View from the Back: State of the BOP

BOPEach September, Run Wild Missoula holds its annual meeting of members to review its mission, its activities, and its progress over the past year.  For the past few years, we have been asked to report on the Back of the Pack, as an important component of the broader RWM community.

The BOP began as an infant email list in fall of 2010; it has grown to include more than 200 RWM members.  BOPers receive the monthly BOP Bulletin listing opportunities that might interest them.

Over the past four years, Run Wild Missoula has tried a number of initiatives aimed at welcoming and integrating the BOP into club events.  Those efforts are designed to help slower runners and walkers  meet up with pace mates for social runs, and to ensure that everyone who registers for a RWM race has a quality experience regardless of pace.  This year, I want to celebrate some of the more recent efforts made on behalf of the BOP.

Jen Rivera started a BOP group in the Bitterroot, and orchestrated weekend runs through the fall and winter until she needed to take a break in the spring.

The Chancellor of Libations began to map a 3-mile route as well as a 5-mile route for monthly beer runs.

Volunteer BOP Buddies have supported race directors in making RWM races more BOP-friendly.  Buddies recruit sweepers and finish line cheerleaders and develop strategies to make sure that post-race snacks last until everyone comes in.

We completed the first full year of offering a “Courage to Start” award designed for RWM members to recognize peers who have overcome adversity to start, persist, or return to the sport.  Since it was initiated in 2013, these awards have been presented to Kevin Drake, Jody West, Shannie Miller, Annie Kolattakudy, Julie Shawver, Nathan Howard, Betsy Mulligan-Dague, Sue Burwick, and Glenn Burwick.

And, finally, the Missoula Marathon gets better for the BOP with every year.  Special kudos go to:

…the Good Food Store for making sure that fresh fruit and popsicles were available as the day got hotter, so that those who had been out longest found something cold to eat when they finished.

…Tim and Carol Brooker and finish line staff for maintaining the time clock and arch until the very end, and for dismantling the finish line in such a way that moved the amenities forward as the race wound down.  The result was a finishing area that still looked welcoming and intact until the course closed.

…between 20-30 BOP cheerleaders, many of whom volunteered in the heat of midday after they finished their own half or full marathon.  The passion and energy they shared made a big difference for those who crossed Higgins Street Bridge after the larger crowds had gone home.

…bike patrollers, who made sure the slower runners and walkers were cared for all the way to the end.

More than 200 members of Run Wild Missoula identify with the Back of the Pack.  Many of those runners and walkers were drawn to our club because it explicitly welcomes them.  Many of those people are active and healthy because they have started, continued, or returned to running and walking despite circumstances that prevent their playing a competitive role in the club.

On behalf of the BOP, I thank the Run Wild Missoula Board of Directors for embracing a mission of supporting runners and walkers of all ages and abilities.  I thank RWM staff members Eva Dunn Froebig and Hillary Ogg for their support and encouragement for BOP people and programs.  I thank Anders Brooker and the Missoula Marathon steering committee for their interest in making the club’s signature event as BOP-friendly as it can be.  I thank the Runners Edge, where everyone feels welcome and receives caring, respectful, professional advice and service regardless of their position in the pack.

And, finally, I want to thank the rest of the club: those front- and middle-of-the-packers who welcome us and cheer for us on the road and the trail and make every effort to recognize and include the full range of passion and accomplishment to be found in the running and walking community.

Run walk run wild!

Pam Gardiner
Leader of the Back

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