In recent years, the Fort Collins Running Club has experienced exponential growth and now has over 800 members. But did you know that the club not only has members who reside within Larimer County and elsewhere along the Front Range, but also someone who has never even lived in the United States? It’s true!
Three years ago, Antxon Corta of San Sebastián, Spain, was preparing to run the Chicago Marathon. A popular thing among Spaniards is to represent a club during a race, and since Antxon had not already belonged to a specific organization, he looked for a running group in the U.S. to join. Somehow during a web search, he came across the Fort Collins Running Club’s website.
He liked the FCRC’s inclusive spirit—and its logo of a tortoise and hare—so much that he wrote to the club (in English). He wondered if folks living, oh, 5000 miles from Fort Collins could nevertheless join the FCRC and buy club gear to wear in the marathon. Also: could the clothes be shipped to his hotel in Chicago?
As FCRC webmaster, I (Felix) saw his message and jumped at the chance to correspond with a Spaniard. I wrote back, in Castellano (what we call Spanish), “It would honor the club very much if you wore our jersey in the Chicago Marathon. If you do, I’ll buy membership for you!”
Sure enough, Antxon purchased club gear, which Sport About (the FCRC’s local supplier) shipped to his hotel in Chicago. He then wore a blue singlet sporting a white FCRC logo in not only the 26.2-miler in the Windy City, but also in races in San Sebastián, other towns in Basque Country, and even Manchester (UK)—all while spectators cheered and shouted at the top of their lungs, “Go Fort Collins!”
When Antxon’s first-year membership came up for renewal, the FCRC board voted to perpetually extend his membership each year as long as he continued to trot around the world wearing the club’s memorabilia. After all, he doesn’t even live in Colorado and cannot reap the club’s membership benefits, yet he was doing all of this free advertising for us! In essence, Antxon had become the club’s de facto International Ambassador.
When I went to Spain in 2017 to walk the Camino de Santiago, Antxon even picked me up from the San Sebastián airport and let me sleep at his home, where his wife Vicky prepared a scrumptious dinner of Spanish tapas. The next morning, Antxon drove me to Irún—a small town on the Spanish/French border—where I officially started my 600+ mile camino.
Of course I was more than happy to return the favor when Antxon wrote in late 2018 saying that he and and his wife intended to visit Fort Collins for a week in May 2019 and that he wanted to run the Colorado Marathon. [Race report] Antxon registered for the race and flew over to Denver with Vicky using their own funds. Then they stayed at my place during their entire visit and got to meet more than a dozen of my friends, including several fellow FCRC members.
One thing that surprised Antxon and Vicky were all the people in Fort Collins who spoke their language. “All your friends speak Spanish!” they said (in Castellano) towards the end of their trip, being fully aware of the stereotype that Americans only speak English. Kudos to all my amigos norteamericanos who dispelled the following joke:
Q: What do you call someone who speaks three or more languages?
Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
Q: What do you call someone who speaks only one language?
Antxon and Vicky also mentioned how this was a much different experience than their previous visits to the U.S. During this trip, they got to converse with so many Americans and learn about their lives and culture, as opposed to merely trying to buy food or merchandise in broken English.
Of course, their visit was equally delightful and beneficial for me, as it provided over 50 hours of Spanish practice without having to step outside my home state. It is also fun to get to show foreigners your hometown! I can’t wait to see my two friends from San Sebastián again; perhaps next time in Basque Country.