|Mike Danfort, producer Blythe Haaga, and Ian Chillag (with a lollipop)|
Fans of National Public Radio's weekly humourous news quiz "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" may not yet be aware that Ian Chillag and Mike Danforth, the show's producer and senior producer respectively, have launched a weekly podcast called "How To Do Everything". As its name implies, HDTE, part advice column, part survival guide, calls on expert advisers to tell listeners how to deal with a wide range of life's challenges, from the safest manner of jumping out of a moving car to the best way to scramble eggs.
When listener Adrienne called for advice (listen HERE) on running a 5k race, little did she know that the very hosts of the podcast were themselves experts on the subject. Ian's a veteran runner who has run some top races, including the Boston Marathon, and who took advantage of Chicago's Valentine's Day "Cupid's Chase" 5K to initiate Mike (and Mike's wife's) to the wonders of competitive running... after which Mike declared he would never run a race again.
Mike and Ian don't hesitate to leave the studio to take on a challenge (listeners are always able to tell that they are in the field because of their hushed voices, even when amidst thousands of runners). And so they availed themselves of the first opportunity that presented itself, June's "Proud to Run", the annual 5/10k organized by Chicago Frontrunners, a club that is itself a member of two Federation of Gay Games member organizations: Team Chicago and International Frontrunners.
While neither Mike nor Ian are themselves Frontrunners, the timing suited their recording schedule. And David, one of the guys Ian runs with, had recommended the race .because medals would be presented by the Chicago Pride Parade Grand Marshal. When David ran the race, he had received his medal from George Takei, and Ian and Mike were hoping for someone of equal fanboy cred. (Alas, they would end up not with Mr. Sulu, but with a Real Housewife. As Ian says: "She was very nice, but she's no George Takei".)
So how did this LGBT race stack up to the dozens of others Ian has run? The weather was great, and the course along Lake Michigan stunning (although Ian was already quite familiar with the lakeshore, as it's his regular course for training, especially in January, when he pretty much has the place to himself). One thing that set Proud to Run apart from other races in their eyes was the "cause". As Ian observes, people are usually looking for the timing and quality of a race, and while they're happy for the race to be raising money for charity, that's not their primary focus. At Proud to Run, which takes place during Chicago Pride, the social message and the fundraising* seemed perhaps more important than the race itself.
Mike was struck by the enthusiasm of the onlookers, and the massive presence of cheerleaders: "Male cheerleaders, mostly!" he notes. "There were people cheering by the side of the road, and even people cheering while running, wearing their costumes. I'd vowed not to run another race after Cupid's Chase, but Proud to Run made me want to race again."
Ian's a good runner – he won his division in Proud to Run -- whose proudest moment as a runner was the Boston marathon, which he describes as both "fun and horrible": he managed to finish despite finding his body shutting down, leading to some particularly memorable images for Mike: "His neck cramped so he could only look straight up. He finished the race with rather striking expression...".
Ian also writes about running. He's particularly proud of a radio piece for the regretted Weekend America program on a blind Mongolian marathon runner, and an in-depth piece on a running program aimed at the homeless.
I asked both if they would be coming to run in Cleveland at Gay Games 9 in 2014. "Can you do that?! How do you qualify?... Really? You don't have to have a qualifying time? If you don't have to be qualified, I'm in!" (The latter comment is from Mike.)
It's true that the Gay Games offer a unique experience for athletes to compete in world-class events, often alongside world champions in their sport, without needing to be selected for a national team, without a qualifying performance or event. In the spirit of "sport for all", the Gay Games offer anyone who registers the opportunity to compete under the guiding principles of "Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best ™ ". And so we hope to see Ian, Mike, Mike's wife, the blind Mongolian marathon runner, and many, many more running in Cleveland in 2014.
*This year, the race raised money, through registrations and sponsorships LINK for Pride Youth and the Gerber/Hart Library. You'll find more information about these organizations HERE.