There's no single story - Flower City Challenge 2016

During an interview at the Rochester Regional Health Flower City Challenge this weekend I was asked two questions that stuck out to me.  What is a day like this like to you?  And.  What participant’s story sticks out today?

I’ll start with “What is this day like to you”?  I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this, but these events especially the larger ones are like my “Superbowl”.  So much work behind the scenes from our staff goes into putting these events together and then to have it “game day”, putting the final pieces together, there is nothing comparable to that for me to see and experience.  Working with staff who are busting themselves to set everything up starting way before dawn on little sleep, watching the athletes arrive, getting ready for the “GO”, then to test themselves and to announce at the finish line to see the fruits of their labor is magical.  There are very few other occupations in the world where you can experience the joys of someone elses success in mass quantity and all in a short period of time.

Then as I get asked “What runners story sticks out today”?  My response is and was to them, they all have a story.  They are all here for a reason, their own story to tell, show or prove.  Their own personal triumph, test, trial and even tragedy. Some are happy, some sad, some funny, some with inspiration; there’s pain filled stories, love filled stories, you name it – It’s a novel of independent chapters.

At Fleet Feet Sports and YellowJacket Racing, we meet so many people.  We are in a position where we are essentially helping people through a hobby or pastime.  For the most part participating in events is something they want to do and knowing some of the background stories to what got them to the start line and even finish line is remarkable.  So how can I pick a single story?

From this weekend’s series of events there’s the ones racing because it’s their birthday.  I got to see a husband and wife finish to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary.  Families reunited to run together.  A wife running in honor of her husband who couldn’t due to brain surgery.  Those coming back from injuries to prove they still can.  Someone who just weeks ago couldn’t finish her last half due to a terrible fall then visit to the hospital, got to finish the 13.1 miles on Sunday. Seeing Bib 1999 decked out in purple with white color frill honoring the recent loss of Prince.  And his picture has gotten over 350 “likes” on our social media. The several 10-15 year olds crushing the half marathon, including Lee Rodriguez Espada who signed up for the 5K, but accidentally started with the half marathoners AND FINISHED the 13.1 miles.  The 10 year old girl, Alia Spaker, who won the Wegmans Family 5K.  You’ll see more of her in the future.  The 3 ½ hour mark of this half marathon is always poignant to me because I get teary every time due to something.  They know the course closes at 3.5 hours and they work so hard to get under that.  And those of us at the finish line probably cheer louder for these folks than anyone else.  This year was no different with one of the final finishers, a young mom who just a few weeks ago lost her little girl.  Trying to bring peace to a sad story, ready to quit, facing her grief head on to run through the finish line with about 2 minutes to spare.

Everyone out there riding, paddling, running or even volunteering at Flower City Challenge has a story.  These are just a few.  So when asked what sticks out, there is no one story that is better or worse than another.  That is the beauty of what we do, why it’s my “Superbowl”.  We help people’s dreams and adversities.  We do our best to help them feel special.  Our whole staff works towards this.  For what we do, there is no other greater gift to witness.  Thank you for sharing your stories on the roads and waterways of Rochester this past weekend!

Written by Ellen Brenner-Boutillier ( or

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