About one hour after Twitter revealed yours truly had been laid off for “economic reasons” by the Vancouver Sun/Province — on my birthday of all freakin’ days — Baxter Bayer sprung into action.
“You and me, my new office, coffee ASAP and I’ll buy cake,” came the short message, scribbled in crayon I think, from Bayer’s Kitsilano man-cave on that sad morning when 53 other colleagues were also chopped from the company payroll.
Numb and sporting red eyes from a tear duct malfunction after sharing the news with the wife, my initial reaction was to politely decline Bayer’s invite, but then you don’t get a body like mine by saying no thanks to cake!
• SEE SUNDAY’S SMILEBOX, CLICK HERE.
He gave me a quick tour of his new Running Tours Inc. office, outlined some of his cool ideas and novel events, then threw on a set of bunny ears and said: “I’m inviting you to Bunny Up at Stanley Park. Leave your camera and notebook at home, just run and have fun with us! Deal?”
The kind invite to exercise was awesome, but I really had tunnel-vision about the cake so steered the conversation toward checking out a neighbourhood bakery!
For the next two hours we talked about running, life, paying it forward, job loss, comedy, bouncing back and second helpings of cake. Best two hours of my life — albeit I later told the wife it ranked a distant second to our first two-hour date!
Bayer is all about having fun. He is like Tom Hanks in the movie Big, a teenager who wakes up in an adult’s body. He’s engaging, creative, energetic, bubbly, driven, passionate about people and community/charity-minded. He’s real and that’s what I like about him most.
His December Elf Run is already a can’t-miss annual event, and some of the other ideas he has brewing will fall into that category once they are announced.
The day I visited his freshly-painted office he had just turned over a cheque for $3,117.50 to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice from the Elf Run.
In the next few days, he’ll be writing another cheque to that same worthy organization from proceeds of Sunday’s second Easter Fun Run and Egg Hunt at Stanley Park, which attracted a huge crowd and thousands of onlookers on a lovely spring day.
It says here running needs more Baxter Bayers. Business needs more Baxter Bayers. The world needs more Baxter Bayers. Please support this guy and his super-fun events. (I could go on, mostly because he bought cake!)
On Sunday, in a sea of colourful costumes and big ears, Bayer was dressed as an oversized bunny leading the warm-ups and bouncing/vibrating like a kid high on sugar.
He asked the participants of the 1K, 5K and 10K events to shake their tails, wiggle their noses, bend over and pick up carrots, to put paws up and down, to hop, drop and flop. They did what he asked and laughed the whole time.
He posed for photos like he was a celebrity, and hugged babies, dogs and bunnies like he was a politician on the campaign trail. He posed with tourists, models, medics, squirrels and a crazy dude dressed in a Superman outfit!
The Lumberman’s Arch area was set up like a carnival and everyone using the seawall stopped to inspect, take photos and comment.
Bayer also gave me crap for bringing my camera and notebook, but if there’s a positive, affordable, laugh-a-minute family-oriented event in Vancouver that needs promoting, this is it!
I also didn’t want to miss Shelley Hatfield’s upbeat gang from Aldergrove, or West Van Run Club’s Karin Femi’s race debut with her new adorable daughter Bebe Irina. Also needed to catch up with the Princesses of Fun, Debra ‘Thumper O’Hare’ Kato and Margaret ‘Mighty Thumper Feet’ Buttner. Kato also takes brilliant photos of every event she attends and has more awesome costumes than all the theatre clubs in town combined.
Also needed to compare scribblings with super blogger Bradley ‘Bouncy McChuckles’ Cuzen, who’s training for the upcoming Vancouver BMO Marathon. He ran 5K on Sunday as a “recovery run” as he did a 36K workout the day before. Like I told him, 41K in two days suggests he played A LOT of football without a helmet!
Read his blog — Bradley On The Run — whenever you can, it’s time well spent.
I met a sports therapist from Arizona, who wanted to take my photo to show his girlfriend that he met “Canada’s Superman!” (Sorry Canada!)
He said he was entered in the 10K and that his bib was hidden under his sweatshirt. When I told him I was entered in the 5K he thought I was pulling his leg.
“You’re a runner? I thought you were one of the event mascots!”
Don’t worry, I get that a lot.
The folks at the Z95.3 FM water station said I looked “Super,” and after we posed for a selfie (code for catching my breath) I told them I had to fly. One gentleman taking a drink blurted out: “You’d have better luck driving if you want to catch the fast group!”
Don’t worry, I get that a lot, too.
Just past the Brockton Point Lighthouse, a wedding party asked if I could stop running for half a minute to be in their photo. I did, and felt bad when a couple people hugged old sweaty me in their nice, dry clothes. I joked that Superwoman was going to be upset that I didn’t call to say I’d be late for dinner!
In the final K, where a lot of the people who started too fast slowed to a crawl, we did a whole bunch of high fives, shared jokes and commented about what a great day it was. I stopped one last time to blow up an inflatable microphone with the remaining oxygen I had so I could drop it at the finish line.
Waiting at the finish area, Bayer roared when I did the mic drop with a bit of attitude and a pose that was meant to look like Usain Bolt, but in reality looked more like Homer Simpson. D’oh!
“Anymore surprises, buddy?” Bayer asked flashing an ear-to-ear grin.
Yeah, guess you’re reading it. Not sure how long this new blog will last given the current job situation, but “some bunny” needs to share the good news of what good people are doing in the Lower Mainland.
And the caring running community was the first to rally behind me on that not-so-happy birthday, so it just seems right to repay the gesture when I can!
Enjoy the SMILEBOX by clicking HERE. It’s kind of a Bax(ter) Street Boys thing, where Every Bunny everywhere will rock their body right — and run/walk until they can’t.
See you soon down the road. Live happy, run happy and stay happy!
Gotta run …