The story begins in the woods of Tuftenboro, New Hampshire, during the Fred Brown Relay in September, 1993. As team captain, I had taken an opportunity to inspect at squat level a fine stand of pines in those woods. During my inspection, our Team Race Vehicle was parked on the shoulder of the road, some distance away from that stand of pines. While I was inspecting, the Tuftenboro Police Chief came upon the parked Race Vehicle and just about lost his cookies, somewhat unlike I was losing mine. I returned from my inspection with a smile, but there were no smiles inside the Race Vehicle, because my team members had been yelled and shouted at and told to go home and never come back and we hate you and none of you runners will be allowed in New Hampshire ever again. Well. I was still feeling pretty good so I said “no big deal, who's running the next leg?”. We continued through the race and the day, whooped it up with all the Striders at the finish line, and had a post-race meal that couldn't be beat. But that's not the end of the story.
About a month later a tall carton showed up on my doorstep with the following return address: Tuftenboro NH Chamber of Commerce. Inside was a nice note saying how much our visit to Tuftenboro was appreciated (the pines were growing well), and so on. Gullible as I am, I opened the box and found an enormous trophy that honored … well, honored the fact it was a very large trophy. I showed it to my wife, Miriam, and she said “get that thing off the kitchen table.”
I knew it wasn't from Tuftenboro. Some things you just know. But where did it come from, and why?
I've run thousands of miles with George Vania, a man who cross-country skis across mountains, goes fly-fishing in places even mosquitoes can't reach, changes sneakers and has cookies and juice at mile 16 during a marathon, and has a wildly creative sense of humor. The day after The Trophy arrived I was on a long run with George. As we forded a stream (and I glanced longingly at a stand of pines), I mentioned The Trophy. We danced a bit, hurdled some fallen limbs, slipped in mud, and the story came out.
George and his wife Josie were out for a walk on an evening before trash pickup and they came upon (1) a pile of discarded junk or (2) some previously owned and still wonderful trophies. In true conservationist spirit, they immediately thought of Tuftenboro, the Police Chief, and me.
The Trophy sat on my kitchen table throughout the fall of 1993. Miriam asked about its “future” and George and I spent many long runs discussing the options, of which there were none. That Thanksgiving my family was forced to “feast” on a cornish hen because a turkey wouldn't fit on the table along with The Trophy. Finally, after a very long run in a sleet storm one Sunday, George and I decided that The Trophy should be passed annually from one MVS Immediate Past President to the next. The beauty of the scheme lay in the fact that the current MVS President, Tom Licciardello, already owned more hard-earned trophies than most trophy stores, but not one this big and … vague.
The “hidden agenda” was that if each Past President had to return something to the club a year after her/his term ended, then the the Past President perhaps would stay active in the club. There had been some cases where MVS Past Presidents disappeared (though were spotted at odd hours in hardware stores), moved out of the area (and then moved back very quietly), or left to join other clubs (go figure). The strategy has worked so far. Since 1993 each MVS Past President has remained as active or become more active with the club after spending a year with The Trophy.
So that's the story, except for a few facts, some of them odd.
“Holders” of the Trophy have been:
1994 – Tom Licciardello
1995 – Mike Groves
1996 – Sharon Yu
1997 – Tracie Gardner
Karen, who manages Emblem & Badge, which did the initial engraving and all subsequent engraving, estimates that The Trophy is worth over $300.
The carton in which The Trophy is transported and the crumpled newspapers in which it is packed each year are the “originals” that showed up on my doorstep in 1993. They must remain so. That is the law. Karen obeys the law. So must you all.
The following inscription is engraved on a plate on the front of The Trophy:
If you run a race, run a good race.
If you lead a club, lead a great club.
If you snag a trophy, snag a kick-ass trophy.
I wrote the first two lines; Miriam came up with the third.
The names of all the MVS past presidents are engraved on plates on the left and right sides of the trophy, from 1979 through 1996. The “current” Past President's name is on a large plate in the front.
It's a big trophy. Nobody really knows what it means. If you want to have it for a year, become President of the Merrimack Valley Striders.