Sitting in my usual Monday Office, Jines on Park Avenue where over 2000 of you ran past, spending all day thumbing through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook of the countless successes, triumphs and jubilations from this past weekend’s Rochester Regional Health System Flower City Challenge. Since 2003, alongside my husband Boots, I have helped produce countless events. Each one has their own nuance, challenge, opportunity and story. Boots has been doing this since 1998 when he founded YellowJacket Racing. He started in the back of his maroon Scooby Doo like van, which he took me on our first date in. Around 2003/2004 he upgraded to a white Scooby Doo van. Our union of putting on races together goes something like this…..we are usually in a car doing “a drive”. I like to go on car drives to relax after work. Boots will present an idea to me …… and after about 10-20 car rides of presenting the idea …… I finally say yes. (This is the theme with most ideas he has for YellowJacket Racing or Fleet Feet Sports). Keep in mind, in our relationship he has always been the innovator and I’m the implementer. So I spend those extra car rides formulating the how’s and the big one – the how much. I am CFO after all.
Flower City is no different – it was 3 years in the making before it became real. If it weren’t for then Mayor Duffy’s similar vision to what kind of event Rochester could have and a team around him to help that vision, Flower City would not exist. I wrote then Mayor Duffy a letter, which I still have, presenting the concept – which initially was just one day of the half and 5K. A few months later, Mayor Duffy was in Fleet Feet Sports and I came out to say hello. Every time he saw me, he mentioned how he wanted a race like Boilermaker in Rochester. Aha….my opportunity….”Mr. Mayor, did you get my letter?” I wrote your office explaining a whole concept. I immediately printed it out, gave it to him and within one month I had a meeting with his Communications Director.
The meeting was nothing like we had before. It was open, flexible and visionary. Step One – Boots and I want to go through Mt Hope Cemetery. What? That’s unheard of. We had no idea what the response would be. The response: Why not? Let’s do it. Step Two – The Mayor wants to go through the Susan B Anthony area. What? That’s unheard of. Our response – OK, we’ll make it happen. Step Three – The Communication Director wants to have the event two days long. What? That’s unheard of. Our response after Boots and I look at each other – uhhh….okay….we’ll make it happen.
Flower City Challenge – Two Days, Four Events was born!
Why this diatribe on history? Because everyone, everything has a story. This past weekend over 3500 people had a story as to how they got there. Even the course has a history on how it got there. Rochester’s is filled with incredible history. Above is the story of Flower City Challenge. The story certainly keeps evolving and growing. And it does because of those that believe in it and help make it possible.
This story is not complete without our partners year over year – City of Rochester, Rochester Regional Health System (formerly Unity Health System), Wegmans, Systems Management Planning (SMP), Harris Beach, PLLC, The Strathallan – A Double Tree, Periodontal Health Specialists, G&G Fitness, Monroe County Sports Commission and Fluid (on course nutrition).
This story is also not complete with the countless hours our YellowJacket Racing staff put into this, from planning, to setting up, breaking down, loading trucks, prepping bibs, shirts, registration, permits, courses, feeding you afterwards and much more. Our Fleet Feet Sports staff who answer your questions, help you with training, the proper gear and post race recovery. The volunteers who take time out of their lives to help make your goal a reality holding flags, serving water, playing music. The spectators who line the course in period clothing, forming unofficial water stops, the cheers, the signs, the endless Ra Ra chants. Indeed without participants there would be no Flower City Challenge at all. Thank you for towing the line, sharing your stories, making us laugh, making us cry and making us smile at the joy this entire weekend brings.
Flower City Challenge exudes a premise I believe Rochester is made on – that of hope, vision, desire and determination. Many former leaders of our city created what you see today, Flower City Challenge represents and helps to foster the makings of these great contributors and to keep that story alive. Congratulations athletes and thank you for spending your weekend with us.