May 1, 2019–Years ago I had the idea to create an athletic competition that required no athleticism whatsoever: Der Sitzenfest. Competitors would vie for prizes by sitting comfortably in their favorite chair, rocker, or recliner.
It was all an idle (very idle) thought experiment, designed to amuse myself. But after learning about a new event in the Hill Country, I think I missed an opportunity.
This weekend marks the second year of the Boerne 0.5K. That is not a misprint; that’s zero-point-five kilometers. Or, as Jay Milton, Race Organizer, describes it, “a staggering 547-ish yards.”
Milton maintains he had no ulterior motive while creating this event. It is not symbolic, subversive, or sarcastic. Well… maybe sarcastic.
“That’s really true–there is no deeper meaning to it,” he said. “I’m not trying to make it a reflection on society, about not wanting to work hard or put forth effort. The reason the event resonates with me is because I’m a very sarcastic person. I see absurdity in a lot of things in every day life.”
Apparently a lot of people share his worldview. What started as a way to poke fun at your typical and now seemingly ubiquitous 5k race, it quickly turned into an inspiring community event.
When Milton started putting the first one together in February of last year, his goal was to find 100 runners and raise $2500. Unlike the number 0.5, the other numbers are staggering. The 2018 version ended up raising $30,000 and being featured on national news programs. This year, 600 participants signed up to “run,” selling out the event in 37 minutes.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it would connect with people the way it has,” he admitted. “It’s just a fun community event, and people identify with the stupid-ness and the fun factor.”
For this year’s event, he upped his fundraising goal to $40,000. That goes to the race’s real winner: Blessings in a Backpack. This organization provides weekend food for families on the free and reduced meal plan in the Boerne schools. Volunteers put together bags of food on Thursdays that they deliver to area schools. There, classroom teachers discretely place the bags into students’ backpacks to carry home for their families.
“Every dollar raised goes directly into buying food,” Milton said. “It is 100% volunteer, with no overhead. Boerne is an affluent community, and we forget that not everyone who lives here is affluent. This is a great organization and a way to help out.”
Here are some highlights of this year’s race “for the rest of us”:
- Boerne’s best bagpipe player returns (he is one year better than last year)
- Costume contest–“May the Fourth Be With You” Star Wars Theme
- Coffee and Donut station at the halfway point (for carb-loading and energy)–a fan favorite
And this may be the only athletic event offering a free pre-race beer and designated smoking section.
So what about the folks for whom strolling half a kilometer is still too strenuous? Milton says do not fret. This year he added 250 virtual participants.
“One of my buddies is going to wear a GoPro camera on his head and stream it out to them,” he explained. “They still get a T-shirt, medal, and sticker, just like our regular participants, but they can do it from their couch.”
I think I need to revisit that Sitzenfest idea.