Mark McCowan didn’t need all that much help figuring out what all the buzz was about when it came to this year’s version of his pet project, the Bookin’ for Lookin’ 5K.
While the Newtown Township resident is legally blind, he could feel the excitement of those around him, including his wife, Stacy, as they talked about the growing field and all the new attractions for this Saturday’s event.
The weather forecast is calling for a beautiful day and if that’s the case, race officials are expecting a turnout in excess of 500 runners.
McCowan, the event’s director, could not be more thrilled.
I caught Mark on his cellphone the other day when Stacy was driving the couple home and you could sense the positive emotion in his voice.
The race, now in its seventh edition, has joined the Bucks 5K Series this year, and offers several new elements, including a new course, finisher medals and a free post-race beer (for adults).
“It’s amazing,’’ McCowan said. “Stacy and I were just talking, since we joined (the series) – is the buzz because we’re part of the 5K series, is it because we’re in Newtown (new cours), is there a buzz because there’s a (one free) beer at the end (for runners over 21), is there a buzz because there are three guide dogs guiding three different people for the first time ever in Newtown?
“We’re just not sure what the craze is all about. But it’s exciting.’’
It’s a labor of love for the McCowans, who met back in 2014 when Mark advertised for a guide to help with his training – and serve as escort — for the Philadelphia Marathon.
Stacy Rosenthal answered the advertisement and after a couple trials and tribulations, they went on to run Philadelphia together and later the New York City Marathon.
They became much more than just friends and were married in June, 2017.
And now, in the next month or so, the couple will greet a new child to the family.
As busy as preparations are for that blessed event, Mark is still trying to make time to get this race in place by this weekend.
He’s been blind since his early teens, so this cause is dear to his heart.
“The proceeds will be going to the Bucks County Blind and Visually Impaired and the other is the Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which is where the guide dogs come from,’’ he explained.
“Coincidentally, the three guide dogs who are running in this race are all from the same program because they are the first guide dog program which trains these dogs to run with their handlers.’’
Moving the race from Tyler State Park to the streets of Newtown took some doing but Mark thinks the new course will be popular and probably more family-friendly.
“The course has less hills than Tyler,’’ he said. “It runs mostly in the borough. We’ve added finisher medals at the end for the 5K. We’ve never done that before.
“And we’ve added beer at the end, compliments of Isaac Newton’s (restaurant).’’
The message Mark is trying to convey to the public is that visually impaired people should not feel that they are particularly at a disadvantage in our society.
“To me, when I started this seven years ago, my purpose was to share with the community that people with disabilities such as being visually impaired or blind are not limited,’’ he said.
“And having the ability to use a white cane (which is used for guidance by visually impaired people) and primarily a guide dog has opened the world to not only myself but to many others who are visually impaired and blind.
“My ultimate goal is for people to come and witness. . .to help themselves personally because we all deal with issues as individuals. We have to learn to combat them on a daily basis, play to our strengths. In a nutshell, have the right attitude. Be positive, be motivated, it’s contagious.’’
McCowan would like to thank his most loyal sponsor, Holland Floor Covering, which has been around since day one.
Over the seven years, more than $30,000 has been raised for these worthy causes.
Mark also wants to give a shout out to Newtown Borough and Newtown Township for allowing him to put on this race, which will start and end in front of the famous Newtown Theater (the oldest operating theater in the United States).
“I think this course (USATF-certified) really opens up for people to see what Newtown is all about,’’ he said.
Here’s hoping for an excellent day for both the event and its standout director, Mark McCowan.
Seventh annual Bookin’ for Lookin’ 5K, 8 a.m., Newtown. Contact www.bookinforlookin.com.