Chris Polk has encouraged all comers to wear various race medals. There’s a race bling party tonight, where Slow Polks from as far as Georgia and Chicago will meet to kick off the Louisiana Marathon running festival at his home.
“Try to one-up each other,” Polk explained of the medal dress code. “Tell war stories.”
Polk formed the aptly named “Slow Polks” in 2013 when he set out to run the Ragnar Relay in Tennessee that October. He needed to recruit 11 other reaymembers to complete the 200-mile, two-day relay race.
So the 38-year-old amateur runner reached out to his family, and after some convincing and begging, had a full compliment of Polks ready to race.
Fielding a name wasn’t as easy. The dozen racers struggled to formulate a catchy title for the team, and it wasn’t until they all came together under unwelcome circumstances that “Slow Polks” was born.
Marie, the Polk family matriarch and Craig’s grandmother, died in Feb. 2013 in Zwolle. When the family gathered to bury her, they found emails and race pages for the team printed out on her printer while cleaning her house.
“My cousin came up with it then,” Craig said. “It really is amazing what runners have done to this family. It’s not just about running, it’s about sharing these memories together. I’ve run literally all over the country this past year and have friends I’ve met on these races that are basically like my family.”
Since the initial Ragnar Relay, Slow Polks has grown to around 50 members and expanded beyond just the Polk family. Four will run the Louisiana Marathon on Sunday, while 14 will race the half marathon. Others will come for fellowship and food, attending either Friday’s Bling Party or Saturday’s post-race party at another Polk home.
Craig, a lifetime runner, has run the Louisiana Marathon three times, and is hopeful to qualify for the Boston Marathon with his time this year. Other members, like his cousin Britni Matassa, don’t have such lofty goals, but are just as vital to the group.
Matassa, who will run the 5k on Saturday morning, was one of Craig’s most interesting recruits.
“Not runner, not really in shape,” Craig said of his cousin. “It kind of gave her a purpose. She just started hitting the pavement, started pounding out. She’s now one of our really good runners.”
“Once Britni committed, the team really came together.”
The fruits of their labor will be shown this weekend. Although the team has been represented at the Louisiana Marathon in previous years, this weekend will illustrate the organizational strides the organization has made — complete with team T-shirts and a team photographer.
And, of course, the parties, where the Polk family — both close and extended — reunite.
“I’ve run literally all over the country this past year and I have friends I’ve met on these races that are basically like my family,” Craig said. “People get inspired and want to get a part of it. It’s definitely brought my immediate family together and expanding our extended family.”