A Memorable SparkPeople Weekend


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  70 comments   :  17,363 Views

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with friendship. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote sums up what many of us felt when we joined together for one of the most life-changing experiences the last weekend in March. In one of largest SparkPeople events, outside the SparkPeople conventions, well over 50 SparkPeople members descended on the Pennsylvania community of Cranberry Township, just north of Pittsburgh, to participate in the Just a Short Run (JASR) event. This race consisted of a 5K, 8.1 miler, half-marathon and 30K, a distance for every runner or walker. After a year of planning by Bob and Anne Dawson, Jan Fransden, Lynn Aufman and John Parker, we were all eager to share the blessing that an event like this can make in our lives.

The icing on the cake was having SparkPeople members Britt -AKA BAM0827 and Bonnie- AKA SMILEITSALLGOOD present us all with homemade SparkPeople patches they lovingly made for us to wear proudly during the race so that we could identify one another at the event. I can't begin to tell you how many people came up to me during the race asking me what the SparkPeople symbol was on my back and why so many people were wearing them.

What made this event so special is, that while we all come from different walks of life, the one common denominator amongst us is that we all met on SparkPeople. For many, this was his/her first time ever running/walking a race of his/her chosen distance. For others it was an opportunity to solidify friendships that have been forged over the months in the SparkPeople running teams. And for others this was the opportunity to take the risk of fulfilling a life-long dream. And for those who did not participate in the event, they came to share in a celebratory lunch after the race.

While this blog may have my name on it, I did not want this blog to be about my experience alone so I asked my many friends to offer their insight as to what they experienced. For me, I was honored to celebrate my 5th running anniversary with some of the most amazing and inspirational people I have ever had the honor to meet. Who would have thought five years ago that I would travel half-way across the country to run with people I met on a website. But that is precisely what I did and what a pleasure it was to do so. I can say that while we were friends in the virtual world, when we left we discovered we all a part of a big family

I hope you enjoy the photos and excerpts from many of those who participated in this amazing event. We plan on returning to Cranberry Township in 2012 so if you live in the area or you would like to participate in a destination run or walk, we would love for you join the Just a Short Run SparkPeople Team.

Below are just some of the many memories people walked away with. Enjoy!

"To me JASR weekend represented the strengthening of close friendships and the forming of new Spark friends. It's the love, laughter and support that matter the most and running is the added bonus!!" Laurie5658

"My foot hurt, my pants fell down, but I really enjoyed having yinz around." IPA-RAY

"Never before have I walked into a room of complete strangers and knew immediately that I was among friends and felt a part of a special group of people who hold the similar desire to live a better healthier life. BRIAN36

"There is no experience that matches being with such a diverse group of "like-minded" people. All are accepted, and some day I will learn not say I'm "just a" walker. As my peers have said, walkers or runners all are athletes. Sparkers are all family!" CALIDREAMER76

"Many of us are part of training groups and may even run with friends but when you have time to chat eye to eye with a fellow Sparker who has shared your fitness journey, supported you in your challenges and celebrated your joys, there are no words to describe the experience; relationship makes all the difference!! Cheering one another across yet another finish line ROCKS!!" DEEJ4FITNESS

"It was a great event where I got to actually meet old friends I have only talked with online, and also forge new friendships that will grow over time both online and in person." MOXIE-IN-MOTION

"It was like my hometown was hosting the SparkOlympics! LOL" LYNNANN43

"This was like a delicious cake, the Sparkers were the ingredients of the batter and then were whipped into the batter during the race. The cake was baked light and airy during lunch and then topped with a delightful frosting in the evening. Enjoyed!!" MOMGETSSPARK

"Hotel room in cranberry $100, new running shoes $130, JASR race registration $30, a weekend running and hanging out with 40+ Spark Friends -"PRICELESS" BOBBYD31

"The sharing of friendships that went beyond running; the making of memories and family."DREBENEZER

"They may call them "SparkFriends" but they're really more of a family that cheers, supports and encourages you every step of the way." TORTUETOO

"For this first timer, walking into a room full of welcoming, energetic, positive people that, regardless of where you came from, why you joined spark , whether you were walking or running created a spark of warmth and a feeling of family in me that will last forever!" BEANPOD77

"I was shy but everyone seemed super nice." MRSSMITH622

"Just a few short years ago I was unhealthy and unhappy. This weekend I felt love, happiness, motivation and the support of spark friends surround me and it showed me just how happy, healthy and perfect my life is! Thank you all!" MIAMIA7

"From my odd flight times pick-up and drop-off to the rescue from my nap-turned-into-sleep, the love and support I felt from everyone was unlike anything I had ever felt before." CARILOUIE

"I have made a lot of running friends in my local running club but spark runners understand that it is not easy to lose weight, start running and change your life and nobody I met at JASR would tell me that I am not an athlete or put runner in quotes." UROPA40

"I only could be at the run due to what is going on in my personal life but it was great to meet other Sparkers and just be accepted without feeling any judgement." WOMANCHEF

"I am feeling really good about myself for the first time in quite a while. I am working on my plan for my upcoming year and this WILL be my year. I really am inspired by so many of you - if you can do it so can I and so will I!" DJS-DEBBIE

"SparkFriends make the best friends!"BILLALEX70

"I always thought that the Spark differentiator is its members. This weekend reinforced that as we got to witness friendship, support, and inspiration from everyone who was there!" BAM0827

"This was my fifth meet up with distant Sparkfriends. Each time was great, but no other matched the sheer numbers and energy of this Spark event." JOPAPGH

"The sheer enthusiasm for the success of every person, on their journey, is evident in the eyes of all the Sparkpeople at JASR. Never before have I had so many people look me in the eye and really want to know how I did. Never before have I so truly wanted to know how these people, many of whom I had only ever met online, felt after their runs." AMCG2002

"JASR was celebrated in fun, hills and icicles." DENNISMCG0522

"I went to JARS for its 8.1mile “training” race…left with new friendships and even stronger, established ones! Love Sparkpeople!!" ROOT4HOME

"JASR was a transformational experience for me! I met some inspirational characters, gained deeper relationships with my online ('imaginary') friends, found some fantastic new friends, and discovered a new joy for running and renewed energy for my Spark journey." GOEGIRL

"I have had a tough last 6 months and being with my sparks friends meant the world to me. I am so happy to have met many of my Spark friends of over 2 years. Thank you for all the hugs. Priceless!!!!" MKKAYA

"I was too shy to approach you all, but I love and felt your persence and support! the homemade spark badges renewed my motivation on my 1/2 marathon. Your cheers I did hear!" APIRLRAIN888

"I felt included and cherished and almost cried when I received a hug. I was warmed from the inside out, and I ended the day still soaring from the high you all gave me. My one sentence? Thank you." DARK_CINDERELLA

"The weekend was pure energy! I loved seeing my old Spark friends who are now family and enjoyed meeting new Spark friends and welcoming them into my family! I couldn't have asked for a better weekend!" SUEZETTE-414

"How about "It felt right"" There was so much love, support and genuine concern offered for everyone there. It was better than family really since there was true sharing without any judgement. Awesome. Thanks everyone." 69NURSE

"A Great Workout + Many New Friends + Fun + Laughter = the Sparkpeople at JASR Can't wait until next year!" SMILEITSALLGOOD

"This was my 1st 5K ever! I wanted to do in Pittsburgh, 271 miles from home, because there were so many SparkPeople going. I was so excited to meet everyone and so PROUD to cross that finish line. No one cared that I was walking...when I crossed the finish line there were sparkers cheering for ME! What an amazing time!" ERNURSERN

"Leaving Pittsburgh was so bittersweet - so sad to leave such amazing people, but their energy, knowledge, and constant inspiration made me excited to get home and push forward on my spark journey with new enthusiasm!" TIGGER622

"JASR was the first race where I truly did not care about my time at all. JASR was all about enjoying time with the Sparkers, not the race itself." FELIXC

"For me, JASR was a turning point in my journey. I was shy and quiet and did not reach out to others. Although I connected with a great friend, I could have introduced myself to others. After coming home and reading their blogs, I am looking forward to my next Spark meetup at the rally. I am going to meet and get to know as many others as I can. I was lead to SparkPeople for a reason and I am going to be the most supportive friend I can be." CELEBRATING-JEN

Do reading blogs like this inspire you to meet up with your fellow SparkPeople friends? How far would you be willing to travel to participate in an event like this?

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  • 70
    Sure....now I find this :( I want in next time :) - 4/1/2012   12:36:12 PM
  • 69
    Last year was amazing so see how far our little gathering could grow. In it's first year we named the group OH-PA since we were all from those 2 states and someone said that sounded Greek for something. In it's first year there were 8 of us; last year 40+ and this year is yet undetermined.

    I can't say how my heart swelled when I saw a good portion of Sparks waiting for me at the end of my 30K last year. As a slow runner I was right at the edge of the time limit, but here was my friends waiting to run me in and cheer me on; my eyes are welling now at the thought.

    This year, 2012, I won't be able to run in the event, but I plan to be there for as much of the party as I can. Seeing old friends and making new ones is a great treat. - 1/27/2012   11:27:13 PM
  • 68
    I am so looking forward to my first JASR in March 2012! I loved this blog! The race actually takes place in my township which is McCandless - just a hop, skip and a jump away from Cranberry Township! I live right up the road from this race and I am so excited to participate in the 5K! I look forward to meeting all of my Spark Friends...finally! :) - 1/16/2012   10:08:14 PM
  • 67
    This is really great! - 4/30/2011   3:46:36 AM
  • 66
    I would travel up to 150 miles to be able to participate in such an amazing event. Due to finances, further than that couldn't be done in a day, well, maybe 250 miles with some advance warning....are any planned for the midwest not to far from the sububrbs of Chicago??? - 4/13/2011   9:53:16 PM
  • 65
    WooHoo!!! Sounds like a lot of fun! - 4/12/2011   3:56:28 PM
  • 64
    Awesome. I want this experience. - 4/10/2011   9:25:09 PM
  • 63
    Tears welling up in my eyes....so sad that I missed being there in person but Lynn wore me as her ghostie and I have to tell you that you were all in my mind repeatedly through that weekend! It is so amazing to me that I have made such wonderful friends through an internet site....shared experiences, shared desires for healthy lifestyle and shared laughs and miseries...well it just adds up to a much richer life! Thanks for the great report Nancy! - 4/10/2011   11:20:06 AM
  • 62
    Coach Nancy you did a terrific job with this recap. The weekend was amazing and I can hardly wait for next year. I am thinking of doing the USAF race (Dayton, OH) in September and maybe there will be some other SP members there. I do wish we had a local group here though...hummm. Thanks again. Hugs. - 4/8/2011   3:44:49 PM
  • 61
    I hope for one in MA! (Or somewhere in New England) I'm not a runner, but I could walk (jog, crawl) to the finish! - 4/8/2011   9:02:00 AM
    For crying out loud I am sitting here crying again!! That weekend was an AWESOME thing and I am glad I got to be a part of it!!! LOVE YOU GUYS TONS!!! - 4/7/2011   7:37:00 PM
    How wonderful! Makes me want to get out there, participate and meet these people. - 4/7/2011   3:44:48 PM
  • 58
    i REALLY enjoyed this... - 4/7/2011   2:19:47 PM
  • 57
    I see so many of my sparkfriends in the pics! I'm excited for all of you and so glad to know you took the opportunity to create such a cherished memory! - 4/7/2011   8:44:39 AM
  • NICOLE0233
    So glad you all had a great time. I have always wanted to go to something like this where I can meet other people from SparkPeople and have a great time. I live in Ontario, Canada so it is kind of hard for me to attend any. I'm watching out throughout SparkPeople to see if there are similar ones coming up!

    It would be so much fun! Although, I trip to Pittsburgh would be nice! It' about a 5- 6 hour drive! - 4/6/2011   11:31:15 PM
  • 55
    Great Job Nancy - Every time I read it - I'm taken back! - 4/6/2011   10:02:11 PM
  • 54
    I'd love to see something like this come to the Gulf Coast. Anyone interested? - 4/6/2011   8:17:03 PM
  • 53
    Reading your blog made me happy through-and-through. Maybe I'll have the opportunity of meeting some SparkFriends one day! Congratulations to all of you! - 4/6/2011   7:00:20 PM
  • 52
    It looks as if you all had a spark-tacular time!! Thanks for sharing the fun through your blog! Everyone I've met on SparkPeople are so encouraging, inspirational, and helpful. I would love to meet fellow sparkers. If I had enough time to make arrangements, I would travel a great distance to have a weekend like you all had. - 4/6/2011   6:47:20 PM
  • 51
    Great blog and I cannot wait for R&R San Diego - will there be a lots of runners from Spark?? - 4/6/2011   4:23:56 PM
  • 50
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful time with all of us that don't live close enough to share. Hugs to all the participants!!! - 4/6/2011   4:17:27 PM
  • 49
    sounds like such an awesome time, one of my dreams :) - 4/6/2011   2:10:23 PM
  • 48
    This sounds like such fun!! I can hardly wait to meet some sparkers!!! You guys were truly blessed to come together and have such a fantanstic time!! Thank you Chris Downey for starting all this!!! - 4/6/2011   12:57:00 PM
  • 47
    Can't wait to meet some of my SparkFriends some day!! - 4/6/2011   12:37:48 PM
  • 46
    I love this. We have an area team and some of us meet quite often. It is so much fun and we have become great friends. - 4/6/2011   11:45:27 AM
  • 45
    I loved this blog. I can't wait to get get together with other SP members! - 4/6/2011   11:13:45 AM
    A very heartwarming blog to read! - 4/6/2011   11:02:05 AM
  • 43
    There you go ! The whole meaning behind the SparkPeople blogs, team, challenges. I know that when I had my first meeting with spark friends from my team it was electric, and we had other times together.
    Kay & The Pups - 4/6/2011   10:42:52 AM
  • 42
    THANKS for sharing that fun experience with us -- especially with ALL the pics!! Great to see! One of my SparkFriends was there (CELEBRATING-JEN) so had heard some about the weekend and was neat to hear/see more!

    If anyone is interested (especially if you live near Cincinnati, OH), there is going to be a Spark Rally on May 21st that ~INDYGIRL (amongst others but too many to name all) is organizing.... Here's the team site for the Rally....

    - 4/6/2011   10:38:26 AM
  • LAURAB242
    Fun! Networking is always a great way to strenghten your resolve, connect names and faces. - 4/6/2011   10:30:21 AM
  • 40
    I love blogs like this ! These meet ups look like so much fun !! When are you coming to Boston ???? And if you aren't coming to Boston, when are you going to NYC ? I'll take the bus down. ;)

    - 4/6/2011   10:01:49 AM
  • 39
    Great blog, Nancy! I love everyone's quotes & pic's - I'm so glad I was able to be a part of this amazing group and meet so many new people! Everyone is an inspiration!! - 4/6/2011   9:58:31 AM
  • 38
    Looks like you all had a blast! Thanks for sharing the event with us through the blog and the great pictures. Spark ON! :) - 4/6/2011   9:45:47 AM
  • 37
    I already found it exciting to go for races with 1 fellow Sparker Tetich, but now she has moved to the States.
    I wish I had the money to come over to the States and join you guys in this kind of events...... Maybe one day when i am rich...LOL Meanwhile I am wiht you in spirit - 4/6/2011   9:04:23 AM
  • 36
    Wow, you make me wanna run! I love the Spark badges :) - 4/6/2011   8:54:52 AM
  • 35
    You have all inspired me!!!!! - 4/6/2011   8:30:43 AM
  • 34
    looks like everyone had a wonderful day! - 4/6/2011   7:13:26 AM
  • ACTIVE_AT_60
    It was an incredible experience to be part of. I am still amazed that people came from as far away as the west coast and Canada. Should you be interested in being part of the fun in 2012, you may want to look up the group here on SP, and check the website www.justashortrun.net . (although it will be a while before it is updated for 2012)

    In addition to being a great Spark event with an opportunity to meet other sparkers in person (and who doesn't like that idea), run (or walk) a great course with a few challenges, the proceeds from the event helps a worthwhile cause - helping the leukemia and lymphoma society fight blood cancers through research, education, and patient assistance. - 4/6/2011   6:39:52 AM
  • 32
    I would have LOVED to do this! Unfortunately I live approx. 7 hours away (New York State) I would travel 2 or 3 hours though to do one of these events though.
    Let's do it! - 4/6/2011   6:03:36 AM
  • 31
    It was great to meet the coaches and so many Sparkers. I not only am looking forward to JASR 2012 but am looking for a Spark event to attend before then.
    - 4/6/2011   5:58:50 AM
  • 30
    We are having a big spark-meet at the Rock n Roll Savannah marathon and half marathon in November, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it. AND a few of us are meeting up in July at the Make It By Midnight marathon and half marathon in Macon, Georgia. I think there are about 10-12 of us going to that one! - 4/6/2011   5:47:49 AM
    That looked like so much fun - 4/6/2011   5:47:26 AM
  • 28
    This looks like great fun - someone else asked but I will again - is there an event like this in Texas? - 4/6/2011   12:22:06 AM
  • 27
    It was soooo good to hear about this event and how you all came together with such a positive energy! How inspirational!! - 4/5/2011   11:57:07 PM
  • 26
    Nancy, it was great meeting you. The weekend was such an experience. So many positive vibes. The concept that 40 people who only chat via modern technology can come together as if they have known each other for years. Can't wait to do it again! - 4/5/2011   11:42:46 PM
  • 25
    I'm bummed that I did not make this. I am new to Spark and wanted to participate but I had other plans. I'll definitely participate in the next one. Congratulations on a great event. - 4/5/2011   11:16:54 PM
  • 24
    We have a rally at the end of April. I hope that many can make it. I would love to meet up with sparkers from my home town when I travel back this summer. - 4/5/2011   11:12:12 PM
  • 23
    Thank you so much my sweet friend!! Hearing about the experience from each of those I shared it with is beyond wonderful; my heart is blessed!! I think most of us would agree the time together was so special, the race became secondary :) What an awesome way for all of us to share a weekend; a fitness event with time to laugh, love, chat, hug & relate!!

    Something for everyone whether you run, walk, cheer or just love to laugh :) join us next year!!!!

    ~Deej - 4/5/2011   10:38:56 PM
  • 22
    So nice to meet you and Coach Nicole for the first time. Looking forward to another big JASR event in 2012! - 4/5/2011   10:37:56 PM
  • 21
    *sniff* What a wonderful blog! Thank you so much for bringing all of these pictures and quotes together in one place. You've brought back so many fantastic memories! It was a treat to meet you and Coach Nicole and all my Spark friends new and old. Only 50 weeks till next JASR and I can't wait!

    And to everyone wishing you could have been part of this weekend - come out next year! Or, host a Spark meet at an event in your area. It's an experience you'll never forget! - 4/5/2011   10:20:08 PM

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