How long does a grass-roots DIY run last before it gets co-opted by The Man? Based on recent evidence, about a year.
Last year, I wrote a piece mapping Rocky Balboa’s training run in Rocky II. By connecting the scenes in a montage, I discovered Rocky ran a shade under 31 miles. About three hours after the piece went up, I got an email from Rebecca Schaefer, a Philadelphia resident who runs in ultra races, asking if she could attempt to organize an actual 50K roughly tracing the course I drew. It’d be a “fat-ass” run: Lightly organized, with no entry fees, awards or road closures. “It’d be small, for sure,” she wrote.
It wasn’t. The article attracted a bit of attention. Schaefer’s run was widely covered; more than 100 people showed up to run at least part of it. Runners collected sneakers for Back on My Feet. A woman who ran it pregnant last year named her son Rocky.
And now MGM has threatened Schaefer with a lawsuit, sending her a cease-and-desist letter over the Rocky 50K Fat Ass Run. “To be honest, I was shocked it hadn’t come sooner,” Schaefer, the run’s organizer, says. She’s changing the name of the Rocky 50K for its second edition on December 6th, a run that’s become much larger than she ever imagined. The soon-to-be-renamed Rocky 50K has no entry fees or actual sign-up list; Schaefer makes no money on the event.