Few things are more satisfying to a musician than playing tunes while 7000 strangers smile, wave, and thank you for making their day a good one. Sure, these spectators may be 22 miles into a 26 mile foot-race, a bit dehydrated, perhaps delirious, and running up what seems to be an endless hill, but Rabbit Stew’s old-time music at the Seattle Marathon has created a distraction, a landmark, and a brief moment of comfort for thousands of runners over the years.
While we love playing on street corners, at farmer’s markets, and for parties, our annual Sunday morning gig for the Seattle Marathon runners has become a staple on our band’s calendar. This started 7’ish years ago when Rabbit Stew had just a few tunes in our repertoire. Knowing that very few marathoners would swing back for a second lap around the city, our young band didn’t have to worry about repeating ourselves to anyone. We planted ourselves at mile marker #22, and learned very quickly that runners, neighbors, marathon volunteers, and even law enforcement really enjoyed the music. And they went out of their way to tell us these nice things. Now, our tune selection is more robust, but nothing has changed about the location. Runners know that when they hear Rabbit Stew’s old-time music, there are just four miles to go.
The unpredictable late-November weather is always a challenge for all 15 strings and 30 fingers used by our band. We’ve played in rain (under a tent), unseasonable warmth, and bitter cold weather. And this past Sunday, it was COLD. 27 degrees to be exact. Being a pro-active banjo player, I rented and schlepped a propane patio heater down to our E. Interlaken and 24th Avenue gig-site. Playing under a heat lamp was supposed to keep our fingers warm and keep these frigid temperatures manageable. But this same pro-active banjo player also forgot to bring any matches.The brilliant source of outdoor heat was suddenly a large paperweight. We found ourselves looking desperately for a match or any source of fire. And we were planted in the middle of a hyper-fit running community....not a lot of smokers or matches. Fortunately, a fellow spectator named Abby offered to help us find a source of fire. 20 minutes later , she arrived back from a hike down 24th Avenue with matches adorned with a logo for a local band called the “Suffering Fuckheads”. Rabbit Stew has never discussed our comfort level with product placement advertising for a group we know nothing about, but if the F-heads printed matches, and if those matches helped make our 27-degree jam possible, let’s promote every musician involved in making the morning a success. And let’s all remember Abby who is still anonymous, but will remain a key part of our Thanksgiving Marathon history.
So, we played tunes, runners ran, some runners danced, neighbors visited, there were lots of waves and smiles, and we stayed relatively warm.
And then the cold weather won the battle and it was time to go home. Sorry to any slower runners who we may have missed. But congratulations to everyone who trained hard and got out there to run the 2014 Seattle Marathon.