On the heels of President Obama’s visit to Dillingham, I returned to work at my familiar stomping grounds in Bristol Bay and the prospect of running with old friends as part of our Rural People in Motion (RPM) Running/Walking Group that began in 2002. The group hadn’t been active in awhile and we decided to change that.
Work brings me back in the region at Kanakanak Hospital, and there is now a new crop of teachers and employees at the Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. What an opportunity to plant the seed of resurrecting RPM again while supporting the local cross-country meet staged at the Dillingham Boat Harbor.
The tide was in and a few boats sat idle at the dock as the harriers from Koliganik, New Stuyahok and King Salmon competed against the host team, the Wolverines of Dillingham. The hospital supplied lunch for runners and coaches along with meaningful education information on the ravages of chewing tobacco and diabetes – a proverbial teaching moment seized by the Health Education Department of the hospital.
It was a joy to watch these young athletes post impressive times on a chilly yet sunny day. Some efforts were eclipsed the following week at the Region meet where two runners from the Wolverine squad qualified for a trip to the state meet. However the most impressive performance of the day was by a young girl not yet eligible to compete at a state meet. Middle-school runner Sadie Tuckwood clocked a time that was the fastest of the day over the 3-mile course, finishing just over 17 minutes. Here’s a potential Allie Ostrander if she continues to improve. Her form is flawless so it will be exciting to see what happens in the next few years. Plus 12-year-old Sammy Calvert showed promise, running like Prefontaine out front the entire way breaking 20 minute easily.
Amidst all the cheering, inquires were made about bringing back the RPM group to Dillingham. Long-term residents remembered it and agreed it was a fun activity and the new blood in town chimed in with a resounding yes. So as September closed, Suzanne Nunn, the health educator at Bristol Bay Area Health Corp., penned a proposal to relaunch RPM again with runs progressing in distance each month starting in October with a Pirate Zombie Run followed by a November Turkey Trot, and a December/January Ringing in the New Year Run and so on.
Boom! RPM is back. It seems the smaller the community, the greater the buy-in. Just look at Fairbanks and Running Club North. Theirs is an incredible success story with the Equinox Marathon acting as an anchor for its club. Seward has Mount Marathon, and Palmer has the Musk Ox Run. Running and walking serves unifies a community, to encourage its members to stay fit and support other causes like preventing heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
In fact, running is a catalyst for healthy activities in communities large and small. Passionate athletes and community activists are mobilized along with staff from local hospitals, schools and businesses to create a healthy community from which all can benefit, irrespective of community size. The opportunity is there for us to embrace. Will you step up to assist others in building events for your community? I’m “All in” with RPM in Dillingham. How about you, and your community?