July 4th tradition: Do the Watermelon Crawl
Fleet Feet Sports unofficial Watermelon Crawl at Lake Mayer in Savannah, Georgia 2015
It was a Watermelon Crawl, Ya'll
We were running through Georgia in early July
On a day hot enough to make eggs fry
I saw a group of runners all dressed in blue and red
and I knew the Watermelon Crawl was straight ahead
Well, we weren't in a hurry so we jogged and walked
And took a four lane road as we laughed and talked
There was a party going on and I'll tell you this
We heard a welcome speech from a guy named Chris
He said "We've got some watermelon if you return.
Watch out for the cops and don't get sun burn.
Help yourself to some and watch out for the law
If you run watch out for cars and do the watermelon crawl"
With thanks and apologies to songwriters
BROCK, WILLIAM / TURNER, ZACK
When we say it was hot out there, we aren't kidding!
There aren't too many people who would get up at 6:30 on their day off and go running in the heat and humidity
This past week had been an emotional one for the Savannah community and runners in general. In one week we went from the legalization of gay marriage nationwide, a mass racial shooting at a black church and a call for the removal of the Confederate flag from everything from Walmart and Amazon.com to state government grounds and the roof of the General Lee car.
A lot of people felt torn enough over these events and then there was the Greek governemnt in chaos, the stock market tanking, massive wildfires out west, another plane crash overseas, escaped murderers on the loose in New York, floods, shark attacks and enough bad news to make anyone want to crawl back under the covers and go to sleep on their one day off on the first Saturday in July which just happened to fall on the fourth.
As if all these problems were not enough, Savannah runners learned that the owner of the local Fleet Feet Sports, Robert Espinoza, had passed away in the prime of his life. The running community was devastated and after attending the memorial service at Calvary Baptist on Friday. July 3rd, with a packed house, runners were looking forward to an annual tradition hosted by Robert and the Fleet Feet crew: the Watermelon Crawl.
The run is an unofficial gathering with no T-shirts, no traffic guards and no timing chips. You can run any distance you want, but the preferred route starts at Lake Mayer by the statue of Julie Backus Smith and runs down Montgomery Cross Roads to Skidaway Road to Isle of Hope and the historic Bluff Drive, a one lane roughly paved road that runs by the Isle of Hope Marina.
Fun runs and fun people are a great way to start a holiday!
The Savannah Striders regularly run the route on Saturday mornings at 6:30 a.m. in the summer and 7 a.m. in winter, but today they were joined by runners throughout the city as Chris Ramsey of Fleet Feet Sports Savannah led the way with Drew Rabun.
Over 150 runners took to the streets with some staying at the lake. Runners paired off with friends running their speed and chatted excitedly, sharing stories about Robert, discussing their plans for the holiday weekend and lamenting that summer seemed to be moving too quickly. No one really complained about the heat, but they were all grateful for the water stop at the marina.
Car drivers politely yielded for the massive herds of runners who waved a polite thank you in return. The sky was bluish gray with a pale periwinkle haze that spread throughout most of the sky, warning of the thundershowers that were to come later in the afternoon.
After the tears shed at Robert's memorial service, it was nice to run the streets and remember good times and share the day with people who throught and felt like you did. Many runners brought their families, both two footed and four and though it was a struggle for some to run the full route, everyone was motivated to get back to chilled watermelon slices and no one cared about the watermelon juice running down their faces. It was a fun event to get into the spirit of Independence Day.
Victoria Ten Broeck had to climb on top of a van to get a wide enough angle to capture the whole crowd and it was hard to get them to stop talking and laughing and pose long enough for a picture and even then, everyone had to crowd in to get into the shot. It was so crowded that some people did not even recognize that their friends were in the run until after it was over!
The running groups in Savannah are a close knit bunch and are always looking for a way to turn a run into a party! It was nice to reflect on the life of Robert Espinoza and on the freedoms we have in this nation and while things may seem grim at times, having family and friends to get you through and help you see the brighter side of life is always a plus and what can you say about a group that plays the song, "Happy Trails to You" at the end of a memorial service in a traditional church setting for their fallen leader?
While runners are often irreverent and may sometimes cross the line on the legality of hosting running events in public places, they bring life to running and make it seem more pleasant than chore.
If you absolutely hate running, but want to get in shape and become part of a fun group, come out to the lake on Saturday mornings and walk or jog along the trail. If you do it with a friend and you talk while doing it, it honestly doesn't seem as hard as it does if you try to do it alone.
I guess that is a good metaphor for life as well. When life seems so burdensome and there is no joy in everyday tasks and all you can see is more work in your future or have a feeling that nothing you do really matters, don't give up on life or on your own purpose for existing. Whether you believe in God or not, he believes in you and you were created to make a difference in the lives of others. You may never really know what you are meant to do, but chances are you are already doing it and if you feel lost, chances are you need to reach out to someone wiser and loving who can gently help you find the path you were meant to follow vs. going off on your own and trying to hack through the bushes and briers trying to forge your own path to nowhere in particular and finding out too late, you were right where you were supposed to be and doing right what you were supposed to be doing all along.
You may not appreciate your life sometimes or the place that you are in. You may not feel like you have a reason for living or that everything is just a show, trying to look good for others. We all struggle with the things that pull us down. You may not like your looks or your voice or your hair or your body. You may want to be a great orator or a singer/song writer and instead find your greatest audience is your kids as they drift off to bed with you singing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to get them to sleep so you can try to recharge and face another day of the same-old, same-old.
We all feel like we are crawling sometimes. When the heat is on and you feel fried mentally, it is often hard to keep pushing toward those elusive goals and to be honest, most of us are never really going to achieve what we really want to achieve in life. We may get close, but we all have limitations and it is hard to stay within those limitations when you dream big and long for more, but honestly, most of the time it is not the big things you do in life to glorify your existence, but the little things you do for others to keep them moving on when they really want to stop and give up.
Leaving Lake Mayer for the six and eight mile run
There was a party going on when we got there
We heard a welcome speech before leaving Lake Mayer
We rocked back on our heels and pushed off with our toes
We ran and we crawled, shared our laughs and our woes
We wiggled and we giggled as we ran in the heat
Each person to their own unique, special beat
We ran because we loved it and we wanted watermelons
We hoped by blocking traffic we'd not be jailed as felons
or get squashed in the road or get left too far behind
or get pulled over and have to pay a fine!
If you're ever down in Georgia on the Fourth of July
If you aren't in a hurry, then you ought to stop by
I can guarantee that you will have a ball
Joining all the crazies for the watermelon crawl
Stay strong and have fun ya'll. Life is too short, so do all you can with all the time you are given and reach out to help someone in need even if it makes you feel uncomfortable to do it. Chances are you are worrying too much about what other people think about you when you should be focused a little more on other people and what you can do to help them see how much you love and appreciate having them in your life and how proud you are to be able to call them your friends.