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Runner Otis Richardson goes bananas
by Ross Forman

This article shared 4056 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
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Otis Richardson is preparing to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Sunday, Oct. 10, which will be his second-ever marathon but his first since 2003.

He's determined to beat his time from seven years ago by at least 18 minutes.

Sound crazy?

Nah, Richardson has simply gone "ape sh@t bananas." Literally.

Richardson, 46, who lives in Hyde Park, has taken the comedic route to training and fund-raising for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) as he trains with its Team 2 End AIDS ( T2EA ) .

"Oh gosh, [ I am ] nervous, excited, the whole gamut [ of emotions, ] " Richardson said. "Race day is gonna be nuts, but I'm confident that my five months of training will prepare me to finish in one piece. Friends and family have given me a lot of support and my co-workers have been awesome.

"When it comes to fundraising for T2EA, I've used Twitter, Facebook, smoke signals … whatever I can do to let my friends know to support me. E-mails have worked best for me and the e-mails featuring an image have gotten the best response. So, I decided to do a crazy banana photo. I train with my pace group every Saturday at 7 a.m. After our run is done, there are healthy snacks on site to help us recover, [ including ] granola bars, nuts, bagels, peanut butter, and fresh fruit like oranges and bananas. So the theme of my photo was 'Otis is going ape sh*t bananas over his Chicago Marathon training!' [ The photos ] got people's attention because I'm pretty laid back. To see me with bananas in my ears was … different."

Richardson, who was born and raised in Beaufort, S.C., is a customer service representative for Tribune Media Services. He is gay and newly single, he said.

"I think the AIDS Foundation of Chicago does great work in the community and I like that their marathon training program is geared to several fitness levels," Richardson said. "T2EA runners come in a range of ages, shapes, and abilities. Some participants have never run a marathon before and others are experienced runners, but we all support each other.

"I have many friends living with HIV/AIDS and I've lost people to this syndrome. I'm running on their behalf. As a creative artist, so many talented gay men that I looked up to when I came out in the 1980s are gone, like writer Essex Hemphill, filmmaker Marlon Riggs, Sylvester, Keith Harring, vogue dancer Willi Ninja, cartoonist Daniel Sotomayor—I mean, the list goes on. This is my small way of honoring all of them and giving something back."

To that, Richardson's marathon goal is to raise $1,600—and finish in less than five hours.

"Year after year I would make excuses about not having the time to train and having to work on weekends," Richardson said. "I did my first marathon at [ age ] 39; now I'm 46, so the age thing is definitely a concern, but I think I'm just as fit now as I was then. I'm actually in a faster pace-group than I was seven years ago. My Buddhist practice played a major part in helping me decide to stop making excuses. Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism believes that you are responsible for your own happiness. If there are things you want to happen in your life, each of us has the Buddha nature inside of us to accomplish our goals and overcome obstacles. When we chant 'nam-myo-renge-kyo,' we tap into that Buddha nature or our 'higher self' that brings forth wisdom, good fortune, and motivation. This marathon is just another challenge that I will overcome with my faith. In fact, Buddhists look at challenges as opportunities for growth and self-improvement. I've gotten a lot of support from the LGBT Buddhist group that meets the second Friday of every month at the Soka Gakkai International ( SGI ) Chicago Cultural Center."

Richardson is a nationally published illustrator/cartoonist and past contributor to Windy City Times and other LGBT publications. He is also the creator of LavenderPop Greeting Cards, the premier line of African-American LGBT Pride cards.

"With the economy and funding cutbacks, raising money for HIV/AIDS services is more crucial now than ever," Richardson said. "Black men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected, so, as a member of this group, I'm very concerned about adequate funding for services and prevention. I feel fortunate to be apart of the T2EA training program and I urge others to join next year. By raising money and helping others, I'm really helping myself."

Anyone who would like to support Richardson should visit and click "Donate," then type his name and click "Sponsor Me."

This article shared 4056 times since Wed Sep 29, 2010
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