One early winter morning, a bright-eyed, bushy white squirrel scurries through the snow on the Eastern Parkway mall. She’s new to this cold, gray city. Miniature cyclones of trash and leaves whirl up in the wind. She’s been hunting unsuccessfully for friends and nuts (and friendly nuts!) for so long that she’s frozen from fingers to tail. But she’s not lost hope! She lunges, arms outstretched, towards the people hurrying to work. She waves her bushy white tail. “Hi, I just came from Chicag…!” “Oh,” she says dejectedly as one after another, people pull up their collars, tuck their chins in their scarves, and hurry down the subway stairs. She plunks down dejectedly next to a pile of trash.

But then… a sleek gazelle approaches. Her little hooves move so fast that it looks like she’s ice skating. At the prospect of a friend, the squirrel’s ears perk up. She grins. The gazelle warily eyes the white squirrel next to the pile of trash. The gazelle hesitates for a moment, but is finally pulled in by the squirrel’s bushy-tailed enthusiasm. The white squirrel and the graceful gazelle run to keep warm as they talk. Soon, they’re warmed up, chattering, and laughing as they run through the snowy wonderland of Prospect Park. They discover that they both love to run and want to make more runner friends in their hamlet of Crown Heightshire.

Thus arose the Crown Heightshire Running Club and the stately/hot pink-headband Heads of its Royal Court: Queen Kay the Graceful Gazelle and Danielle the Duchess of White Squirrelsborough. Hear ye! Hear ye!

“I know all of the other animals are hibernating right now, but people need exercise and community!” the Duchess said to the Queen on one of their runs.

“Precisely,” said the Queen. “We can’t let them sleep through the winter.”

And so our two heroines bravely set out to reverse the Age Old Tradition of Winter Hibernation, which had reigned for as long as anyone could remember in the hamlet of Crown Heightshire, by organizing a Winter Streak. Participants pledged to run at least 1 mile a day from Thanksgiving to New Years. At first it was just the two of them running down the Eastern Parkway Mall as the sun rose and skidding over the icy patches in Prospect Park. But Duchess D. grabbed villagers’ attention with her Midwestern Mom impression, Queen Kay gracefully giggling beside her. The Duchess made running look like so much fun that one by one, the villagers of Crown Heightshire joined them. These newcomers would look tentatively in the direction of the laughter and the Duchess would belt out, “YEAH! You know you want to! Red rover, red rover, come on OOOOOVER!”They might hem and haw and chew their nails, but in the end, Duchess D’s enthusiasm sucked them in. [image of Danielle hugging me here?] And if that didn’t work, there was always ice cream, cocktails, donuts, and brunch!

Still, the Crown Heightshire ┬áRunning Club was a wee group and needed to grow. They needed to reach out to the community at large. They posted fliers and set up a website and a Facebook page. Duchess D. hugged all the newcomers who showed up to their runs and hollered at all the strangers they passed. One fine Sunday morning, Duchess D. paused in the midst of her “Midwestern Mom Explains the Birds and the Bees” impression to lead the CHRC in a little prayer for community connection. As if in answer, a blinding yellow beacon of a Banana Pope waved from the arched doorway of the Crown Heightshire Cathedral, where she was passing out bananas to the hungry. Duchess D. raised her eyebrows at the CHRC. The Banana Pope descended the steps of the cathedral, her majestic banana peel robes trailing behind her. She wore a jeweled banana mitre and offered bananas to their group of runners, saying, “Bananas for the hungry. Peace be with you.” Once they’d broken organic, sustainably and ethically grown bananas together and discovered that the Banana Pope was a runner, too, Queen Kay and Duchess Danielle appointed the Banana Pope the CHRC Cardinal of Community Connection! Hear ye! Hear ye!

Soon the Cardinal of Community Connection, AKA the Banana Pope, was running with the rapidly growing Crown Heightshire Running Club, and reeling in new runners with her organic, sustainably and ethically grown bananas. More and more people joined The Winter Streak and everyone’s winter got happier.

The New Year came and The Winter Streak ended, but the CHRC kept on running. They ran through the seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and come fall, they ran strong. These runners assumed roles in the Royal Court. They became Run Leaders, Web Masters, Record Keepers, Gear Designers, and Events Coordinators. Duchess D. could do what she did best: plan, organize, and host all the social events. The local taverns busily mixed up bloody nipple cocktails, baked gluten free donuts, and threw open their doors to the happy runner patrons of the CHRC. There were so many runners running so many races that they needed a cheering squad. Enter the noble Sir Adam Cole holding up the CHRC banner whilst weighted down with runners’ bags and water bottles, ┬ácheering until his voice went hoarse.

More and more people joined and the little running club that could grew and grew. The Good News of the CHRC spread far and wide throughout the land. The Duchess of White Squirrelsborough saw everything that she had made, and behold, it was very good. She knew it was time to go elsewhere and create other things.

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye!” the Banana Cardinal called from the pulpit she’d erected in the local ale house where the CHRC had gathered for a teary eyed send-off of their dear Duchess of White Squirrelsborough. “The Good News of the Land has been brought by a White Squirrel Comedian from Chicago and to Chicago she has been called to return. She must go on spreading her swift-footed Gospel of Love, but we the Good Runners of the Crown Heightshire Running Club shall carry on her zany laws, transcendent to All Other Running Clubs, until the end of time:

Not speed but inclusion, not numbers but fun, and above all: Community, Laughter, Peace, and LOVE for as long as the Crown Heightshire Running Club Shall Live!