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Cherry-ots of Fire: Or How I Became a Sponsored Runner

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Photobooth image of the Powered by Red shirt.

Photobooth image of the Powered by Red shirt.

I'm not sure how The Cherry Marketing Institute found me. I have a few thoughts about it, but I can't say for sure and they've never said. Institutes are mysterious entities.

1) I Tweet and Facebook a lot about running.

2) I went to the launch of a new tart cherry juice last year and Tweeted often about the product which I liked. The juice, Very Cherre, makes great martinis. It also comes from Sparta.

3) I work in public relations and I write about running for The Rapidian.

4) I was Mrs. Asparagus runner up 1989, which gives me experience in promoting Michgan agriculture products.

Shortly after I Tweeted that I'd be running the upcoming Dexter-Ann Arbor 1/2 marathon (and three other 1/2 marathons this summer and fall) an e mail arrived. A guy representing the Cherry Marketing Institute, asked me if I'd be interested in being sponsored for the race.

This was an interesting proposal on several fronts.

1) I'm really not a great runner. A few times (four to be exact) (in 23 years of running) I've won a place in my age group. I did win first female finisher in the Grand Rapids Beer Mile. So far, I've always finished every race I've run, which is a plus. I do run a lot, usually six days a week.

2) I'm kind of bulky. To look at me, you might think I don't run at all. I once had a guy tell me that for all the running I did, I didn't have runner's legs. I wanted to be offended, but he spoke a cruel truth. I have fat knees. I always have, they are a gift from my mother.

3) I'm 50. Which I suppose from an ache and pain (read on) standpoint is a plus.

What the Cherry Marketing Institute wanted me to use tart red cherry juice as part of my running routine and then talk/write about it using social media.

Perhaps, without knowing it, I had achieved  a new level in running. Would Nike be calling next? Could this be my out from a 25 year career in public relations? I was dizzy with possibilties.

The information provided from the cherry people said that tart red cherries are scientifically proven to reduce post-running muscle and joint pain. Tart red cherries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanins which give the fruit their deep red color and is proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. Research from Oregon Health & Science University has shown that runners who downed cherry juice twice a day for 7 days before and on the day of a distance relay had significantly less muscle pain following the race than runners who drank another fruit juice. More Oregon research, as recent as May 2010, continues to show that drinking tart cherry juice before and after strenuous exercise reduces pain. Cherries' anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to help relieve arthritis and joint pain. "This is extremely beneficial to active adults who are trying to manage the aches and pains of aging," said sports dietician Leslie Bonci, director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh. 

I liked this. I'm not a pill taker and prefer natural remedies and prevention and I liked the idea of supporting a Michigan product. This cherry thing seemed like a good fit.

I signed a two page contract, of which the most exciting part is what I call a "Lindsey Lohan" clause. If I were to commit an "Act" which was described in very little detail with words like scandal, ridicule and public disrepute, it could cost me my sponsorship. Egads. I agreed to be on the straight and narrow from April 19 to June 6.

A three pound bag of dried tart cherries and several bottles of juice were sent my way from a Michigan orchard. The Cherry Marketing Institute also provided me with training information, some cherry branded clothing and they covered my entry fee to the upcoming Dexter-Ann Arbor 1/2 Marathon. Ahh. . . the perks of being  sponsored runner.

As goofy as it seems, the attention has made me take my running more seriously. I've trained hard with my distances, cross-trained and stuck with a core and upper body routine. The last thing I want to do is fail at a race wearing a shirt that says, Powered by Red. Failure would mean potential for bigger sponsorships would be out of reach.

So the cherry juice? Does it work? I've been drinking it faithfully for six weeks. I can honestly say, when I work out hard (hill training runs or the 10-12 mile distances) it makes a difference in how I feel afterward. My muscles aren't as sore, especially several hours or the day after the hard work out.  Most notable is that the post-run ache in my (fat) knees I have experienced for years doesn't bother me anymore.

The true test of cherries will be this Sunday when I leave the starting line in Dexter running for Ann Arbor along the Huron River for 13.1 miles--in my mind's eye somehow special--sponsored like a big time runner.





Disclosure: All relationships are disclosed in the article.

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I think this is a hoot. Nike? You Listening? Roberta, you're a real inspriation.