Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Million Dollars

Well this is odd; I got a letter in the mail from Doctors Without Borders today.  As you may know, I’m attempting to raise money for DWB on October 22nd at the Runners Without Borders event (click the link for more info).  I have donated to this organization at times in the past, and for their part they, like everyone else who wants your disposable income, periodically send me letters exhorting me to send them even more money.  I’m working on it, I think, as I open the letter which states in red bold letters, MATCHING GIFT OPPORTUNITY.  Usually this means that they want you to hit up your place of employment for matching contributions from them.  That’s all well and good for some, but I happen to know my employer won’t do that for me.  So I almost don’t even bother opening the letter, since I’m pretty sure I know what it’s going to say.

But the envelope seems thicker than usual, so I open it.  And they’ve included a cool map of the world, and a letter that contains a pleasant surprise for all of us Runners Without Borders participants and donators.  Apparently I don’t have to hit up my employer, because a nice lady named Audrey Steele Burnand will be matching all donations to Doctors Without Borders between now and November 15th, up to one million dollarsSo that includes us!
And yes, feel free to say that in a Dr. Evil voice.  It may not be appropriate but it sure is fun.  Is it wrong that the first thing I think of when I read about this incredible act of generosity from Ms. Burnand is Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads?

In all seriousness, now that is generous.  Wow.  And you know what?  I am including Audrey Steele Burnand as a pledger (seriously is that a word?) to my Runners Without Borders event!  Basically we just doubled this whole thing thanks to Ms. Burnand.  I suspect she, like I, is motivated by the seriousness of the situation in Somalia and the need to get medicine and help there quickly.  A tip of the cap to the generous lady, and we will try to do our part to make her write a check with 7 digits.

Now as of today in our fine event we have 5 pledgers who are donating one dollar for each person who runs a lap at RWB, up to varying amounts.  Which means simply by showing up on October 22nd and running a loop you are raising $5 for DWB.  And now with Ms. Burnand’s matching gift, you are earning $10 per loop.  And if you’re pledging a dollar per mile that you run, which is another popular pledge, well, now  DWB is getting $2 per mile for your efforts.  A $10 flat pledge just became $20.  Easy money.  Nice.

So if you’re on the fence about joining in and running, please come out, even if you can’t pledge anything.  Last Saturday when I started this thing you were worth $1 to DWB.  Now you are worth $10.  And if we get some more pledges, well, you do the math.  This is pretty freaking cool.

The older post contains a list of current participants and pledges.  To add your name to the list, please email me at or click “attending, yo” (or whatever the button says) to the facebook event page.  And if you have worked out a pledge and care to share it with me, also please let me know that as well, thanks!

I’m attaching a scan of the letter for your perusal:

No word on the sharks with laser beams though.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Runners Without Borders 10/22/2011

Update: check out the event recap here!

Update: as of October 12th, we have 51 RSVPs, and 28 pledges!

Update:  as of September 26th, we have 21 confirmed RSVPs, and 9 pledges!  

This is so on!  Come one, come all, to Lory State Park on Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 for the inaugural "Runners Without Borders"! I've decided to host a trail running event to get all of us runners to together to enjoy our spectacular trails and raise some money for Doctors Without Borders.  For a few months now I've read with growing concern about the famine and attendant humanitarian crisis in Somalia.  I thought maybe there was something I could do to raise awareness about the issue, and maybe help out a bit.  At first I figured I would just write a check to Doctors Without Borders and be done with it, and I still aim to do that of course, but Celeste helped me come up with an even better idea, and that idea became Runners Without Borders!

Here's the plan, and I'll need your help to execute it:

On Saturday, October 22nd, 2011, anytime between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, for every runner (or hiker or biker!) who completes either of two trail loops (designated  below) that span Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park, I pledge to donate one dollar to Doctors Without Borders!  If you complete both loops, I'll donate two dollars (cash) to DWB.  If you complete one loop 2 times, that's two dollars.  10 loops, 10 dollars.  You get the idea.  Sadly I probably need to put an upper limit on my contributions so I'll cap it at $250.  And I would very much like to donate $250, so if 250 of you fine folks come out and run one loop each, then we're all set.  Or if I can get 25 of you to run 10 loops each, then, well, you're going to need to run pretty fast, because the loops are 6.7 miles long and 5.2 miles long!  I'll describe the loops momentarily, but suffice to say the longer loop is more difficult and sports about 1,000 feet of climbing, and the shorter loop is easier and has about 200 or 300 feet of climbing.

Now I'm throwing out a lot of stuff you might find at a normal running event.  For starters, there is no entry fee.  Instead I encourage you to make a DWB pledge of your own!  You don't have to match my pledge of course.  You can pledge a flat amount, say $10 or $20.  You can pledge a certain amount for each loop you complete, or each loop I complete, or each loop Alex or Ashley or Alene or Mindy or Mike or Nick or Dakota or Brian or Ean completes (you all better show up!).  You can get your family or coworkers or neighbors to pledge for you.  You can pledge a certain amount if Pete runs a loop in his new red-man suit.  You an pledge a certain amount if Pete does not run in his red-man suit.  The possibilities are limitless.  Too confusing or expensive?  You can simply show up and run.  I'll donate a dollar on your behalf, and so will some others (see the bottom of this page for current pledges)!  Although obviously I encourage you to make a pledge, don't stay away simply because you can't donate any money of your own.

Additionally there is no mass start and there are no prizes for completing the fastest loop or the most loops.  You all have from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm to complete your loop or loops.  Come for the day, come whenever, enjoy the company, and do your thing.  I will have an official log book at the start/finish/aid station at the Arthur's trail-head parking lot in Lory, so we will be keeping count of participants and the number of loops completed for pledging purposes, but we will not be handing out any prizes, except maybe to Pete.  And although Mary Boyts has created an awesome logo for the event (thanks Mary!), I'm not planning on doing shirts this year.  Though they would look amazing.  Hummmm.

As mentioned earlier in passing, I will have a limited aid station at the Arthur's trail-head parking lot with some water and some snacks, and some limited first aid supplies, but please bring your own water and food for the event.  There is no water at the Arthur's trail-head parking lot, although there is water available at the Soderberg trail-head, which is only about 0.5 miles from the southern end of the loops, so with about one mile extra of running you can refill there.

Speaking of Soderberg, I know that many of you, myself included, have parking passes for Larimer county / Horsetooth Mountain park, and not Lory.  Although the event is officially a Lory State Park event, if you want to park at Soderberg and save the $7 Lory State Park daily fee, I understand completely.  Save your $7 and pledge it to DWB instead!  You'll have to run an additional 0.5 (easy) miles to get to the southern end of the loop, but just start your loop at the south end of the route and sign in when you reach the parking lot in Lory.  I trust that you'll complete the loop, you'll have to in order to get back to your car!

Which brings me to another point; you will have to pay a fee to park at Lory (or Horsetooth).  I believe the fee is $7 for Lory.  So be sure to carpool!  I encourage you to carpool anyway in order to save parking spaces.  If this thing goes straight-up-viral, parking will become an issue.

And now, the routes:

La grande route, 6.7 miles, 1,000 feet up/down

The standard route is a 6.7 mile loop featuring about 1,000 feet of climbing.  This is a lovely loop that features a flatter eastern side along Lory's West Valley trail, and Horsetooth's Nomad trail, and a decidedly less flat western side featuring a section of Towers Road, Stout trail, Sawmill trail, Loggers trail, and Mill Creek Trail.  Mary Boyts has created an amazing map of the loop which you can peruse and download here:

The route can be completed in either direction.  I have ran it in both directions recently and I do prefer running it in a clockwise direction, mostly because the majority of the uphill is accomplished on Towers, which is steep but not technical.  But both directions are a lot of fun.

La petite route, 5.2 miles, 250 feet up/down (approx.)

The shorter route is a 5.2 mile loop that features the lovely West Valley / Nomad trails just like the grande route, but opts to run back to Lory along the Shoreline and East Valley trails instead of tackling Towers etc.  This is a great option for those of you who maybe have not done much trail running as this loop is far less technical and can easily be run in regular running shoes.

As with the other route this can be run in either direction.  Mary's map indicates a counterclockwise direction as the standard here, and that is probably the best option but it really doesn't matter. 

Weather, safety, mishaps, etc.

In the event of inclement weather, and I mean really inclement, like the October blizzard of 1997, Lory state park and I reserve the right to postpone the date of the event.  The likely makeup date would be the following Saturday, October 29th.  Also, I should state that although I firmly believe that trail running is less damaging to runner's bodies than road running long-term, there always exists the possibility of acute injuries while running trails.  We will have some limited aid available at the Arthur's trail-head parking lot, but if you are seriously injured, wait for help, and someone will come by to assist.  We will have course sweepers making sure everyone is off the trails at the end of the day.  Having said that, your participation in this event is voluntary, and I, Lory State Park, Horsetooth Mountain Park, Doctors Without Borders, and even Pete are not responsible for your health and well being.  Now having said that, let's all watch out for each other out there and take extra water and jackets and hats, etc.  If you see a runner in need, please offer them your help.

Getting lost, i.e. alternate routes

I wasn't planning on marking the course just to cut down on trash, but I've since reconsidered, and I will mark the loops somehow.  Participants are welcome to execute extended loops.  I imagine a trip up to Arthur's rock or Horsetooth Rock or both might be a lot of fun for some participants, and that is great.  Ultimately as long as the loop hits the Arthur's trail-head in Lory so you can sign in, and you make it to Towers road / nomad trail junction in Horsetooth mountain park, then I will approve it as an official loop.  I encourage you to run the standard loops because I think it will be more fun to see more people on the trails, and quite frankly that is the loop that I will be sweeping at the end of the day!

ok you've made it this far, you're obviously still interested in participating.  May I request an RSVP?  Please email me at to declare your intent to participate.  You don't need to tell me when you plan on showing up or how many loops you plan to run, or where you plan to park (Lory or Soderberg), but if you can tell me that info that would be helpful.  This allows me to give the Lory/Horsetooth guys some idea about how many people to expect, and also I and fellow pledgers (is that a word) will have some idea about how much money they're going to have to donate!

And if you're going to pledge something, I would like to know that as well; I am interested to know if this event will be successful from a fund raising perspective, and I think all the participants will enjoy knowing how much money we collectively raised for DWB.

I will track RSVPs and Pledges on these spreadsheets below, and they will update themselves as we get closer to the event.

After the event I will post the "loop log" here as well and total up the pledges.

My goodness, I had no idea running an event required so much writing!  For all that, please come out and enjoy the day.  Let's keep our fingers crossed for good weather!

Thanks, Slush




Monday, September 19, 2011



What’s the first thing that came to your mind upon reading the word “Somalia”?  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Somalia lately, so I’m not even certain I know how to answer that question for myself anymore.  My answer is probably “Runners Without Borders”, of which I’ll speak more about later.  Let’s get back to you.  When you read “Somalia”, perhaps you first thought about Johnny Depp?

You know, Somalian pirates.  No?  Maybe not rakishly handsome pirates with a hearts of gold and an insatiable lust for the same, but actual real pirates?  Apparently the real ones aren't at all like Johnny Depp.  We’re talking legitimate bad guys, hijacking unarmed freighters, stealing their cargos, and kidnapping, terrorizing and murdering their crews.  Yes, piracy still exists.  And Somalia, you may know, is the base for most modern-day pirates that roam the Gulf of Aden, and serve as a gauntlet of trouble for commercial fleets travelling between Europe and Asia.  Like I said, from all accounts I can read these are not long-haired, fun-loving, cutlass-brandishing Disneyesque animatronic stereotypes brought to life, but extremely dangerous people. 

I don’t claim to be an expert on the issue of Somali prates, but I suspect they exist because a) although the risk is great, the rewards are tremendous, b) the opportunities to earn a legitimate living in Somalia proper are few and far between, and c) there is very little internal Somali governance and punishment of pirates.

I’m sure we’ll revisit the pirates, but I’m off track here.  Maybe pirates aren’t the first thing you thought of when you read “Somalia”.  Maybe you visualized the shape of the country itself.  It has a funny sort of shape, like a triangle of cheese with a smaller triangle bitten out of it.  It is one of several oddly shaped countries in Africa (I’m looking at you, Zambia and Senegal).  It is also one of only two predominantly contiguous countries whose geographic centroid is (probably) not actually located within the boundaries of the country itself (Croatia being the other “predominantly contiguous” country.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Indonesia and the Philippines.  I’m looking at a lot of places, apparently). 

In the case of Somalia, I believe its “centroid” is actually in Ethiopia, in a place called the Ogaden.  The Ogaden used to be part of Somalia, but Ethiopia successfully lobbied to keep it after World War II.  And the remaining part of the triangle, so to speak, was for a time separated into two European colonies, British Somaliland in the North, and Italian Somaliland along the East and South.  I like to think of Somalia as having three bits; the former British bit in the North, currently called Somaliland, the larger bit in in the east and South, the former Italian colony which is divided into Puntland, and Central and Southern Somalia, and finally the “missing bit”, that is, Ogaden, where apparently most of the people speak Somali, but is technically part of Ethiopia. 

But once again I’m off subject.  Perhaps upon reading “Somalia”, you thought neither of Jonny Depp, nor triangles of delicious cheese, but of “Blackhawk Down”.  In late 1992 The United States military assumed command of a United Nations peacekeeping effort in Somalia.  The UN was in Somalia to help deal with the effects of a terrible civil war, which started in 1990 or so, and by late 1992 had helped lead to a massive famine, and the attendant deaths and displacement of millions of Somalis.  Originally the United States provided logistical support and food and medicine, but gradually as the effects of the war became worse, and conditions more dangerous for the peacekeepers, the United States assumed a more militaristic role in the operation.

At some point it would appear that the UN and the US took sides in the civil war, and this led to an attempt to capture the head of one of the rival militias, Omar Salad Elmi, and his deputy, Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdiid.  On October 3, 1993, the US led a military operation into the heart of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, to do just that.  But as chronicled in the book/movie “Blackhawk Down”, the operation did not go well.  The operation was supposed to take only 30 minutes, but it lasted for about a day, and the bulk of the operation was concerned with rescuing soldiers who became trapped behind enemy lines.  At the end of the battle the Somali targets were not captured, two US black hawk helicopters were shot down (hence the book/movie title), and 18 US soldiers were killed.  The Somali belligerents, for their part, did not treat the few captured dead US soldiers with respect, dragging their bodies through the streets of the capital.  As a result, bilateral appeal for staying in Somalia and helping to mitigate the effects of or even help solve the civil war were quite diminished, and by early 1994 the US pulled out of Somalia.

 I must note that I never read the book nor saw the movie (though I have heard both are very good), but I do remember the failed military mission, which coincidentally happened while I was living in Africa myself, teaching high school in Ghana for the Peace Corps.  It seemed to me to be an embarrassment for the United States along the lines of the failed Iran hostage rescue mission in 1980, and I was in favor of leaving a country that did not seem to want us there, even if the original intent of the mission was to help, not harm.  

Now if black hawk down was your first thought, and you are an American, you may not have a very good impression of Somalia and Somalis.  Fair enough.  But I'm guessing most of you didn't think of pirates, or helicopters, or cheese.

Maybe you thought of this:

or this:

or this:

And this is why I'm writing about Somalia today.  This is famine, and not to understate things too terribly, it's bad news.  Somalia has endured famine before.  In fact famine was one of the reasons the United States got involved in Somalia in the early 1990's.  And in 2011 famine has returned to Somalia, and believe it or not the United States is starting to get involved again, and more importantly the situation looks pretty bleak for many thousands if not millions of people.

In an article from September 15th, Jeffrey Gettleman from the New York Times reports via the United Nations that is it possible that 750,000 Somalians may run out of food completely in the next few months, because of a failed harvest due to drought, and also due to bad governance and outright malevolent behavior by the various militias currently in charge (read here):

It's bad, and many thousands of Somalis have already died and many thousands more have fled the country into Kenya.  And it is about to get worse.  The article goes on to state that Somalia is very soon going to enter it's rainy season.  At first blush one (like me) would think that the advent of the rains is a good thing.  Rain means food means famine over, right?  Actually this is not the case.  Apparently the onset of the rainy season will spread diseases like malaria, cholera and typhoid, diseases that will cause many more deaths before crops can grow to fruition.  So in order to save lives at this point it is important to administer aid in the form of emergency food, but also medicine and disease control.

Jeffrey also reports that even though this is a bad crisis and much emergency aid is needed, that the international aid community is not "stepping up" they way it did back in the early 90's.  I suspect this reluctance may stem from the "Black Hawk Down" experience of 1993.  Then as now, Somalia was for the most part controlled by militias who answered to no government, prevented aid from reaching recipients, and took aid for themselves.  This perhaps is causing some reluctance to provide aid to Somalia.  Why give money to help Somalians if the money is simply going to end up in the hands of militias, and not in the hands of the starving and the sick? 

And it gets more troublesome.  Apparently the largest and most feared militia is "Al Shabab".  According to state-side accounts, this militia is disturbingly similar to the Taliban.  They are accused of blocking international aid to Somalia, and also accused of preventing Somalians from leaving the country in order to seek aid in Kenya.  Again, this tends to give would-be donors pause when thinking about assisting Somalia, and for two reasons;  One, the likelihood that aid will be misused seems high, and Two, there is an understandable reluctance to provide assistance to a country that is in part controlled by people that are on the official United States Foreign Terrorist Organization list

And yet for all that, I can not shake the feeling that innocent people are literally starving to death, and that there may be something that I can do to help.  One of the few aid agencies that is being allowed into Somalia right now is an organization called "Doctors Without Borders".  Well actually they're called "Medecins Sans Frontieres", but no matter how you say it, these guys are in Somalia right now trying to help.  They won't be able to save everyone, in fact their task is darn near impossible, but I applaud them for trying.

And I want to do more than just applaud, I want to send them some money so they can try to save more lives in Somalia this year.  And I want you to help me.  So I've come up with a fund-raising idea I am calling "Runners Without Borders".  I will post the details in a couple of days, but the general idea is that on October 22nd, 2011 (date pending), for every person who runs a 6.7 mile trail loop I have measured out in Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park (west of Fort Collins) I will donate a dollar to Doctors Without Borders.  If you run two loops, I'll donate two dollars.  10 loops, 10 dollars (there are several of you who could do that). I will pledge up to $250 total.  All you have to do is show up and run, or hike, or ride your bike, and you will earn money for Doctors Without Borders.  And if you want to do more than just show up, make a pledge of your own!  You can pledge a dollar for each loop I run.  You can pledge 10 dollars for each loop I run.  (I will probably run two loops).  You can pledge a dollar for each loop you run yourself.  You can get your family and your coworkers to pledge a dollar for each loop you run. You can get creative with it.  And if you're shy and don't like asking people for money, or poor and can't afford to give money to a charity right now, just show up and run.  I'll chip in a buck for you.

I hope to get official approval from Lory in the next few days.  At that time I will post the details of the route.  At this point I can tell you that there is no entry fee, this is not a timed event and there are no "winners". You have from 8 am until 4 pm to complete your loop or loops.  You will have to pay to park (or use your pass), we will have one basic aid station, and the route encompasses both border crossings between Lory and Horsetooth.  The official loop start and end is at the south lot of Lory State park but the loop passes very near the Soderberg lot at Horsetooth so that is a viable place to park for those of you who have Larimer Country passes.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on the trails next month!