An Amazing SparkPeople Weekend Extravaganza

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last year I had the honor of traveling to Pittsburgh to participate in the 11th Annual Just a Short Run event in a suburb just outside of the city. This SparkPeople tradition was started two years earlier when Bob (BobbyD31) and Anne (MIAMIA7) Dawson invited SparkFriends from the Pennsylvania and Ohio area to run/walk in this fabulous event which offers a 5K, 8.1 miler, half-marathon and a 30K--a distance for every runner and walker alike. It was such a success that year, the team decided to make this an annual event. This is the 3rd year now and with each passing year more and more SparkPeople members have made the pilgramage to Pittsburgh to share in a weekend of pure SparkFun!

Talking with Bob on Friday night at the dinner our magnificent SparkPeople members put together, it was evident that this has become more than just a meet-up, it has become a tradition. Growing from 12 participants in 2010 to over 60 plus members this year it is one event I will not miss. With over 13 states and 5 provinces in Canada represented, it has grown from a homegrown tradition, to one that embodies the true SparkSpirit of friendship, support and living our lives as an adventure.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I am going to keep this brief. But I want to THANK Bob and Anne Dawson for their wonderful enthusiasm of keeping this event going and growing. To Lynn Aufman (LYNNANN43) for her help in coordinating this event and knowing how to keep a very special secret. To Jen Martin (Jenislovinglife) for her fabulous baking skills. Also to all our Pittsburghers who went out of your way to shuttle us to and from the airport and other events --THANK YOU! You guys are the best!

BUT I especially want to THANK each and every one of you for coming and sharing your story and your life with me and your fellow SparkBuddies. We are more than just friends, we are a SparkPeople Family! And to hear the stories of those rising above the fall, BLESS YOU! It is members like you that make me proud to work for a company that inspires people to embrace life!!!

I have said this before in my previous blogs about how truly inspiriting it is for us all to meet . Some of us have known one another for months, and yes even years on our SparkTeams and throughout the message boards. But one of the best things about events like this is connecting with someone new and going home with more friends than you had before you arrived.

My challenge for you is go out there and start your own SparkPeople traditions in your own town and community. I think you will discover just how wonderful your SparkFriends can be in inspiring you to live the life you were meant to live!

SparkPeople members WoodHeat (AKA Larry) and his wife Gloria AKA LUVQUILTING pink shirt on the right) came from Harrisburg to meet other SparkPeople members.

This is how SparkFriends say, "Hello"

SparkPeople members enjoy an amazing dinner prepared by our fellow SparkPeople members.

SparkPeople Rookie Running leader Trish with Bob and Anne Dawson

Friday night fun

This year the event was attended by SparkPeople members from 13 states and five, yes you read that correctly, five provinces from Canada. RACING4ME (Rookie Runner's group leader-Trish), traveled overnight from British Columbia to surprise us all with her presence. We had CASSIOEPIA (AKA Judi), one of our LiveMind leaders, come in from Saskatchewan, not to mention Gail  (RHYNIC) from Nova Scotia, RUNNINGWILD (AKA Penny) from Alberta and Kirsten (GOEGIRL) from Ontario.

Our proud Canadian Team (left to right) Gail, Kirsten, Penny, Trish and Judi (in the back)

Penny wish SparkAmbassador, Lynn (if you zoom in on Penny's thumb you will see the SparkPeople burst and she was not alone in doing so!)

Our group is getting so big we don't all fit in the camera frame

Below are some quotes and photos from this amazing event. I hope you enjoy walking down SparkMemory Lane with us.

No matter your pace, distance, size or even if you were not able to participate in the run, you were part of something so special, surrounded by people who "get" you and love and accept you for who you are.~ JENISLOVINGLIFE

Never before have I made such fast friends, SparkPeople in general are the nicest bunch! Amazing time!~ MGJARVI

Regardless of our distances or paces, we are all on the same journey, together. Sharing the experience of JASR truly is a priceless experience.~AMCG2002

Seeing old friends...making new friends...all the hugs and support~BE-THE-CHANGE

It was a wonderful gathering of like minded people who celebrated our journeys to healthy living together with much laughter and tears.~MIAMIA7

SparkPeople members meet up pre-race

Julie (AKA JEM0622) and hubby, Jim both set PRs in this event

Erica (MAMAELF99) and Mike participate in their first 5K ever.

Not only was it AMAZING to run one of my favorite race courses again, but it was even more AMAZING to do so alongside all of my wonderful spark friends! They are all so inspiring!!!~ TIGGER622

I loved seeing my friend (who joined SP just Thurs night) get sparked and sparked and sparked by all. What a fantastic first SparkPeople experience for her!~ SHEENADEE

A perfect retreat - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.~ CARILOUIE

This was my first destination race and meeting all these wonderful Sparkpeople was WAY more than I could have walking into a roomful of old friends at a reunion.~ 11Sprouts

Seeing is believing!!~MUGSYMOM

A weekend of BEAUTIFUL surprises I'll hold onto forever, endless smiles and hours of happy. Virtual friendships built over the years came to fruition in real time & it rocked!!!~DEEJ4FITNESS

Bev (AKA 69Nurse ) and hubby John pre-race

Trying to stay warm pre-race

Shari (AKA BOOMAC1961) has lost over 100 pounds and just completed her first 8.1 mile race! And I must add, it is my favorite photo from this whole weekend!

JASR made me realize how very lucky I was to find SparkPeople.~ IPA-RAY

Some people arrived as strangers, but left as a part of this amazing family.~ BILLALEX70

FUN, FUN, and more FUN!! That sums it up for me~ TAMTAM64

Nothing in the world can match the excitement of seeing old SparkFriends combined with the excitement of meeting new ones.~ FELIXC

I felt like the mayor of the SparkOlympics! Thanks to all who came from close & far to my little corner of the World!~LYNNANN43

Wow! Just wow!~SUEZETTE-414

Renee (RENLA6991) and Frances (CALIDREAMER76) finish their 8.1 mile run

I loved meeting so many different people from all walks of life at different stages in their progress who all share the same live a healthier life. (And have a good time!)~ moxie-in-motion

All the hugs, hello's, and high fives with the best people on the planet! ~JEM0622

This was the most amazing weekend spent with people from all parts of the country and Canada who were there for each other!~JONAHSADIE

I'm know at Sparks for my mantra: "Life is Good" and meeting Judy, Trish, Penny, Donna, Suzette, Bobby, Anne and Nancy, made it even that much better! Awesome!~ WOODHEAT

In my life I have found very few kindred spirits, ones that share the deepest place in my soul. JASR allowed me to meet a few more of them!~RACING4ME

Spark People & this weekend proved that all types of people, from all sorts of states and even countries, can come together, put aside the differences in their backgrounds and just be themselves, run together, walk together, and cheer together, for one another.~JESMOD

MaryAnn  (CNTRYGAL) brings it home!

This weekend event was an infusion of love, support and encouragement for me at a point when I desperately needed it. Thank you all my spark-friends/family old and new! ~ CALIDREAMER76

A weekend of wonderful surprises, painted nails and a Canadian invasion. Thank you all for attending and making this such a memorable weekend, without each and everyone of you JASR would not have been the same!~ BobbyD31

Fun weekend shared with good people for Good CAUSE!~ MCCOURTT

Learning that our time together didn't have an "end", but a "pause", and so therefore will also have a "resume" at some point in the future!~CASSIOEPIA

Memorable things happen and, to quote Deej, it's not good bye, it's just a pause. PS I am still crying ~RUNNINGWILD

JASW (Just a Short WALK for me - lol!) rekindled some of my most rewarding friendships, brought MORE fabulous Sparkpeople into my life and truly re-ignited my Spark.~GOEGIRL

Meredith AKA DOCTATITO (in pink-far right) just ran her first Half-marathon

The BEST cheering squad EVER!

Merle (AKA SHEENADEE) brings out the SparkGoodies to give away!

SparkPeople members enjoy some post-race chow!

The icing on the cake compliment of JENISLOVINGLIFE!

I hope after reading this blog you will be inspired to call your SparkFriends together. What started out as a small spark just 2 short years ago, has turned into an amazing burst of SparkPeople energy. On behalf of the 4th Annual JASR SparkPeople group, if you think you are interested in coming the race will be held on the the last Saturday in March where we will all convene in Pennsylvania for another fabulous adventure.

What do you think about events like this? Do you recognize any of your SparkFriends? Would you be willing to take on the SparkPeople challenge to call together your SparkFriends to enjoy a weekend of fun and health?

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THIS IS FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would love to do something like this! Report
great blog. as NJ transplant to PA, I would love to attend one of these. the last one I was to attend in NJ (in 2010) was a week before my wedding and wasn't able to attend. Report
This is awesome! It makes me want to go next year, Pittsburgh is not even that far from Ottawa! Is there any way to get updates as of when this will happen next year? Report
Awesome. What a wonderful time everyone had. Report
Wow, what an awesome experience this looks like!!! I would REALLY like to attend next year! Such an amazing group of inspirational people! Report
Absolutely fantastic! Really makes me want to go exercise! (As soon as I finish rocking the baby to sleep, sounds like an excuse, I know, but I was planning on using naptime to get housework done, now I'm going to pop in a dvd and get through as much as possible before she wakes up) thank you for sparking me on a down day!!! :) Report
I loved reading this blog. It looks like everyone had a great time. How nice is it to be together in person rather than just on line. Thanks for letting us know what a wonderful weekend you all had and makes me wish I could have been part of it! Report
Wonderful! Report
Who knew such an amazing event was in my backyard this weekend....I was busy prepping for my familial invasion so I wasn't able to attend even though I did see the invite in my mailbox....I will definitely not miss next year....great job Report
Looks like everyone had a great time. So nice to see some of my sparkfriends in the photos. Report
GREAT coverage...thanks a million! Any chance you could put everyone's names in the captions of all the photos (other than the two big group ones, of course), for those of us who don't know the folks. Report
This was wonderful!! Really enjoyed all the pics! I am so there next year, YES!!! Looking forward to taking part in the whole deal! Report
I think I had almost as much fun reading this blog as the participants did attending the event. Thanks for the great pictures and quotes! Report
I had so much fun and the cheering section was the best at the end of the race. It's amazing that people you have just met, and even those you hadn't met yet, would put so much effort into cheering for you! I will make sure I make JASR again next year and attend more of the activities surrounding the race itself. Sparkpeople are the best! Thanks Coach Nancy for a wonderful blog. Report
My favorite part of this is the photo where it says "this is how sparkpeople say hello". The first time I met a spark friend in person, I was worried and she walked up to me and gave me a big hug. I felt so much better after that! Report
Oh....... *** fans the tears***

What a great event!! A trek I must make one day!! This is a great blog about what SparkPeople is all about!! Report
This story totally left tears in my eyes and a big grin on my face! I LOVE SPARKPEOPLE!!! Report
This is fantastic, I hope for a spark rally in Chicago! Report
Great blog, Nancy! It was so wonderful to finally meet you - my inspiration! I will definitely take part in JASR in 2013 - possibly for the 8.1 mile - that is my goal! I am already signed up and registered for 3 upcoming 5Ks in Pittsburgh over the next 2 months! You are such a sweetie! Thanks for the motivation to us all!
So much fun! When with there be a Spark Rally in Seattle? Report
Thank you Nancy for capturing the highlights of an incredible weekend and sharing a glimpse of the joy & fun!! What an uplifting start to my day :) The blessing continues as I remember and hold tightly to something very special. I feel privileged to have been a part of this year's event!

When life presents its challenges, I'll turn back to this blog to get the Spark I need to carry on with the race :)

Love ya! Report
You had so much fun!!! Great blog with all the stories. Report
Looks like fun and friendship was had by all. I have never done a run before. When I get down to around 200 lbs. I would like to run. Report
Nancy, you rock!!! Capturing the vein of Just a Short Run is a tough thing to do. YOu managed to harness all the energy, enthusiasm, and drive of what we experienced. JASR was absolutely the most incredible experience I have ever had with Sparkpeople
, and I have had a bunch given I joined this site 7 years ago.

If you can make it happen, hit Pittsburgh next year, you will NOT be disappointed.

Cheers to all;)

Trish Report
Just to update the information for Erica and Mike. Her Spark Name is Mamaelf99 and mine is iobari_2. We had a great time and met some great people. I am so proud of my wife. Here's to the next one. Report
What an amazing pictorial, personal adventure for each contestant and helper at the event! I read every quote, felt each emotion, and enjoyed the culmination of possitivity, caring and wholey supportive moments that you all have tried to put into words, a job well I dried my tears, imagining the days, the friendships made, and all the love !! Yes Woodheat, I think Maui and I both may make the journey to run this special race next year--hope I can meet you and Luv myself in person...and Cassie, and ????? Thanks for the journey, ***SNOW*** Report
I recognize LOTS of folks! Maybe someday I will get to join in. I have been extremely unmotivated and life has been getting me down. This was a great encouragement - thanks Nancy! Report
Oh my gosh!!!! I counted 9 Sparkfriends there that I would love to see again!! Can't wait to meet so many more! Can't wait, cause I AM NOT MISSING JASR 2013!! Already put the event in my phone and marked it on my calendar!!! WOO HOO!!!! Okay, now going to drop by each one of my friend's Sparkpage to let them know I will not be left out of the fun!!! :) Report
Amazing weekend! Wonderful wrap-up blog. Thanks to everyone involved for the friendships, encouragment and that special Spark!
Thanks for the great blog, Nancy. What fun! Report
This was one of the best weekends I have ever experienced! Right from the start you feel accepted into the SPARK family! Thanks Nancy for sharing our experiences so well and for all the great pictures! Already have my calender marked for next year! Report
What a wonderful blog, Nancy! Thank you SO much for collecting all these photos and quotes together. You've summed up a fantastic experience so well. Love to all my fellow Spark people, new friends and old. And to those of you thinking of starting a Spark meet up, all I can say is DO IT!!! Report
WOW sounds like fun . Report
Thanks so much Nancy for putting this blog together. There were so many wonderful memories, it was a great time. I was so blessed to be part of such a great group. See you next year!! Report
Excellent blog, Nancy! Report
I'm trying. I SWEAR I'm trying. We'll see if the folks who expressed interest at the Heartwalk actually show if I organize something this month, but I'm getting a serious complex (seriously, is it me???). Guess it's time to just say uncle, and head to Pittsburg next year. Report
I am never planning a skiing vacation the same week as JASR. I am not going to miss this one again.

This event is usually the last weekend in March (hint hint). ... can we get 100 sparkers together next year?

My quote for the weekend "no sparker left behind" ... we make sure everyone cross the finish line. Report
How awesome!! You folks are amazing!! Report
This was the best weekend I ever had! No matter if you are running the 30K or walking the 5K or even cheering on the sidelines, everyone is welcomed and encouraged. I have already put JASR 2013 on my calendar and next year I will be taking Friday off too! Report
I just had the most wonderful weekend reading this. I couldn't think of anything else Saturday but what you Spark JASR's were doing. I hope I can be part of it next year! Report
It just doesn't get any better than this. My only regret is that I learned of the event too late and was only able to be there Thursday and early Friday, but next year.........
Life is good!
Wood Report
Thank you Nancy, for re-living the weekend. It was so much fun, and something I will cherish forever. So many friends that I've gotten to know online but never met, and so many new friends. For those asking down the thread, there is a JASR team on SparkPeople - just do a search, and then join the fun next year.


(and of course there were six Canadians there - Roo was the Belle of the ball) Report
This really was a great weekend. Last year, I felt a little overwhelmed by it all, but this year was awesome. I would advise anyone who can make the trip next year to just do it. You will NOT regret it for a minute. I was unable to participate this year d/t health issues, but it was fun being part of a great cheering squad near the finish line. As they say, "no sparker left behind". Make plans to join the fun in 2013. Report
I feel so blessed to say that I now can name almost every one of the people in these photos. I'm doubly blessed to call them all friends.

ps: Roo's read this and said there were SIX Canadians at the event, not five ;) Report
I haven't even begun to process all of JASR 2012 yet. But I can tell you, get even more than 1 SparkPerson together and your Spark will grow stronger than you can imagine!!!

If you can, PLEASE join us next year so that we can make the 100 SparkPeep mark!!!!! Report
RENLA6991 - not sure if the PR would have been as great if I didn't have you by my side! My wish is for everyone to have this experience once - because after that - once won't be enough! Report
Nice to see people reaching their goals and sparking together. One day I desire to be healthy enough to just do one mile without stopping. Report
You guys look GREAT!! So colorful and such happy energy!! Report
Health is Wealth, so glad all of you were working on getting "richer." Report
What we have done this past 3 yrs is amazing, growing from 12 to 60+, what will next year bring? You leave this event with new friendships that may last a lifetime, I encourage you to get together with your local spark friends, drive an hour or 2 if needed but do it.
When you are ready to have the time of your life come to JASR! The 4th annual event will be the weekend of 3/30/13, can we break 100 next year? Report