‘What happened to my low number?’

 Friday, February 21, 2003


(R-Rooter) -- Controversy over ‘secret’ membership numbers within a local running association has been brewing for several weeks.  Tempers have flared, as the person responsible for the scandal shows little remorse.

For years, members of the Arkansas Ultra Running Association (AURA) have received a special card with their “secret number” each year when they renewed their membership.  “Low numbers” have always been much sought-after, with sordid reports of bribery, back-room favors, and other methods being employed to secure a numeral de status-grande.  With the mailing of the new cards for 2003, however, a scandal has erupted.  Many long-time members who spent years working up through the ranks--often a couple of spots at a time, now find themselves with very high, mediocre numbers--and they are not happy about it.  Criticism and accusations have begun to rain on one controversial figure--the person long-known to be the center-of-power within the organization:  the Big Shot. Often thought to be an "untouchable" boss in the world of ultra and trail running, now it appears his brazen authority may be severely tested.  

Big Shot shown here in file photo.                         

When contacted and asked for comment, the Big Shot did not directly respond, and merely mumbled something about “those are good numbers” and being late for a cheeseburger.  An operative who works under B.S. could only supply a vague, limited response.  “Listen,” he said, “it’s kind of a racket anyway.  Amazingly, people will send him money, and he just sends them a piece of paper with a number on it—and they’re happy.  It’s so bizarre.  I mean--only a truly brilliant person could have come up with that kind of scheme.  –Or a complete idiot.  I’m still not sure which.”  

One long time member said he went from a single-digit number last year to a number in the low 90’s.  “I spent years working my way up the food chain, and then got surprised with this.  I really didn’t know what was going on.”  Former-member-number 14 appeared a bit more irritated with the development:  “My Great-great-great-great-great-grandpappy came over on a boat--but I didn’t come over on a boat. I expect to be treated with a little more respect than to be given such a high number like that.”  

According to an unsubstantiated report, the runner who previously held Number 1 was assigned 100 during the re-alignment.  Dark rumors have been circulated for years on how this person had “earned” the most prestigious integer.

AURA President Stan Ferguson appeared somewhat distraught at being powerless in the membership number process:  “Some people may hear of this and think ‘Well, what’s the big deal?  After all--It’s just a number’.  But they don’t realize that for some of these folks—especially the real die-hard ultrarunners, that number may be all they've got.  It’s really a shame, and I feel bad for them.”  Ferguson did not disclose specifics regarding his own new number.

After learning of the controversy, former presidential candidate and marathon runner Al was heard repeatedly declaring:  “Every number counts…and every number should be counted.” 

Unreachable for comment were any members who received new low numbers.  The jolted runners who were interviewed for this report could only speculate that these individuals were probably out “basking in their new-found status”.  And who can blame them?  “It’s like winning the lottery for them” said one low-number veteran. 

One thing is for certain—the controversy is not going to go away any time soon.  “Oh, this is not over,” stated one former sub-20 member, on the condition of anonymity.  “Shot may think he can sit up there in the mansion and play number-god with impunity—but he’s wrong.  Justice has a way of catching up.  The numbers will come back, and when they do—Shot had better be ready to duck.”


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