A Memorable SparkPeople Weekend

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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?