one talking them along (as often happens in the race), no bands along the course, no Dave Oja announcing their name at the finish and yet they did it (and with a lot of great times). To all the women who participated (and all the family and friends who made it extra special) I say thank you. Thank you for staying the course, for signing up and for crossing your finish line. This has not been an easy time for anyone, but you did it! Congratulations and I can’t wait to see you at the start in 2021!