Cheating Is Encouraged: The Deer Fly Stomp

Just after I started working at Wanderlust, a gentleman named Paul Settles came in to ask for sponsorship for a race he manages every summer. I enjoyed talking with him about his little race that is in Grand Mere State Park. The distance is “about” 5K, but the winner is the one who catches the most deer flies on flypaper attached to their hats. It sounded really quirky and fun, so I told him I might run it. If nothing else, I thought it might be a fun blog.

I was having brunch on Saturday with a friend of mine, and as the date got closer I began to question whether or not I had time to get ready after the run. I decided not to go or to just head over for the start of it and then come home. I was walking Ashok Saturday morning and trying to figure out when I was going to run that day when it dawned on me that I should just go run the darn thing. It would be different, and it would be in a beautiful place where I don’t usually run during the week. I hurried home, brushed my teeth, washed my face, threw on some mismatched running clothes and trail runners and drove over to Grand Mere.

The gravel road back to North Lake Park was muddy after the rain Friday night. The air hung heavy with humidity. It felt pretty nasty out, but it was apparently perfect running weather for deer flies. Paul was super excited about the weather we were having. I was not. I was one of the first people to arrive even though it was only 30 minutes before the start. Dee, a woman I know from a lot of local races, was helping with registration, and she helped me attach the flypaper to my hat. Meanwhile, a steady steam of traffic entered the little parking lot. I laughed to myself as one truck pulled in with a big white barking retriever hanging out the car window. That dog would be covered in mud by the time this thing was over.

It was obvious this was a low-key, popular event with many repeat runners. I met several people, and we talked about the run and how much fun they have had over the years doing it. I was already so glad I came, and I texted my girlfriend to tell her I would probably be nasty and unbathed for our brunch. I was going to see this thing out, and it seemed it didn’t really have a tight timetable.

Paul gave a short speech about the run. The money goes to Alzheimer’s research. Paul was inspired to do this after his father’s, Paul Settles, battle with Alzheimer’s. The shirt features names on the back of local people who have battled the disease, and he is truly passionate about stopping the suffering. He gave us an overview of the course map which was scrawled on poster board, told us cheating was encouraged, and said “go” as he led the little pack out of the parking lot and into the woods.

I chatted with other back-of-the-packers as we ran through the beautiful forest and hoped to catch some flies. I got one and then, Kim, who was running with me exclaimed that I had three. I had no idea how excited it would make me to catch some flies. I imagined I might win for a second. But my hopes of an inaugural win were dashed when a young man came running through with his flypaper completely covered in flies. But I proudly posted my three flies on the board when I got back.

We were told to be back at 9:12, and we gathered for prizes. Local businesses and crafters had donated items such as homemade candles, gift certificates and one embroidered deer fly wall hanging. Everyone got a gift for their participation, and the winner with over 30 flies received their medal. A couple got engaged on the course which was apparently a first for the run.

I drove home with a smile on my face. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a run. My last one was canceled due to COVID. I forgot how fun they are and especially the little ones with their quirky customs. I met a few new people, participated in helping a good cause and actually had time to take a shower before my brunch. I would call that a good run.

Congrats to the happy couple on their engagement!

2 Comments on “Cheating Is Encouraged: The Deer Fly Stomp

  1. What a great little story! Makes my heart happy that things like this happen in our community. Kudos to you for joining the flies. šŸ‘

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