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18 Jun 17

om and Randy nearing the finish pause to have the majesty of the mountain backdrop captured as a momenty they would not want to forget.

Almost to the top, enjoying the beautiful backdrop

“…by bringing myself over the edge and back, I discovered a passion to live my days fully, a conviction that will sustain me like sweet water on the periodically barren plain of our short lives.” (Jonathan Waterman)

I’ve climbed Mt Washington’s 6,288 feet many times through the years by way of the majestic and challenging hiking trails. The notion of a foot race up the auto road sounded daunting and when I mentioned my interest during a run with friends, Tom Cassetty asked if I had a guide and then immediately volunteered. His self professed and somewhat tongue in cheek motto: “That’s a terrible idea, when are we doing it?” certainly helped lead us both to this adventure. I celebrate goals as the means to drive my spirit to learn about myself and challenge myself to always be learning, growing and celebrating life. I knew from his prior run and the wisdom of others that it would be difficult. The weather forecast all week and the morning of our race foretold of thunderstorms and cloud cover, we were surprised to discover an entirely different experience. The weather was beautiful.  I did not say it was ideal. It was humid almost to the 99% humidity level and the sun burned down upon us the entire time. It made the journey challenging for certain. I’m appreciative of my training and the many mountain climbing miles which helped my lungs and legs to celebrate the journey and share experiences in these glorious mountain ranges while we continued our steady plod up through the miles. Climbing 4650 feet of elevation over 7.6 miles is simply a lot of work for anyone and while we were not out to make great time I could not appreciate the work we were doing nor the work of so many around us any more. My spirits were soaring throughout the journey and I was well reminded why I love the  attitude adjustment of my altitude adjustment and I think spirits around us all were higher for the beauty and majesty unfurled around us.

As we neared the final stretch and could hear the summit sounds we did stop to get a commemorative picture of Tom and I with our mountain back-drop. I then asked if he wanted to dig in deep for a strong finish run. I could hear the weariness in his voice but he found the mental and physical resolve to deliver and run we did! I could hear friends calling out support and encouragement. I felt the grade steepen even to the 22% final pitch where your legs must lift high and strong and pull your body up forcibly despite all the many steps before. Tom guided me through the gentle turn of that final stretch and over the finish to cheers. We, like many, had walked more than we might have intended before the race began. We had given what we had and dug a little deeper to finish in a way which for me capped the perfection of the day. I always strive to give my best and include in that accepting realistic limitations we all face along the journey. When you know you’ve done all you can and reached your goal with the flair and celebration to appreciate it fully it truly is the peak potential I find makes the moment resonate so much longer. I’ll remember the 7.6 miles of journey very well and they hold the most meaning for Tom and I. I’ll still treasure our strength as a team in that finish and the reception we shared. I can only hope that if a picture paints a thousand words you might get a bit more from the video Tracy took of our final push together!

Autumn waits with perky ears!

Autumn waiting for her dad and Tom!

 

One final bonus is that a journey or experience rarely ends at the summit. It’s a great vantage point to view all the many other possibilities ahead. Better still it’s a time to reflect, review and revise your many goals for yourself and your world. In my instance it included a wonderful grounding as a pair of special ladies awaited us at the top. Tracy took this and many other photos but both Autumn and Tracy are my guides and my true encouragement through all the challenges of life well beyond what a mountain road race may offer. Every summit is sweeter when you can celebrate with those you love. I’m blessed with an abundance of friends I love and a couple of particularly special ladies, thank you Autumn and Tracy!

 

 

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4 Jun 17

By Beth Foote

Randy and Alex, our team captain, in the Walk for Sight

Randy and Alex, our team captain, in the Walk for Sight

It was a cool, partly cloudy morning on Saturday, June 3 when the 2020 Vision Quest team gathered together in Concord, NH with 400+ other walkers for the 14th Annual Walk for Sight. This was my first experience participating at this yearly event hosted by Future in Sight (formerly New Hampshire Association for the Blind), one of the two organizations that 2020 Vision Quest supports with its fundraising and awareness efforts.

People all around me were reconnecting with old friends and greeting new ones. The crowd was a sea of blue “Walk for Sight” tee-shirts and the air buzzed with anticipation. I did some reconnecting myself with some folks I’d met before and was introduced to new people, including our team captain, Alex, who was so inspired a few years ago when Randy spoke at her elementary school that she and her parents have participated in the walk ever since. This year, Alex served as the team’s captain and did a bang-up job!

As it hit 11 a.m., we heard from David Morgan, President and CEO of Future in Sight. He announced that there were more walkers this year than in any of the previous years. He spoke about the organization’s name change and how it reflected its broadening scope of service — beyond just New Hampshire to other states in New England, and to people with a wide range of visual impairment. Future in Sight has served twice as many clients in need in the last year — 2,200 — than it did in its previous year. However, he said, there are still more than 28,000 people with visual impairment in New Hampshire alone. Future in Sight’s mission is to reach ever further to serve as much of this community as they can.

The 2020 Vision Quest team at Walk for Sight 2017!

Alex & Autumn’s 2020 Vision Quest team at the Walk for Sight 2017!

Randy Pierce also spoke, building off David’s words; he encouraged everyone in the crowd to not just support this mission today, but throughout the year. He urged folks to share their experiences with others, especially on social media, and spread the word to those who can support in order to extend the reach of Future in Sight to better help those in need.

After these inspirational words, we were off! It took about an hour to do the 3k circuit through the city. The celebratory feeling in the air was catching. Volunteer staff were stationed at many intersections to ensure safe crossing of the walkers. I heard Randy make sure to thank as many volunteers as he could and I started following his example, trying to do my best to spread around the good feeling and cheer as a part of this community.

A new component to the event this year was called “Walk in My Shoes.” This activity allowed adult walkers to experience what it’s like to move through the city as a visually impaired pedestrian by using blindfolds and simulation glasses, with the help of trained sighted guides. It was fascinating to see walkers go through this experience and listen to them described their changed perceptions, such as disorientation and heightened awareness of sounds around them.

It was an amazing and humbling experience, being a part of this diverse and welcoming community all walking through the streets of Concord. I’m happy to share my experience with you and I urge you to spread the word of Future in Sight’s mission far and wide!

Connect with Future in Sight:

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28 May 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy presents to Leadership Lakes Region. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ziemba McLean and Johanna Newbold of Catalyst Chiropractic.

Randy presents to Leadership Lakes Region. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ziemba McLean and Johanna Newbold of Catalyst Chiropractic.

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

I thought much upon the nature of leadership in preparation for my commencement keynote for the graduates of the Leadership Lakes Region class of 2017. This was my third time presenting and the fourth time they had invited me as health issues had prevented my accepting last year. I’ve done plenty of leading and following and I believe it is a vital skill to recognize which role is needed, as is having the ability to adapt your skills to suit your role at either. Ultimately we are first and foremost responsible for ourselves and if we cannot ready ourselves properly, we will likely struggle in any role we attempt.

My presentations, I’m told, enhance the personal approach to motivation with some quality tools and considerations for working with teams. I customize points of emphasis such as leadership or communication through the base presentation and ultimately I feel it is the empowerment of the individual which lies at the heart of my approach. This is why Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote resonated so well for me that I called it out above:  “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” I attempt to inspire others with emotional content for certain, while also providing thinking points to retain and recall for their future use in evaluating their own approaches.

For all of this, how is my own leadership? Initially, leadership roles were the default result of simply having the personality to take charge in situations where there seemed to be a need. That eventually led me to make deliberate choices such as the founding of 2020 Vision Quest or accepting the role of Chair at Future in Sight. The latter requires a much more strategic and involved planning and there’s an element to it which is harder. I’ve certainly met my share of setbacks in all forms.

For me, the most comfortable leadership is simply in doing the things that motivate me and enticing those for whom there is similar interest to join along. An aspect of this is “lead by example” and another aspect is simple coordination and organization. This is because I love to encourage people to challenge themselves and believe in themselves. I love to encourage people to support their communities and become part of teams which empower us to build a better world in various ways. I prefer not to ever suggest artificial obligation as motivation for people because that detracts from the ultimate experience. I’d rather simply find ways to enhance the experiences to make it worthy of their interest and thus appropriate for the inclusion of more friends.

Greg dumps a bucket of water over Randy's head at the end of the race.

Greg and Randy celebrating! Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ziemba McLean and Johanna Newbold of Catalyst Chiropractic.

As such, I want to share a few invitations with you all. As a little incentive remember that the top fund raiser for our Walk for Sight Team on June 3 will have the opportunity to douse me with an ice bucket just like the image to the right!

  • June 3: Join our 3K Walk for Sight Team as we really could use more team members! (Consider a donation to one of the team members otherwise? May I suggest Alex if not me!)
  • June 17: Peak Potential Table Price Increase – Buy a table before the final price increase. While the event is November 18 this is the final chance to confirm your table of 8 for the $600 price before it increases to $700.
  • June 22: Presentation to the Gate City Striders at Martha’s Exchange – Are you a Strider or interested in joining the club? There will be a slightly running slanted presentation that evening.
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6 May 17

Talent without working hard is nothing. Cristiano Ronaldo

Showing off a great donation

Linda Casazza and Randy show off the donation from Hollis Upper Elementary

One day after the 2017 Boston Marathon I walked into the Hollis Auditorium to attend the Upper Elementary Talent Show with teacher Linda Casazza kindly beside me. She had coordinated our March presentation to the students, as well as, our attendance for a brief presentation during the talent show from which we’d been told proceeds would help support our 2020 Vision Quest Charity. As the show began our student masters of ceremony began a guided tour of some of the lessons shared by our presentations and I am proud to say I felt an emotional surge of appreciation and pride to hear how well they had grasped the salient points of our outreach. “Believe in Possibility” and understand problem solving, planning and perseverance along with a healthy dose of teamwork are some of the tools to help any of us reach for our peak potential. I am not surprised today to share they were indeed very successful in their goal to use their diverse talents and creativity to make an incredibly generous donation to our organization. I think their own press release is the right way to share it along with my personal thank-you and the gratitude of all those who will benefit from the philanthropic spirit of students, parents, teachers and the Hollis community! Thank you to the entire community of the Hollis Upper Elementary School!

News Release

The Hollis Upper Elementary School held a talent and craft show in April. Many 4th, 5th, and 6th graders shared their crafting, dancing, singing and instrument playing talents as well as the much-anticipated faculty performance as the finale.

All of the proceeds raised were to support 2020VisionQuest, a local Nashua organization that was founded by Randy Pierce.  Randy, who unexpectedly lost his vision as an adult, visited the school in March and gave presentations to students and staff about his life, goal setting, and problem solving.

The mission of 2020VisionQuest is to “lead and inspire students and professionals to reach beyond adversity, achieve their peak potential, and achieve a vision beyond your sight”.

Randy was invited back to HUES on May 5 and was presented with a check for the proceeds from the talent show for $ 2889.11.  Those proceeds will support two visually impaired organizations: Future in Sight as well as Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

You can learn more about 2020Vision Quest and Randy’s personal story at 2020VisionQuest.org.

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29 Apr 17

By Randy Pierce

Tedy Bruschi hiking with Randy in May 2011

Tedy Bruschi hiking with Randy in May 2011.

May mountain memories are richly rewarding for me, from my engagement to Tracy on May 1, 2010 atop Mt. Welch to the May 2, 2011 hike we took with Tedy Bruschi. It is the latter I wish to revisit today although you can certainly tour the recollections from our Blaze of Glory blog.

My work with 2020 Vision Quest and Future In Sight combined with my Marathon schedule have limited my opportunities to escape for the altitude adjustments of our wilderness hikes. When spring is slowly releasing winter’s influence and reaching towards summer, the trails are slower still to welcome the warmth and release the snowpack (monorail) which makes hiking particularly challenging for me. Early May on the lower elevations is just right for my reasonable return, so my thoughts are returning and I wanted to share the reflection.

So many seasons have turned since then and so much growth in our lives has happened, yet the foundations there remain constant for me today. Tedy Bruschi joined us to learn and practice as well as to celebrate friendship and teamwork. He joined to help, to put emphasis on ability awareness, and to help us with our own outreach in the early days of our charity. While reading and reflecting and listening to both versions of the Quinn vs. Tedy tug-of-war match, I could not help but appreciate how much fun was interwoven in the entire day. There is so much work in our mission, in the training and planning but at the core of it all I hope to always remember and savor the fun in the experiences.

May always feels right for rejuvenation to me. I know there is an epic hiking adventure in Peru coming for us in September and the arrival of May heralds a celebration of the joys of hiking and life which await. I hope to hear the echoes of Tedy’s laughter on the trails as Autumn guides me where Quinn’s paws proudly pioneered the path before her. I hope for all of you much joy in sharing our adventures ahead and in sharing your own with us as we journey together on the path.

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22 Apr 17

By Randy Pierce

“Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans” – John Lennon

Guard House at Machu Picchu.

Guard House at Machu Picchu. On to new adventures!

Recently our focus has been upon the Boston Marathon and while this blog is written in response to it, the concepts are far broader for me. I finished the race in 5 hours and 3 minutes which was longer than I anticipated. It would be so easy to be frustrated and I admit to having endured a little more of that emotion than I would have preferred along the route. Most of the reason for any disappointment is due to expectations which simply didn’t account for all the events which took place to result in our race day experience.

So very often in our many journeys we hope to inflict our plans and our will upon the world and the influence we create can indeed be significant. Yet, when a host of additional factors are introduced, we should be prepared to adapt and adjust our approach as well as our expectations. This simple choice can ensure our ability to celebrate and savor appropriately all aspects of a situation despite any challenges or misdirection involved. Often, if we simply may change our mindset, we become open to the gifts and rewards present in those changes.

I did not anticipate or expect my life would include a journey to blindness. Initially I balked and resisted the journey with a range of approaches from denial, evasion, and even depression. Now, when I reflect upon my life’s journey, I certainly acknowledge that I would welcome my sight but still delight in the blindness for the lessons and gifts it has brought into my life have helped bring me to people and places I likely would not have experienced without the gifts my loss of sight brought to my life. Hard as that may be for some to believe, it took my personal acceptance and adaptation to realize that along with the detriments and real challenges came a wealth of benefits as well.

So when I reflect in my Marathon journey, there are many things about the day going differently which could have and did bring about frustration. I wish I’d have adjusted my mindset more quickly to appreciate some of the gifts. I’ll share just two of them here as evidence to my feeling.

Rebecca and Randy running in the Boston Marathon

Rebecca and Randy running strong! Photo courtesy of MA Association for the Blind.

A strategic error on my part caused the work of my first guide Rebecca to be tremendously more challenging for most of the first 13 miles and thus even made the final 5 of her 18 guiding miles more challenging. At the transition point we intended to just switch guides and go but we took a full stop for a moment to share and appreciate the work we’d just accomplished together. It was amongst the hardest 18 miles of guiding anyone had ever had to undertake and my pride of her and appreciation for her as a guide and as a friend was simply overflowing. That emotion sustains still and likely will for all time as a gift she gave me and as an achievement we earned together.

The second is similar in potency but vastly different in need. The circumstances of the race with collisions and falls had taken a toll on me. I have significant balance issues which once placed me in a wheelchair and which, when put under too much duress of the wrong type, can impact me tremendously.

Randy and Tom running along the Marathon route.

Randy and Tom working hard. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jordan.

This was the state in which Tom roughly took over his guiding and as my vertigo began to ramp up beyond control, it was not possible for me to run in the normal rigid tether approach that we use. Tom was still recovering from being unwell, meaning barely over his own pneumonia! And what I needed was his sturdy shoulder for support as well as his run guidance. This was like no run we’d ever shared together. He was a rock and adapted, encouraged, supported and helped guide me, not just to the finish but to the celebration the accomplishment deserved despite my desire to be frustrated and disappointed and yes overly apologetic! My gift this day was to celebrate the race in a totally different way and better still to celebrate my finish with finer friends than even when we had begun the journey!

Thank you Rebecca and Tom! So perhaps when you are next facing change, frustration or disappointment you’ll remember John Lennon’s quote and more quickly find your way to see the gifts a better vision provides us all if we only learn to look.

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15 Apr 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Pete have a strong start to the Boston Marathon.

Randy and Pete in the Boston Marathon 2015.

Runners exalt the marathon as a public test of private will, when months or years of solitary training, early mornings, lost weekends, rain and pain mature into triumph or surrender. That’s one reason the race-day crowds matter, the friends who come to cheer and stomp and flap their signs and push the runners on.

- Nancy Gibbs

Boston Marathon 2017

Randy’s Bib Number: 25048
Wave 4
Corral 2
Approximate Start Time: 11:15 a.m.
Approximate Finish: 3:15 p.m.

 

See the course map here.

I say it is the journey more than the destination, and this time is no different. Monday, April 17, 2017 is the 120th Boston Marathon and my third consecutive opportunity to savor the experience of the historic course. I have been dedicated to all aspects of my training and preparation leading into the marathon.

I invite all of you to join our Table Sprint Challenge, our a goal of selling 26 tables to Peak Potential prior to my finishing the 26 miles of the race. Read more about it here and buy your tickets here

Rebecca, Tom and I will now give our best effort on the course and the results will be shared here and on our 2020 Vision Quest Facebook page for those wanting to keep track of our progress. It will include the results of the Table Sprint Challenge which has already been tremendously successful as mile by mile I’m reminded  of my good fortune in such an incredible community.

Please feel free to share any Marathon-related information in the comments. As Nancy Gibbs said so well in the quote above, on the final day when the work is put on public display it is each bit of support which helps carry our spirit past the most difficult moments. #BostonStrong

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11 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

The quintessential 2020 Vision Quest image with Quinn guiding Randy up the steep, snowy, craggy summit of Mt. Monroe. Quinn’s golden muzzle basks majestically against the blue sky background illuminated by the sunshine while he patiently pauses for Randy, one hand on the harness, one hand on the snow as he struggles up the final slope to the summit!

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Monroe.

“Success comes to those who have an entire mountain of gold that they continually mine, not those who find one nugget and try to live on it for fifty years.”
– John C. Maxwell

The White Mountains of NH are aptly named in winter, but for me they are the gold which has inspired me beyond my expectations when I founded 2020 Vision Quest with the help of some incredible friends.

Throughout this winter of 2016-2017, I especially chose to relive some of the many marvels which comprised the epic single season winter summit of the 48 peaks rising over 4,000 feet. It was only five years ago this was accomplished and yet it seems a lifetime as it was one of many dramatic turning points in my life and worthy of this deeper examination.

When Quinn guided me onto the trail at Mt. Tecumseh on December 22, 2011, I had already learned many skills and techniques for hiking totally blind on our rather rugged trails. I had only a taste of what winter brings to the trails and mountains but I had a supportive collection of friends and a determination to give my best to learning, planning, and persevering through all reasonable challenges.

The large team of hikers supporting Randy on his final hike of that epic single winter quest. The stark and beautiful Lafayette ridge is in the background as the group poses on the summit of East Cannon, just one quarter mile from the final summit!

Randy and the team on Cannon

When I stepped off the trail after our March 10, 2012 summit of Cannon Mountain, I was bursting with pride for the team of friends, for the magnificent and Mighty Quinn and for the the treasures found along the trails and at the summits of these majestic mountains. I was a different person and while still completely without any sight, I had expanded my vision to see even more possibility ahead for myself, this Charity and the friends with whom I had connected so well.

Sharing stories around camps and campfires I doubt I would ever run short of worthy moments just from this winter and certainly I’ve shared some along the journey of this year. It is the expanded horizon of possibility which is the gold from which I draw strength then, now and doubtless onward into my future challenges. Whether pushing over the finish line of a National Marathon Championship, stepping through the Uguru gate at the rooftop of Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, or even the Tough Mudder Leap of Faith out to the trapeze and on to ring the bell, these mountains helped clear my vision and connect me to a foundation of trust in my team and myself.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Garfield in the snow with a Patriots Santa hat.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Garfield.

Before this winter I was, I like to think, a man who found comfort in the transition from a sighted world to one of total blindness. I found ways to appreciate my world, challenge myself and live meaningfully. I did not fully appreciate how much kind attention the accomplishment would receive and some of that is no doubt due to the incredible film created by Dina Sylvester, Four More Feet. Despite celebrating each five-year hiking anniversary this winter culminating in the quest completion, I do not and hope never to rest on the nugget of gold in that accomplishment.

I certainly do recall the challenges, the problem solving, the laughter, struggles and, oh yes, some moments of pain, but mostly the jubilant feeling of accomplishment. Those remind me some methodology but moreso inspire the passion to experience them all again, not in memory but in new accomplishments.

Mountains are synonymous with challenge and it is the lack of challenge which leads to the stagnation I hope to always avoid. The White Mountains of NH are my “forever mountains” and will motivate me to many more things. The Single Winter success of March 10 2012 finalized those feelings within me but it was the miles and miles of the journey in which my transformation forged the passion which will power me in the days ahead.

Randy and Quinn on the Summit of Mt. Garfield in the snow.

Taking shelter at the snowy summit of Mt. Garfield.

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21 Jan 17

Randy and Quinn run the BAA 5k in 2013

I sat in the theater between Jose and Tracy with Autumn at my feet. Jose had guided me for Boston 2016 as well as the California National Marathon Championship in 2014. I held Tracy’s hand often and felt many emotional stirrings as the movie and my own recollections intertwined powerfully for a little more than two hours. As the photo above illustrates, I was on that now infamous finish line one day before those bombs would so terribly change the lives of many people. I was crossing after a crowded run of 5 K with pride at Quinn’s incredible work and the friendship of Jennifer Liang who had run ahead of us for most of the race. One day later I was at home while Jennifer and her husband Robert were sitting in the stands watching the finishers and it was far too long before a text message assured me they were safely away. So many emotions welled up through the following days. How do we face such awful and needless violence? How do we respond? For me it brought about the conviction I would learn how to run a marathon and find a way to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon by the next year. While Quinn’s cancer would ultimately and appropriately delay those plans by a year, that moment transformed me into a marathon runner. That moment transformed my life in other ways along with the lives of a community and in many ways a nation.

The movie reinforced for me how much the world came together in support of Boston. We built a rally call of “Boston Strong” and yet it was support from everywhere which touched my heart many times then and still now. It takes the hardest lessons at times to bring people together in such powerful ways. Unfortunately we can also too easily lose those lessons and leave them behind as divisiveness seems all too natural. The lesson I took away then and keep with

Jose and Randy with their hands up running the Marathon.

me fresh today is simply this. When people do not learn how to communicate in healthy ways, when people do not learn how to resolve differences in healthy ways; the risk of horrific results is higher. I will try to choose to learn communication even when it is of the difficult variety. I will try to find healthier resolutions and I will set my goals in positive community actions and interactions.

This year I will be running my third consecutive Boston Marathon. I have much to share about the approach and excitement ahead. Today, however, I will take the message from the movie Patriot Day with me. On April 17 I will honor the spirit of community so strong after April 15, 2013. I will find strength in the real heroes who put themselves at risk to save lives and make our lives more safe. I will be thankful for my chance to run and for so many with whom I am united in stride.

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14 Jan 17

By Randy Pierce

Gate City Marathon course in Nashua, NH

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

My friendships, like my running and my blindness, are a journey of small steps with ever increasing promise when I learn to take those steps with a little guidance. Admittedly the running career involves rather a lot of guidance and fortunately for me there’s been an abundance of kind opportunity.

Recently I sat down with Jennifer Jordan, Race Director for the Gate City Marathon, and Tom Cassetty, President of the Gate City Striders. Each of them has guided me for a run in the past. They each have become personal friends of mine and they were sharing some exciting and well timed news.

I had already decided to run the Gate City Marathon on Sunday morning May 21. I had already assembled a team of friends from the 2020 Vision Quest crew to run the relay for themselves while each guided me during their roughly five-mile loop. I had already determined the relay options created such a fun and festive celebration atmosphere in downtown Nashua that I hoped we’d encourage our community of friends to create other teams or just come join us for the block party atmosphere. This is all still true and I absolutely urge all of you to create any combination of teams for the relay, half or full marathon or simply come down and help us celebrate an epic event and experience. If I can help encourage that, please let me know because I’d love to support this event by having you join us in some capacity!

Gate City Marathon Runners

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

Randy: Jumping first to the big news, why have you decided to open a VI (Visually Impaired) Division?

Jennifer: Our race and our club has a mission of inclusion. We want runners of all abilities to feel included and participate. Randy Pierce is a very important club member and friend so what better way to celebrate that friendship than to add this division to our race!

Note from Randy: One of the things I appreciate about my club is the approach that every member is a valuable and important club member as evidenced by this response.

Randy: This is the third year of the Gate City Marathon. What was the inspiration for its origin?

Jennifer: This started as a replacement for the long-standing AppleFest Half Marathon, formerly the club’s signature event. This race was losing popularity and registrations so the club decided it needed a new signature event. A group of members, led by the club president, Tom Cassetty, discussed some options.  Tom wanted a marathon course in a clover-leaf formation that would cross over Main St in Nashua as its center-point, allowing for the relay option in addition to the marathon distance.

Randy: My own experience downtown for your first event and the reports I’ve heard from others suggest you really captured that goal well. The downtown central location showcases Nashua’s downtown in a festive and fun block party atmosphere which I appreciated as a spectator and look forward to as a runner. My wife Tracy and her relay team certainly appreciated the central gathering point for excitement. Many people celebrate it as the best relay marathon because of the central loops from downtown Nashua.  What do you think are the best features of your event?

Jennifer: We agree that one of the best features is the loop or clover-leaf formation.  This allows a marathon runner to be re-charged after every 5-ish miles, making it a great spectator marathon.  Additionally, it allows for runners who may not be ready for the 26.2 distance to also participate by putting a team of friends together. It’s also a celebration of downtown Nashua! In addition to these items, we have a unique high quality swag bag full of goodies from our sponsors, a great tech race shirt, custom finisher medals and a great after-party! We are also very excited to report that our half marathon has been selected as an event in the NH Grand Prix series and will be a certified half marathon distance. Of note, our Marathon is a USATF certified Boston Marathon Qualifier as well.

Randy: While I’ve a little bit of a bias as a proud member of your run club, I thought you might share with our community a little bit about who are these “Gate City Striders” who are putting on this event?

Jennifer: Who are the Gate City Striders?

We are the largest and longest established, non-profit running club in NH, with over 700 members that includes individuals and families. With a strong focus on running, competitively and recreationally, we also focus heavily on community outreach. We provide a free summer youth fitness program: Fitness University; and several events to benefit local charity organizations: NovemberFest race benefits the Nashua Children’s Home, Harvard Pilgrim 5k benefits the Nashua PAL XC program, we partner with and provide financial help to the Nashua YMCA, High Hopes of NH, Nashua Police Athletic League and many others.

 Randy: How did you come to be the Race Director?

Jennifer: In short, I volunteered. A group of us was working on the concept for the race/event and I (with some trepidation) decided I really wanted to do it. I thought my professional experience as a Program Manager would really help me manage this large project. I think I have developed the skills to be able to lead a team and we had and have an exceptional team of folks on the committee. Like most things, a task such as this cannot be done well without a strong, knowledgeable team!

Randy: I might add caring and passionate team to that description and you certainly have all those qualifications. I was already enthusiastic about the race before we sat down to talk and now I’m even more thrilled and hopeful to help bring even more people to join us. The event is on May 21st at 7:00 am. How can people sign up or get information?

Jennifer:

Here are links to our website:  

 Randy: I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground, though not quite a marathon. Is there anything  else you would like to share with our community.

Jennifer: It should be noted that the Gate City Striders and the committee and volunteers who manage and support the Gate City Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay are made up 100% of volunteers. An event this size requires hundreds of volunteers to make is a fun and safe event for all. Each year we are challenged to provide enough volunteer support. This year will be not different so we can always use more volunteers! But it cannot go without saying how much we appreciate the volunteers we do get and how much we appreciate how supportive the City of Nashua, the residents and businesses and houses of worship have been over these years. We hope to continue to build on those relationships!

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