---- — On a blazing holiday morning, when it was more difficult to reach the course that it has ever been, thousands showed up to run, cheer and watch in Mifflinburg.
The Fourth of July celebration in the Union County town is one of the great traditions in the Susquehanna Valley. Somehow, it grows every year, adding new events and attractions to add to the celebration.
The centerpiece has always been the 5K run, which this year attracted a record 800 competitors for its 30th anniversary. In early June, the 27th Sunbury YMCA once again had more than 100 runners.
Now, on the heels of those successes, comes this weekend's TaTa Trot, which has grown a rate that is difficult to believe.
There were 68 runners on hand for the inaugural running two years ago. This year, there are already 1,700 runners registered. To put that into perspective, roughly 27,000 people ran the Boston Marathon this year; if that total were to increase the same rate as the TaTa Trot, in two years about 700,000 runners would compete.
There is not a single, definable reason why these numbers have grown so much in recent years, yet there are clues.
A healthy culture has been promoted from the White House on down for the better part of two decades with countless photo-ops of Bill Clinton and George Bush running (and Jimmy Carter collapsing). Locally we see runners flocking all over the East Coast for events, not to mention the push from Girls on the Run, a national campaign that has a foothold in the Valley with girls in third to eighth grade.
There has to be more to it, however. There is a special bond among people who share a common interest. It goes beyond the course or office or wherever it takes you.
That is why we see the response to the Boston Marathon bombings. We saw the One Run for Boston come through the heart of the Valley at 1 a.m. Laura Rinck, a Valley native, worked her day job in Manhattan, then drove to her hometown in Middleburg to run a leg of the relay in the middle of a storm, all to raise money and awareness.
For many, running is simply an exercise. For others it can be a way to help, or be part of something bigger. It can be a statement, a lifestyle or both.
What's your reason?