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?