Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sportsman of the Month - April

Actually, I don't have a sportsman of the month. I don't have a sportswoman of the month, either.

I've got 18,541 of them.

Sportsmen and sportswomen of the Month:
The 18,541 Crazylegs Classic Record-Setters

I mean, if you looked outside and saw recurring downpours, in about 45-degree weather, just one day after enjoying a 75-degree day in late April, would you voluntarily lace up your running shoes, grab a towel and water bottle, and go run 8 kilometers or walk 2 miles?

A record-setting amount of Madisonians and out-of-town racers did just that on Apr. 25. Not once before in the 28-year history of the Crazylegs Classic - a run-and-walk event that starts at the Capitol building, winds around the University of Wisconsin campus and ends at the 50-yard-line at Camp Randall Stadium - had so many as 18,541 people participate. Considering the awful elements, that just made Crazylegs officials that much prouder.

“I think this is an exclamation point for Badger fans,” Terry Murawski told me during the closing ceremony under a tent's shelter on the soaked Camp Randall turf. Murawski is the Executive Director of the W Club and helps coordinate Crazylegs each year.

“You could not have scripted a worse day unless you had snow; it’s chilly, it’s raining, it’s rained hard through the race, and people are still coming over the finish line an hour after we started.”

Crazylegs features people from just about any background. You've got world-class racers including UW cross country and track superstars Katrina Rundhaug and Ann Detmer (whose recent graduation finally made them eligible to participate in the event); you've got local college students who go with friends as a fun end-of-the-semester outing; you've got casual runners who want to test their speed in a mini-marathon-type race, as well as people just looking to walk a little bit in late April as part of a large group.

But perhaps most impressively, you had large groups who coordinated to run or walk together, wearing matching shirts and racing for a common goal.

221 "Fun and Fitness" teams entered Crazylegs, including an eye-popping 4,000 individuals. The second-largest group, the Kevin Peyton Crazylegs Memorial Team, had 150 people in black shirts screaming "Running for Kevin". Kevin Peyton died last fall of autism at just 14 years old.

“This was one of his favorite things to do," Kevin's father, Steve, told me after the race. "We enjoyed it together as a father-and-son duo, and now to have 150 people here, it’s unbelievable. We’re just a bunch of friends and families; we’re not a corporation or business. It’s pretty neat, I’m very proud.”

It was an emotional day, too, for Elli Tarnutzer, whose 14-year-old son Lance was diagnosed with diabetes in September. Before long, his football and basketball teammates started spreading the word to create "Lance's Team", girls at Lance's high school were making and posting flyers, and 55 participants came out on a rainy day to help raise money for juvenile diabetes research.

When asked what it meant to have so many supporters for her son, who along with other Type 1 Diabetes combatants wore a red headband during Crazylegs, Elli teared up.

“He’s a real outgoing, personable kid,” said Elli Tarnutzer, Lance’s mother. “Everybody likes him. He’s just a good kid overall.”

On a lighter note, I, the Crazylegs newbie, had to ask Elli, a Crazylegs vet, just what does her group do if somebody has to stop and use the facilities during the race. Do they all stop? Do they go ahead and hope the individual catches up?

She shrugged and grinned. "Pretty much, you just grin and bear it."

More than 18-grand brave souls did just that on Apr. 25. And that made for a very proud day in the Madison community.

Past SOTM winners:
Team Japan – March
Rafael Nadal – February
Larry Fitzgerald – January

April honorable mentions:
North Carolina Tar Heels: No. 1 when they started, No. 1 when they finished. Just a couple bumps in the road, but overall a terrific season for clearly the best team in the land.
Albert Pujols: For singlehandedly carrying my fantasy team in Weeks 1 and 2. Not that I'm biased or anything.
Zach Greinke: For being the freaking man. He's now 6-0 with a 0.40 ERA? WHAT?!?! Too bad he'll be an overpaid Yankee by 2012.

April dishonorable mentions:
Al Davis: For being you. Darrius Heyward-Bey? I mean, seriously? Does Al enjoy making Mel Kiper Jr. tear his bizarro hair out?
Detroit Pistons: For deciding not to show up to these playoffs. Way to keep one foot on the basketball court and one foot on the yacht in Bermuda, boys.
Chien-Ming Wang: For singlehandedly destroying my fantasy team in Weeks 1 and 2. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Alex Rodriguez: for forcing Hooters waitresses everywhere to put up dartboards with his mug on it. And doing non-sexual things with it.
Brett Favre: ... oh wait. All this has taken place in May. OK, Brett, we'll get to you next month. Don't think you're not immune to this infamous list.

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