Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Richmond Rave: Grove Avenue Water Stop

This past Sunday, I had the great pleasure of participating in what I believe was the First Annual Grove Avenue Water Stop Super Shuffle 5 Miler.

Whew - that was a mouthful.

The Grove Avenue Water Stop is something of a fixture on the Richmond running scene. It was started by a local runner named Sheri Crowell. Sheri lives along Grove Avenue, which is a pretty popular thoroughfare for runners. In April 2011, she started to put a water cooler out in front of her house for runners and other exercising folk and since then, the Grove Avenue Water Stop (GAWS) has earned itself a kind of cult following. There was even an article about GAWS in the local paper (check it out here).

I myself was completely ignorant of GAWS until I started to run with the Run Like a Girl group last spring. My first encounter with GAWS was during a crazy warm (by crazy warm, I mean 85 degrees) early April day. The RLaG group always kept a much speedier pace than I was used to, and by the time we got to the last mile of the evening's run, I was dying for some water. To be fair, we all were. And behold, there it was!

Even better, Sheri happened to be out in her yard and insisted on snapping a picture of the group.

I remember being so awed that someone would take it upon themselves to provide a water station for complete strangers 365 days a year and out of nothing but the goodness of her own heart.

So, when I saw the Facebook announcement for the Super Bowl Shuffle, I was all about it. I wanted to support Sheri and as an added bonus, I had a 5 miler scheduled for that very weekend. Done and done.

On Sunday, a hugely diverse group of runners, walkers, bikers, dogs, and stroller-pushers gathered at GAWS as flurries swirled around us. This wasn't a race - just a casual, friendly kind of run. Everyone was enthusiastic though, and the positive energy was contagious.

Most of the group just before the start of the run

(even though burgundy and gold clash
big time with my pink shoes!)
Greg brought along his dog Earl, who was an amazing runner. We started near the front of the pack and pretty much stayed there. Ok, ok, I might be fudging a little bit... once the crowd settled, we ended up in the second pack, behind all of the teenaged boys who no doubt finished in under 30:00.

The course was simple and marked with pink arrows stuck on any available surface (telephone poles, trees, no parking signs, fences). Since this was an unofficial race, we all looked out for each other with cries of "car back" or "clear" or "hold up!" echoing up and down the group as we made our way along the 5 mile route.

It was camaraderie at its best. Runners just hanging out and enjoying each others' company.

About halfway through, Greg and I realized that Earl was first place in the dog division, so we joked and ribbed on him for the rest of the race. "No stopping to pee, Earl - we've got a PR to think about!"

Truth be told, thanks to Earl, we ended up running at a pretty fast clip for the whole 5 miles.

And Earl did get first place in the doggie division.

The run ended with some post-run snacks in Sheri's garage. It was a great spread - gold fish, candy hearts, pretzels, oranges, bananas, water, Krispy Kreme - basically junk food heaven.

There were even door prizes, of which I was a winner.

Best race swag EVER.

The whole thing was a wonderful experience from beginning to end. From what I understand, it is going to be an annual event. I'm already looking forward to next year!

I am still completely overwhelmed by Sheri and her family's generosity to the Richmond running community. Really, we Richmond runners are pretty lucky to have such a supportive community. Not all are so fortunate.

So, a big fat


to you, Sheri, for all that you (and your family) do for the active community. You rock!


  1. That’s awesome. I’m admittedly a bit slow to open up socially, but as I’ve run more races and started to mingle and meet with more of the people involved in this area’s running community, it is undeniable how truly amazing and welcoming so many of them are. Runners are good people. Great post. I hope Sheri sees it.

    1. Since I started running, it has helped me make so many friends in Richmond. It really is a great way to meet people and build good relationships - runners are their own special brand of crazy and of course long runs where you talk for hours on end help too.


      Keep getting out there!