By the light of LED and propane lamp, at Oh-Dark-Thirty Sunday morning, in the chill, lonely gaps between the arrivals of exhausted hundred-milers, we filled the silence by naming our favorite holidays.
For some, Thanksgiving; for others, Independence Day.
My favorite holiday, though I didn’t say so at the time, is The HAWK.
“Not a holiday,” you may cry, but to me it is — one that celebrates our club motto, “Kindness to Life and Land;” and our club mission, “to put on the kind of races we ourselves like to run.”
To me, The HAWK is a holiday that celebrates what so many of us hold dear and aspire to: grit, determination, endurance and strength; and just as important, if not more — compassion, generosity, fellowship, tolerance, and respect for effort as well as achievement.
And of course, space to clown around, laugh until we snort Tailwind from our noses, and have huge fun being totally ourselves with friends in what could easily be the Sherwood Forest of old.
From what I’ve heard, that was all amply demonstrated at Start/Finish, West Park Road aid station and all points in-between during The HAWK. But I saw it for myself at Lands End.
We had a terrific crew hosting the show on that stage of sun-baked earth between our two tents, supporting the performers in our triple-feature of Mighty Mary, Feisty Fifty, and Happy Hundo.
Renee “Renanimal Hawk” Babin, Cara “Color Hawk” Combs, Heidi “Vedauwoo Hawk” Matsakis (that’s pronounced “Vee-Da-Voo,” btw), Diane “Ginger Hawk” Sudlow, Bobby Ellis, and Patti “Military Police” Combs, and Gabe Combs, were the Morning Hawks. They handled the first-crush madness of 160-plus runners pouring in and out simultaneously at all four points of the compass with grace, aplomb, and most definitely humor (that was Nick “Panda Hawk” Combs’ mom, dad and spouse, after all).
I must confess to a touch of panic, as they began filing out at shift-change time, noonish, but I needn’t have worried. Day Hawks Jeff “Travel Hawk” Beecher, Peggy “I Swear We’re Going to Name You Soon Hawk” Beecher, Darin “Radar Hawk” Brunin, Sally “Banana Hawk” Chang, and Matt “Snow Hawk” Quijas, and my own faithful spouse Karen “Hawk Who Walks” Henry seamlessly took up the reins at mid-day. As the Mighty Marys charged into their home stretch, the Feisty Fifties began their real dogfights, and the Happy Hundos completed their warm-ups, the Day Hawk crew filled bottles, fed appetites and whooped and hollered for every runner bursting into our little clearing.
When we got a report of a runner struggling on the trail a mile or so out from Lands End, Matt “Snow Hawk” Quijas dashed out and escorted her in. Twenty miles of toothy trail had taken its toll on this first-time marathoner, but when Matt got her safely in, the crew gathered round and worked Hawk magic.
She found the strength, then, and took on that last six to finish. That brave lady was our membership director, Caroline “Kobol Hawk” Wroczynski, btw. Marathoner. And RD of her own race, the famed Pi Day Half Marathon and Pi-Miler, in March. “They’re not just trail races; they’re trail races with pie!”
Next up, the Night Hawks saw the final Feisty Fifties into their own home stretch and ushered the Happy Hundos into the depths of darkness. They included Heather “Salmon Hawk” Cotten, who eschewed the trappings of everyday life to appear as her true self — a Viking warrior trail-running princess, complete with horned helm and bottles of grog in the form of Jim Beam apple whiskey. It definitely held off the night chills!
Sally “Banana Hawk” Chang, working a double shift to midnight, donned her banana suit. I can only guess what hallucination-prone hundred-milers must have thought as a human-sized banana checked them in and out.
Josh “Free State Hawk” McVey, RD of the Skyline Shuffle with Matt “Civil Hawk” O’Reilly (Matt finished top 10 in the 50, btw), filled bottles and tracked runners, along with surprise help Wayne Garner, the man with bacon in his pocket (that’s not literary whimsey, he DID have bacon in his pocket!) and his faithful hound Baykon.
We had a surprise intruder. A raccoon visited our drop bag tent, but the noise of his claws on the nylon ground tarp surprised him and he scurried away. In our bleary sleep-deprived states, we imagined the raccoon took a drop bag with him, and several of us blundered into the woods in pursuit, but soon came to our senses.
Wayne set off with Baykon to track the raccoon, but returned empty-handed as, after examination of the bags, and sober reflection, we concluded there had been no theft. It reminded me of the inaugural HAWK Hundred in 2011, in which raccoons DID pillage the drop bags at the race’s then self-serve aid stations.
As the stars paled above Lands End, the Dawn Patrol swooped in to help and encourage the hundred milers on their last lap; and to dismantle our brave aid station after the final runner came through. Kendra “Cheery Hawk” Kuhlman, Megan “Ad Hawk” Moriarty, Karen “Hawk Who Walks” Henry, working her second shift of the race, and Cat “I Swear We’re Going to Name You Soon Hawk” Peace performed one of the race’s most difficult duties — waiting.
We waited as 16 runners, spread out over 25 miles, slowly trickled through — each one an eagerly anticipated event, greeted with cheers and whoops, and each one ministered to like dearest family. Two more top 10 finishers in the Feisty Fifty, hub and wife team Kelly “Cool Hawk” Keele and Jeff “Coltrane Hawk” Keele, dropped by to help take down the tents and shlep gear back to HQ, but not until after the final runner came through with pacer and crew, and was cheered in, fed, watered, re-supplied and cheered out. All done in about three minutes.
Here’s where I want to note the amazing contribution of our club president, Bill “Daddy Hawk” Loats. Bill worked this aid station — and other parts of the course, not just from start to finish, but from Friday to Sunday afternoon. He began by weed whacking the ground for our Lands End tents, and helping to set them and our tables up Friday night.
He worked through the day and night, serving runners, taking photos (where are those photos, btw, Mr. Bill?), running ice, and taking down the station, with only a small nap in the cabin during the wee-est hours of early Sunday morning.
He was still helping with HQ tear-down, as I staggered home, Sunday afternoon at HAWK’s end. I only saw my small part of this magnificent show, created and run by Sherrie “Signer Hawk” Klover and Justin “Chem Hawk” Douglas, but even that was incredible. How I envy the runners who saw and experienced it all, from meticulous course markings, to the bountiful buffets along the way.
My only regret is that we didn’t get to name Hawks Peggy Beecher and Cat Peace. Knowing both as I do, I can tell you that their potential for colorful Hawk names is unlimited, and will be explored soon — as soon as we can get them into a group trail run or group setting with beer.
If we seem more like a family than most organizations that put on events, you only have to look at our names to see why. We are, and we invite you, not to join, but to be adopted. That’s my report, and until next year, Happy HAWK to you and yours!
—Gary “Story Hawk” Henry