All of Our Dreams Can Come True if We Have the Courage to Pursue Them
If you had to nail me down on whether Runners Doing Good exists in 2022, I would say yes it does.
My intent in this post is to explain where I’m coming from and my hope of what RDG can actually look like if it’s fully realized.
I think those last 2 words of the first paragraph are the most important when it comes to RDG….. Fully Realized.
Runners Doing Good started as Runnin’ Not Walken which was catchy and fun. Enough so that losing 2020 to the pandemic didn’t keep Jay, the emcee at Ragnar Trail Michigan, from forgetting us from previous years. We raised a lot of money as RNW and all combined, we’ve raised nearly $33,000. I feel we can do more but is what we’re doing, “Fully Realized?”
I don’t believe it is. What is something that is “Fully Realized?” To me, it’s something operating as the best version of itself. We operate very well and have earned a good reputation because of that but is there room for improvement? Of course! But what would a fully realized version of the team look like in 2022 and beyond?
Keeping in mind that what we do is ultimately run by people with lives, families, and responsibilities, it’s going to be difficult to push this incredibly far quickly, however, I do believe that there’s an ability to achieve a tremendous lot for 2022 with an eye towards what lies beyond that.
At its simplest, the team would be organized formally so that it could perform all functions of the process, in-house. There may be some added responsibilities associated with that but the truth is that we’ve been blessed to be able to partner with great organizations who have let us operate under their umbrella and that means waiting on some things to come to fruition as their processes play out. That’s not a gripe but for us as a group, we could be more efficient working on our checklist if we were able to perform all functions.
Once set up as a Non-Profit, the potential is there for us to tap into different revenue streams that we’ve not had the opportunity to approach before. That will only allow us to strengthen our intake, which only expands the strength we have to do more.
Until now, we’ve raised nearly $33,000 in donations, since 2015, along with probably more than $10,000 in sponsorship dollars. We have kept $0 of that for our operations from year to year because of how our partnerships with our charities of choice were structured. Again, that’s not a gripe at all! With the ability to create some level of savings, we could position the team for future years in ways that we’d not be able to otherwise, while also making a difference for organizations, individuals, and groups within our community.
Speaking of impact…one of the biggest benefits of taking this to another level is the fact that we’ll be able to support organizations, causes, groups, and individuals directly through our fundraising.
Are we going to go out and start up a soup kitchen? No. Are we going to be building ramps and doing many of the things that organizations within our community are already doing? No.
We’re good at raising money and formally organizing our group allows us to pick and choose all of those above things to support in whatever ways we want. We can spread it around a bit but I can see us doing things like raising money to:
Support NeighborLink Fort Wayne for a specific projects
Buy books for Kate’s Kart
Purchase food from a local grocery store to give to the Food Bank around the holidays
Help fill some of the curbside food pantries
Purchase diapers for new moms who need assistance
Donate to individuals needing help covering the costs of surgeries
Help families experiencing tragedy
Donate to Brave Like Gabe who help fund rare cancer research
Support Run Freely which helps defer the cost of an Exosym Device to Vets to get them running pain free again.
And SO MUCH MORE!!!!
There’s a lot to be enthusiastic about if this step is taken but there’s certainly a lot to be a bit scared about too. Like everything else with this team, what if it snowballs? This was never meant to be what it is and here we are talking about formalizing the team as a non-profit in some manner. That’s crazy right?
It’s a good thing but it’s still rather daunting and for that, I’d ask for any good vibes, prayers, and thoughts you might have while I discern whether these next steps are right for our team.
A legacy is only worthwhile when there is a future to fuel.
– Peyton Manning
I heard that quote awhile back when Peyton Manning was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. It honestly got to me a bit. I was watching the speech on my phone and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t help but watch the snippet that contained that quote a couple more times. It has left me thinking ever since.
It has left me thinking about where Runners Doing Good goes from here. I don’t have to make a decision right here and now by any means. Ragnar Trail Michigan opened up a awhile ago and I was ready to jump on it to lock in the price and didn’t. I have had businesses that have supported us well over the years and until the pandemic, it only got easier to earn those sponsorships. It wasn’t so simple this year.
I’ve put some feelers out on next year for runners and as you’d expect, barely 6 weeks past the big race and it’s definitely still too soon to be sure of anyone’s comfort level in signing up again. Life is different for all of us in 2021 than it was in 2019 when we set out on this most recent campaign. Many of us took time away this summer and when we came back, the pandemic is still there, seemingly ever present. Vacation didn’t make it go away. ’22 could be even better for the travel industry as maybe we’ll get this figured out by then. I don’t honestly know.
I do know that for 7 campaigns and 6 races, we’ve put our best foot forward. We’ve raised money for Kate’s Kart and NeighborLink Fort Wayne and have done well by them and consequently, I feel uniquely supported our community. We are moms and dads, medical professionals, civil servants, sales people, and life is busy in so many facets that we can’t “DO” what these organizations can and do on a daily basis. They are truly remarkable and special to the people they serve. After all of this time, I do feel satisfied in the efforts we’ve put forth on their behalf.
Is it enough that I could be satisfied in doing this for another 10 years? Is it enough that I could be satisfied in saying, “I’m good” and calling it a good run and move on?
Yes and Yes.
I feel the team has a legacy. We’ve earned a reputation. That’s something I’m incredibly proud of. When we lace ’em up, people know we’re going to run something that most people would deem absolutely crazy. We also raise a pretty solid sum of money, too! It’s that expectation that makes me smile because it was never supposed to be this but yet, an impact has continually been made year over year over year. Something nearly accidental has grown into something with a weight to it that is felt.
It is felt whether they knew it or not, by the children that received books. It is felt by those inspired to join our team. It is felt by the families with the warmer homes because their furnace was fixed. It is felt by those that have run year after year after year. And it is felt by me.
There’s a pressure to it all that borders on thrilling and panic inducing at times. It is overwhelming happiness when the fundraiser is rolling well. It’s also fear, disappointment, and frustration when it is not. It is regret when the midnight run through the woods is nightmare inducing and a joyous satisfaction due to the sense of accomplishment when it is over. I have sprouted tears of frustration and tears of joy and been ready to run through a wall I’ve been so excited and so angered. I have felt the rainbow of emotions and it has left me feeling full and able to step away from the table as well as wanting more all at the same time.
This has been a gift beyond measure but it is not just a gift for me. To receive the support that we have been getting for the better portion of a decade is something worth sharing and it’s why I feel that we’re not near the true finish line here but maybe nearing an evolution.
I look at the pictures above and there are microevolutions with the collage that tell a story. The team has changed a few times over whether it’s the runners, the destination itself, the cause, and the type of race. There’s Chicago, Muskegon, Traverse City, Madison, and Grayling. Team 1 which produced the core for 2 and 3 that had the seeds of the core of 4, 5, and 6 within it. The necessary change from Kate’s Kart to NeighborLink Fort Wayne propelled us even farther ahead and the race format change for this year, team 6 that simplified the roster and produced probably the most easy going group we’ve ever had.
I think about the heat of 2016 that about broke us all and the wind and cold of ’18 which almost brought us to that point again. Surviving that made us even tougher and willing to tackle the bookend hills of Trail Michigan with a devilish grin and a proverbial middle finger to them, although, I’m not sure that some of us didn’t actually do that, too! Haha.
It’s the evolution and improvement that we’ve seen from one team to another, from one destination to another, from one format to another that gives me the belief that there’s more to come. So what does the next step look like?
Man it seemed like forever getting here. I’m not talking about waiting a year because it was cancelled in April of ’20, but the drive. To the Michigan Department of Transportation, I know that I-69 is perpetually under construction for you guys but wow. From the Indiana state line to Lansing, all we saw were orange barrels.
You know how when someone asks if you want the good news or the bad news first? I’m giving you the bad because the list is short:
MDOT’s already been established. The rain heading up to Grayling combined with the road construction was a nice double whammy, and the trails were, in places, rather narrow. See below for proof:
Now onto the good news!!!
So for this year’s race as mentioned in a previous post: Ragnar Trail Thoughts, our team was pared down to 8 from 12 from our road races. There were a lot of miles run for us throughout the years on the legs of this group. The runners with the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 14th most miles run for Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good, returned, along with our lone newbie, Kati, to take on this new challenge. It made all the difference in the world because everyone acted like they’d been there before. Everyone had a few nerves about running the course late at night, however, with the exception of Kati learning how to eat, rest, and run throughout the course of the 28 hours we ran, everyone had a pretty good concept of how to approach it. Regardless of a person’s experience, a Ragnar can be a tough thing to take on but the experience certainly helps.
With where everyone lived, our departures varied. Melissa and Chris, being Michiganders and only having an hour and 20 minute drive or so, with family in town, headed up early and picked up some beer at a local brewpub. They were great selections by Chris, I might add. The rest of us were from the Fort Wayne area or down around Cincinnati. The FW-ers took off together around 1 and not long after, Michael flew up I-75 north.
Not long after exiting the brewpub, Chris and Melissa got to Hanson Hills to claim our spot in the Glamping area. We’ve been blessed with great support from the business community through the years but understandably, this year coming out of Covid, they’ve been much more conservative with how they spend their money. In fact, we went into this race without our top 2 sponsors!
Glamping was something that I wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to pull off. It’s not like it’s some huge luxury item, however, the ability to show up and have the tents set up already with cots, chairs, tables, etc. ready to go would potentially make traveling to the race infinitely easier for those of us from hours away.
That said, we covered that particular expense through enough sponsorship and some very generous individuals but still, in the back of my mind, my biggest worry was that it was a waste of money. I’ve always prided myself on being a solid steward of our sponsors’ dollars and I’ve never had a problem justifying it. This was a team decision and everyone wanted to give it a try because they felt it would be more than worth it and so we did.
It ended up being the best decision ever. Between us all, we do have some nice tents but there’s no way we could have been set up in a way that gave everyone both the privacy to get some rest as well as well as the space to gather and hang out like we had. It all came with the fact that none of us had to lift a finger. We spent a lot of time in our little “compound” just talking and hanging out together. It was just really well done and I’m grateful for those folks that made it possible.
When it comes to planning these runs I can count on one finger the amount of races that have, outside of the weather, been stress free. This race truly was as close to stress free as I’ve ever had. From the smaller roster to having the glamping set, we really just needed to show up and run. It was pretty amazing. Showing up Thursday and seeing the Glamping site got rid of a lot of stress.
It was really neat to see Ragnar Village grow throughout Thursday evening. These pictures don’t do it justice but people kept pouring in and it was so cool. The weather wasn’t tremendously ideal as it was heavily humid with some rain here or there but people built the village mostly with a smile and that infectious attitude permeated throughout the weekend!
The vibe around a Trail Relay is so different. You might have a half dozen teams around you during some exchanges on the road but at a Trail Relay, you had teams cheering you on as soon as you crested the last big hill…more on that later….and raced towards the transition tent. I LOVED IT!! Even at 1:30 a.m., there were a dozen guys hanging out and clapping for runners. I mean, why aren’t they sleeping?!?! But on the other hand, it was awesome to still have people supporting you even during the earliest of morning hours.
Running a Trail Relay is markedly different than a Road Relay for a few reasons but the biggest is that there’s no hurrying up to get from one place to the next to kick one runner out while grabbing another and then repeating the action 35 more times. That’s all taking into account that the runner you picked up has minimal time to stretch, post-run, before they get crammed back into the van, all hot and sweaty. Typically, they’d change clothes when everyone hops out of the van to greet the next runner. As I describe this, it all feels very rushed and sometimes, it definitely feels that way.
This couldn’t have been more different. The Trail Relay was such a wonderful departure in that regard. You’d walk a couple hundred yards to the transition tent to wait for your runner and take off when they came in and then you could leave to return to your tent with your team, which brings up another great point…..
You get to spend the whole time with your team. You’re not split in half with one group running and the other resting. For us, we had our complete team together from 6:30 p.m. Thursday, at arrival, till 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, at departure, for 100% of that time, minus whomever was running. That was a huge and welcome change. Van 1 might get a total of an hour, combined, with Van 2 during a road race.
Ok so back to the running and recovery…you had 1000 times more ability to walk, stretch, or whatever your post-run routine would normally be so that you’re ready to go later. You could then take your time changing your clothes, IN YOUR TENT PRIVATELY, and then sit down with your team with a drink and a bite to eat so that you were hydrating and powering up for the next run. Anyone who runs a Ragnar Relay will be sore a day or two later but I didn’t feel anywhere near as bad as I have after Road Relays. It blew me away! I literally remember walking away from Ragnar Village in wonderment at how well I felt. Now, an hour down the road when we stopped to let the storm pass…that hurt. I felt like my legs seized up but that’s understandable as travel will do that. My legs were a bit stiff a day or so later but still nothing like what I’ve experienced in the past.
Now, onto the race itself. This course was no joke but I loved it. I’ve never truly run a trail race of any type so I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect. Looking back, I still can’t believe how much better I felt post race and I believe the biggest thing was that despite the occasional roots being an issue, the running surface was so much more foot and joint friendlier than pounding the pavement of whatever road or bike path.
From Ragnar Village, everyone experienced the same path for the first quarter mile or so. It was a soft jaunt through some grass that meanders to the right and shortly winds around an open space that turns progressively more sandy and towards “the hill.” This particular area isn’t bad but when you’re just starting, the sandy nature of it made it harder than what just a regular dirt path would be. The footing wasn’t ever bad to where you struggled but the rain thankfully packed it a bit. I chose to try to find areas where there was some weeds and vegetation to run on either in the middle of the path as it or to the edge. That seemed to help with the getting yourself going and trying to loosen your legs up as you really were just getting started.
After you got headed straight towards the hill and work your way through the sandiness of it all, you finally reach it. For me, I’m a very average runner. My hope is to always run a 10 minute pace and I found out very quickly that with this hill, my hopes of ever keeping that pace were largely dashed. That was fine. I knew a bit that trail running slows you down but with this hill, it was impossible for me.
150 feet of elevation gain isn’t awful but in about a 10th of a mile? It is pretty steep. Our first runner who is very similar to me in build, age, and speed, was running the same order as I was for the race and so we all picked his brain on the Green Loop and he was largely accurate. The thing he was right about for us “Average Joes” was that he could probably run the hill but in the first .15 of the race with nearly 16 more miles to go and a day to go, he elected to power hike it. I noticed quite a few who walked it but I opted for Andrew’s power hike. Yes it didn’t look like running but it wasn’t just a walk either. I was passing people doing it but I wasn’t destroying my legs right out of the chute either. I saw runners darn near sprint the hill and I absolutely applaud them. They’re amazing and maybe someday I can be too but this year with everything that was going on, it just wasn’t in the cards.
Once you reach the crest of the hill, for the Green Loop, which is a 2.8 mile romp, you take a hard left and bomb your way through the woods. This was, not because of the distance, but for the fun of it, my favorite loop of the race. It felt fast and there were sections where I just all but sprinted the downhills. It felt exhilarating. The path was littered with sections of these little ferns. It was bright with the green of them throughout the course. It was really very pretty.
In all, the Green Loop was a good challenge and a ton of fun. In a lot of past Ragnar’s, I didn’t get too many kills but on the trail, I never took off with anyone but I think I netted a half dozen kills or passes during that first run on the Green Loop. What’s most cruel about all of the runs is that you begin with that first big hill and end with a nearly equally soul crushing hill that’s more dune than true hill. Once you reach the peak and crest over it and down the hill into Ragnar Village, it can be a fast but tight run as the path is very narrow so you do have to be careful.
And that might bring me to my only negative feeling about Ragnar Trail Michigan. Being that much of the course is on mountain bike paths, the paths can be pretty tight and that’s difficult to run at times. The width of the clown shoes I wear is wider than a typical bike tire so sometimes I felt a bit boxed in and while I never fell, I knew some who did and that was mainly because of a combination of roots, uneven terrain, and how narrow the paths were. Footing was difficult to really fly through at times but that’s trail running from what I’ve heard. So maybe chalk it up to inexperience but I’ve heard others paths are wider in other places. For now, it is what it is. It definitely didn’t make the experience bad. It just made it tough in spots and that’s fine.
So once you make it into Ragnar Village, you get to run under the big Ragnar sign like the above which is pretty cool. One of the best parts of running a Ragnar is getting to run under the big finish line and at a Trail Race, you get to do it 3 times but again, this time, you’ve got all of the other runners there too so the community aspect of it all is so much greater. The buzz in the village is every good Major Road Exchange but all weekend long vs. just at those few big exchanges. Loved it.
Onto the Red Loop!
So, the Red Loop commentary and especially photo evidence will be pretty limited but here’s what I have to say, if you want to be intimidated, like really intimidated and equally proud when you accomplish something, run the Red Loop at night. That’s not necessarily how I planned it but I took off on my Red Loop was around 11:30 p.m. Being that it was 7.7 miles of trails, it felt crazy enough but a sprint through a state park like setting just felt NUTS!
Everything I described about the beginning of the Green Loop still applied and then instead of a turn to the left, I made a veer to the right and for me personally, 11 pm didn’t seem bad because I am a bit of a night owl myself so I felt pretty good. I’d gotten a bit of a nap and had some nerves buzzing in my stomach with just this concept of running in the woods at night. I’d often been told that the night runs at a Trail Race were different than road races.
If you’ve not experienced a Road Race before, things can get stretched out pretty good so you don’t really see anyone at night in some cases but I was told that trail races would be like seeing a bunch of fire flies in the woods because of all of the head lamps. For me, that wasn’t exactly true, or at least not for 3.5 miles when I was passed. Till then, it had been 40 minutes of darkness as my eyes darted left to right looking for bears. Being that it was near an area that had been logged, stumps seemed appropriately sized for the wanderings of the mind to venture towards “bear-dom.”
I always have moments during a Ragnar where I wonder to myself, “Why am I doing this?” The Red Loop didn’t provide that as much as I thought it would. It wasn’t a miserable experience but it was tough and I know that if we do one next year, I have to train for hills better. None the less, another mile of darkness would go by with roots and hills. The hills at night were everywhere but we’d paid attention to the elevation map so I knew that as I approached 4-4.5 miles, the climb would end and it largely did.
I remember being somewhat discouraged that other than getting passed, I might not see anyone and then right there at around 4.5 miles, I saw headlamps ahead. I honestly didn’t think it were possible that I could be running fast enough to pass anyone but I went ahead of 2 and then had a really nice run with 2 ladies who had a great pace they were keeping. Combining the power of our headlamps did light up the forest and I could have passed them but the pace, while slower, was nice and the extra light was an even better benefit so I hung with them till about 1.25 miles out when they pulled away. Somewhere in that mix, I had nearly fallen twice and one time, I felt a slight twinge in a groin muscle and so the slower pace came into play even better at that point. It wasn’t bad so I kept chugging.
When I got to “The Dune” it was nearly 1 a.m. and I was both defeated and relieved. That hill is an absolute grind and that’s putting it mildly. It was another that I tried to run a little bit but in trying to save yourself for later, a power hike is a bit necessary. Again, I’m just an average runner so for others, that may not be the case but it was tough. So yea, seeing it is relief that you’ll almost done but defeating because you’ve made it this far and you still have to climb it but in all honesty, when you get to the top and you can see the light from Ragnar Village’s transition area streaming out onto the Village, it’s beautiful and I had to take a moment to appreciate it.
After that, I found my footing as it transitioned from sand to turf and made my way down the hill and unto the narrow path and between the tents that lined the approach to “Club Transition” and it was done. I handed off to Melissa, who I believe had her Green Loop, and then was greeted by Jenn. I will say this, when I got back to our “compound”, I sat in one of our chairs and I’ll be honest, I was exhausted.
It had been a full day with 2 runs under my belt and the whole experience while new was so positive that I had a wave of satisfaction just rush over me. I sat that chair and felt a feeling that I’ve felt after other competitions in my younger years. I’d left it all out there and just felt proud. I was proud that I’d accomplished my longest run ever and it happened no less in the pitch black of a northern Michigan woods that with the exception of wild animals, gave me the thrills of good downhill stretches and the groaning and cussing of miles of uphill, and at the end of it all, and while in another year, I’d have been faster, I didn’t even care in that moment. I had tackled the hardest run I’d ever taken on and got through it and while it wasn’t completely fun in the act, the sense of accomplishment was palpable. I just sat there with a smile for a bit, drank some Gatorade, and soaked it in while Jenn got ready and headed out for her run. I gave her a hug and a kiss and she was off and I hit the hay.
That morning getting up wasn’t so bad. It was really here that the effects of doing a Trail Race vs. a Road Race were hitting. I wasn’t sore because I could stretch out from 1 a.m. till nearly 7:30-8 a.m. I can’t remember a single Road Race that we’ve ever run where I got that much sleep. I felt tired from running but not tired from the constant hustle of point to point driving, jumping out, seeing your runner run, supporting them, and getting to the next exchange and doing that again for everyone and then yourself and all the while not really stretching your legs out.
There are still a ton of things about a Road Race that are appealing. Seeing different areas that we’ve never been is first and foremost but it’s hard to argue with how we felt at the end of the race.
For me, my last run was the Yellow Loop. While Red was the longest with the statistically most elevation gain, I felt an argument could be made for the Yellow Loop being the hardest of the three. Part of it was the accumulation of Green and Red but there were some downhills that were steep and they seemed more back to back with some hairpin turns that while maybe the overall elevation gain/loss wasn’t as bad, being that these more difficult spots were so closely packed together, it did make sections more challenging, at least in my opinion.
That said, it was pretty. It made the run truly enjoyable. I was tired and the groin started to tighten further towards the end but I still loved it. It gave me a bit of a boost in the first half having the opportunity to see more runners and even pass a few! One lady that I encountered, and all the props in the world to her, was on her last run of the Ragnar which her team was running as an ultra so it was her SECOND time on the Yellow Loop!!! A bit of chit-chat later and I found out she grew up a half hour from Fort Wayne!
As the rest of the run progressed, I felt pretty good but somewhere around mile 3.5 – 4, I officially hit the wall. I had power hiked some hills but I ground to a halt. In fact, at the top of one hill, it was beautiful and I couldn’t help but just stop and look around. I think that might be the one take away from Ragnar Trail races, at least from this singular event, that pushes me towards another. There were moments where I just wanted to stop and soak it in. Time has never been truly important to us but sometimes you really just need to hear it all, see it all, and embrace the beauty of the quiet around you. Out there at the top of a ridge looking down from where I came, glancing up to see where I needed to go, and everything around me, it was a pretty special moment.
From there though, being as tired as I was, I wasn’t sure how I was going to work up the gumption to finish. I was about 2 miles out that while not a lot, was about 2 more miles than I wanted to run at that point. But I forged on and ran into quite a few runners which again surprised me that I was moving fast enough to catch up to anyone. One runner, and again all the credit to him, who I’d imagine was close to 50 or older and heavier set than I, and I started to talk a bit as we approached “The Dune.”
He started the small talk with, “We’re almost done…..except for one big ass hill!” We both laughed and talked briefly about why they’d end these trails like that when they could opt out of a corner turn and just go straight to the finish but nonetheless, he told me just before he left me behind that, “I made a promise to myself that I’d run the big hills at the beginning and the end and I’ve kept that promise the whole race so I’ve got to finish this strong so that I don’t break my promise to myself.” I told him that I wanted to be like him when I grew up and we parted ways.
As for me, I trudged, walked, hiked, and attempted to run part of “The Dune” till I got to the top, took a breathe, and came down the hill, into the village, and handed off to Melissa at Club Transition. I was done. The trails hadn’t killed me and it just felt great to be able to sit back and enjoy the time with my team which brings me to another takeaway: These guys….
They just rock. Getting to spend all of that time together during the race was just a blast. They make everything so easy on me and maybe the trail race was a bit more challenging than we all anticipated? Who cares! We all pulled for each other and the encouragement and care they all showed for each other despite our longer than expected times was pretty remarkable. I’d take that team of 8 anywhere. Anywhere.
In the end, the rains came and cut the humidity towards the end finish of the race which helped the runners cool down a bit easier. I didn’t think I’d be a big run in the rain kind of guy but it felt good and you could tell that despite exhaustion that was setting in, their spirits were lifted by it.
In the end, Courtney finished off 28 hours of trail running craziness with rain bearing down on us and it is an experience that I’ll never forget. In fact, the experience overall, is something that a month later as I finish this recap, it’s stuck with me in a way that I’ve not been able to shake.
From overcoming such serious obstacles on the path to obstacles in the world that made it harder to operate the team and even reach our goals but we pulled it all off! It’s such a great feeling to see things come together for a great cause while working with great people. The want to continue doing this is strong.
We’ve never imagined that we’d raise nearly $33,000 for area charities nor total more than 1,000 miles as a team in this incredible journey but here we are and despite the craziness of it all, somehow in someway, my hope is to continue doing this to positively affect Fort Wayne and the world around us somehow. It’s not easy but man it’s worth it.
So that’s that! To say that’s our adventure in a nutshell is a bit off because there’s too many words here to fit into one but I hope you made it this far and could feel and understand what I and we went through along this journey and I hope you follow along for what’s to come.
It is with great pride that we share our final numbers for Team Runners Doing Good for our 2021 Fundraising Campaign for NeighborLink Fort Wayne. It is also with even more enthusiasm that I share that a goal was met and exceeded for the 6th time.
In total, we reached $5,467 in fundraising with 100% of that number going directly to NeighborLink Fort Wayne. That is a tremendous effort with even better results despite such a challenging environment for anyone in the fundraising arena.
Historically, this ranks as our 3rd highest fundraising total ever. We have now, across 3 fundraisers, raised more than $15,000 for NeighborLink Fort Wayne. If not for the pandemic, I know that number would be closer to $20,000. That said, back to this year’s campaign….
Why is this year’s number so significant? The biggest thing I can point to is that 100% of the fundraising total was from private donations from individuals. In a year with businesses more conservative than ever with their giving, $0 of our sponsorship dollars ended up in the fundraiser. The last time we ran in 2019, we had nearly $2,000 in sponsorship given directly to NLFW and with the Trail Race being cheaper, we had eyes towards that number being considerably higher this year. It didn’t work out that way but what did was that people, more than ever, supported us in more and varied ways. Even some of our expenses were covered by individuals supporting us directly. That’s never happened either.
In all, raising nearly $5,500 in a year, that felt very much like the uphill climbs we experienced at Ragnar Trail Michigan, is something to find great joy in and appreciate more than ever. It also emboldens us and helps point our gaze towards 2022.
There were times where I wasn’t entirely sure that that 2022 would happen. There were times where I wasn’t sure that I wanted it to but the feedback from the team was so incredibly positive that it can’t be ignored. Also, I had a couple of potential sponsors and long time supporters state that they look forward to supporting us in the future so if we can have a few things fall our way for next year, it could be a huge year for us so 2022 is HAPPENING!
Finally, a huge THANK YOU to our supporters. Somehow, every single you year, you guys show up, donate, and support us in ways that continue to surprise us. We are beyond grateful for you.
“Gratitude Makes Sense of Our Past, Brings Peace For Today, and Creates a Vision for Tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
Wow. I saw this and I couldn’t agree with it more and had to share. I will do a full recap of Ragnar Relay Trail Michigan sometime this week that will detail the ins and outs of this event but for now, I wanted to convey more the feeling I have sitting here. The recap will give operational information. This comes from a well earned recovery nap that’s keeping me up later than I would rather be as it’s 10:35 on a Sunday night.
I’ve only been home barely 25 hours from Ragnar Trail Michigan but the part of the race that always impacts me and is currently doing the same, are my people, my team, my friends, my little Ragnar family.
You know you’re in the presence of good people when you spend nearly every moment of the day with them, minus the time you’re running and sleeping, from Thursday at 5:30 pre-race till almost 9 p.m. on the following Saturday when the last 3 hopped in their car to go get their kids and you could probably sit and talk with them for hours longer if given the opportunity.
There were a lot of reasons to try Trail Michigan but my biggest worry had always been upsetting folks because it cut the roster from 12 to 8. I’ve been blessed to have so many people that have taken up the Runnin’ Not Walken and now Runners Doing Good mantle and run to make their miles count for something bigger than themselves. All said though, to go from 12 to 8 would mean that some runners wouldn’t have a spot unless others gave up theirs.
Good, bad, or otherwise, I was loyal to my original core runners. I knew that didn’t necessarily make our team faster, too. It was a tough choice but no matter what anyone says, this team isn’t about finishing first. I’ll almost guarantee that we’ll not finish last but winning isn’t something at the top of our list. I know that probably sounds like the worst bit of coaching and team building possible but we’re in a different place than where we started in 2015.
We were a running team that fundraised a little back then. Today, we’re more of a fundraising team that happens to do epic running stuff. And when you’re going into a race you’ve never competed in before and don’t know a ton of what to expect and how you’ll react to it, you still with your core. When you’ve got decades of experience, decades of friendship, decades of love, decades of laughter, and decades of history with people, despite the difficulty of saying goodbye to some folks and knowing that on the running side you might not be as deep, it makes it easy to jump into something unexpected when the folks you’re jumping with know you so personally and will do anything for you.
So tonight, as I wrap this up, it is with great gratitude I say thank you to anyone who has ever run for us in the past. You’ve paved this path with us and someday, I hope this develops into something that if the opportunity and want for you to join us returns, we’ll have an opportunity to add you to the team.
For the present place I am, it is with great peace that I lay my head down this evening. The decision was right from day one, especially in light of the turbulence of this past 12+ months. I am so appreciative of these wonderful people: Courtney, Chris, Melissa, Andrew, Kati, Michael, and Jenn. Each in their own ways make me smile and go out of their way to make the others around them comfortable, smile, and enjoy each others time together. It’s not a big production time of thing either, it’s a very relaxed and subdued way they do it and it makes just picking back up after all of this time so much easier.
As far as a vision for the future, I’ll be honest, there were times in 2020 and definitely here in 2021 where I had my doubts that I should be doing this anymore. Everything was so difficult and part of that was my fault. I said yes to a few different things. I said yes to head coaching my son. I said yes to leading the alumni of my grade school and in many ways, the parish, to a degree. Both things have been incredibly rewarding as I thought they might but inside this training window, man did it make it challenging. I really didn’t think I’d be able to pull off the running. It had been a true challenge to get any consistent pain free mileage and it wasn’t until the last week prior to the race that I got new shoes and because my feet were now pain free, I was able to train harder and guess what? My legs hurt because they were sore and not hurt because my shoes were shot. It’s a big difference but there wasn’t a ton of time to get as strong as I’d hoped. As you’ll find out in my recap to come, it worked out ok.
As of right now, with the fundraiser but a week or so from ending, we’re $400 from our goal. That goal, I didn’t think we’d get close to just a couple of weeks ago. We’ve put a considerable push towards it and have had people respond wonderfully and generously and it gives me optimism that we’ll scratch across the finish line here.
But back to the future, I feel positive for what’s to come. It’s been good for my soul to be back in this routine. It’s been good to bring people together to rally around NeighborLink Fort Wayne and raise money and awareness for them. They are such a wonderful and worthy group to partner with who ultimately makes it so easy for us to be us and do things like this.
Overall, this whole experience with this team this year has been so good and so positive, I feel at peace with a future that includes Runners Doing Good in it. I wasn’t completely sure of it all at one point but here I am, exhausted both physically and mentally to varying degrees but overcome with a feeling of satisfaction and comfort with where we are. It’s pretty cool and when I have a more concrete idea of what that future holds, I will share it but for now, know that a vision is forming and Runners Doing Good will be back sometime in the not so distant future.
Today is the day before, the day before we run. 🙂 I don’t know why that thought popped in my head but it makes me laugh. Most importantly, though, it’s a big day because we’re closing in on our goal and I wanted to provide you all with an update on our fundraising campaign to benefit NeighborLink Fort Wayne.
As of last night, we were at $4,552 raise for NLFW. Our goal is $5,000 so we’re over 90% of the way there. All of this is pretty remarkable because we’ve covered our costs, barely, through local sponsorships and individuals who’ve given to help our expenses. In non-Covid year’s those dollars exceeded our needs and we had a surplus that poured into our fundraiser.
This total is significant because it’s largely given from private donors as there’s been very little, less than $100, that’s gone into the fundraiser from sponsorships. In year’s past, that number was pushing $2,000.
So if we hit our goal, it will represent the largest outpouring of love and support through private individuals our team has ever received. That definitely is appreciated and gives us a warm feeling but being that we’re so close, the question comes to now….can we get there by the time we run our last mile on Saturday?
I hate writing about myself and if I could get away from leaving this part blank, I would but it’s not fair to subject all of the friends and family that I put through this to profiles on themselves and then not do it myself so here goes.
I am, from a distance standpoint, number 1 on our leaderboard. I wouldn’t say that’s a feat of greatness by any means. It just means that I’ve done this the longest of anyone that’s run with us. I suppose that something. Had I not cramped up at the very end of ’16 and had Michael finish for me, this year I would have crossed 100 miles run in Ragnar Relay races for Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good. I’m not particular OCD or anal about anything but that fact does annoy me a bit. 98.76 miles sounds like a lot but 100+ just sounds nicer.
What’s most important to me about this whole thing is that we’ve done a lot of good, for great organizations, with great friends, and have created a culture and expectation that is predicated on exceeding expectations.
A couple of thoughts on those points:
First — Doing a lot of good for great organizations….
We haven’t skipped around to a lot of groups within the Fort Wayne community. This year will be our 7th campaign, which just took me by surprise when I looked it up and our 6th run, and we’ve only worked with two: Kate’s Kart for 3 campaigns from ’15 – ’18 and NeighborLink Fort Wayne from ’19 til now.
Combined, and it’s why I’ve left this line seperate from the above paragraph, we’ve raised $31,876 as of today!
That’s remarkable considering we never thought we’d raise $1,000 that first year. Most importantly of this point, it’s supported the do-gooders. We’re not set up to be the boots on the ground that does the work but we can do something audacious and raise some money to help their mission and when you consider we’re quickly approaching $32,000, I’d say we’ve done a nice job of that.
On doing this with great friends —
While this has snowballed in ways I never could have imagined, I’ve had some of the very best people I know at my side the whole time. That has been a true blessing. It’s not often that when you’re in your mid-30’s that you get to take time-out and play outdoors with your friends but I’ve been lucky in this regard.
I often speak of year one in nostalgic terms and that’s because the people I ran and played with as a child were all in that van with me. My cousins Brandon and Joel, who I spent countless hours playing basketball and baseball, running around the farm on our bikes, picking and eating berries, fishing, and whatever else we could get ourselves in to were there. Nerk, their cousin on the other side of their family, who is probably the friend I’ve known longer than any other outside of family was there. Joel’s girlfriend, Ruso, who’s now his wife, was an absolute joy to have with us that weekend. My godson Ryan was there and it was an amazing opportunity for us to reconnect and hang out in a way we hadn’t before. He was busy with school and growing up as I was beginning my adult life with getting married and starting a family so we didn’t get to hang out a ton there for a bit but the Ragnar allowed us to do that. His brother Adam, much like Ryan, joined us and I was 10 when he was born so it was cool to spend time with him and catch up in a way we hadn’t. It was also amazing to see him connect with Artie, one of my very best friends who’s also a bit crazy, and how those two jumped right into the Talladega Nights theme as drivers. Those two were a bigger deal that weekend that anything we did. The other teams loved them!
And that was just one year! In all, we’ve had more than 30 runners take part in a Ragnar in one location or another whether it was in Wisconsin on our way to Chicago in the oppressive heat, taking on the cold of late September in the northwestern half of “The Mitten”, or whatever we’re going to see at the end of this week.
There have been so many people that have made this whole adventure special that I can’t name them all but as always, my wife Jennifer is at the top of that list. It’s no surprise that we really hit another gear when she got involved. Taking this all on wouldn’t be possible without here but being able to share it with her is special. She downplays here contributions the whole way but half of our team this year is because of her. She’s a magnet that people gravitate towards and I know for a fact that I’d hardly have a team without her and our fundraising success would be limited considerably. She makes the motor run.
Beyond her, it’s been incredible to take on this challenge with friends, family, and acquaintances that becomes friends because of this shared experience. It’s difficult to put into words what it means but again, it’s just special and I never would have guessed this would be one of the true perks of doing this for so long but beside the joy of good we do, doing that with these people is at the top.
On a Culture of Exceeding Expectations —
So much of what we’ve done has been the result of this snowballing effect because our expectations were so low to begin with. We just never thought we’d be “here” or whatever this is but we’ve upped the ante every year in some way.
Typically that’s involved beating our fundraising total, which coming out of the pandemic, I don’t expect us to do. I believe we’ll pass our goal by July 2nd but $7500? Not likely. It’s a weird year for that but we’ve got several returning runners who I wasn’t sure we’d get back and people are as engaged as any year we’ve had in a long time as we tackle a new racing format and my feeling is, regardless of what the weather does, that this event will exceed our expectations in a lot of ways and pave a new path forward for us.
If it weren’t for the stress of so many things converging at once this spring, I wouldn’t have had any. This has been largely, the most stress-free event I’ve planned to date. That’s huge! In the past, I had vans to lock in, condos to rent, and a ton of other details involved with a 12 person traveling and running roadshow to coordinate that while it was amazing, it was also amazingly stressful, too. I’ve welcomed this relief. While the sponsors were a grind to get this year, the lower cost of the event because of not having all of those things to lock in also made it easier to cover.
It also positions us to really take off next year too and make whatever comes next sustainable. I have an 8 year old that wants to run with us some day and he needs to be 14 to participate. I’m not sure how many years of this I have left but if it’s about as easy as this year has been, then I can see the day that I share this experience with him.
Also, we’re at almost $32,000 raised for area charity, when you add up all we’ve done! That’s huge and far beyond our expectations. Remember, we started with the hope of $1,000 and the idea that the 12 of us would pitch in to hit the goal when we came up short. At this point, why not shoot for $50,000? That’d be pretty amazing to say too.
Lastly, I’m just excited for what this week holds for us. It’s been a grind to get here but every opportunity here is special and can’t be taken for granted. The weather might not be great but we’ve seldom had ideal weather but through it all, we’ve got a ton to be grateful for and I have meant it when I said that 2021 is going to be great.
I believe that because the world is in a better place than we were and it’s easy to regard things that way but I have and we all should have an appreciation for where we are today. It wasn’t easy to get here but we are and things are only continually improving so when we get to gather as a group and do something as crazy and daunting as a Ragnar Relay, we’ve got to take time to enjoy it and treasure the difficulty of it all, the accomplishment of the campaign, the people we get to share it with. That’s where the good stuff resides and I can’t wait to experience that.
Thanks for being a part of this, supporting us, and following along. We’ll always do our best to make you all proud and hopefully you feel we have.
I wasn’t sure that we’d get Melissa back but I couldn’t be happier that we have. Melissa is the wife of Chris and has been a good friend for a long time. Even longer, she’s been a good friend of Jenn’s, as they both attended Michigan State University and are both proud Spartans.
Melissa ran with us in 2018, our first year at Ragnar Road Michigan. It was a terribly cold race, overall, and I think I heard somewhere in the midst of the race so that she could spread out and get some sleep, she slept in a horse barn at a 4-H Fairgrounds. Sometimes the accommodations during a road relay aren’t exactly the Hilton.
That said, she’s awesome and a much better runner than most of the team and if it weren’t for the cold, I’m sure she would have been back for ’19 but all it took was a pandemic and a switch to a trail race just down the road from her dad’s house for her to come on back. Oh and the race is in June vs. the end of September. I’m sure that helps too :-).
In all, it’s fantastic to have Chris’ much better back with us. She’s a great friend and we’ll be a better team because of her.
This guy has been an absolute rock throughout the years. I’ve had the fortune of knowing Andrew since I was 18 years old, had him in my wedding, and I in his, and have shared this crazy adventure with him, when this year is over, 4 times, and had it not been for a family emergency, 5 times.
The only year that he truly missed was Year 1 but he joined up in 2016 and endured the extreme heat that we struggled through that year and somehow came back the next year. It is remarkable that he’s still running with us and even dragging Kati, his wife, into the mix, because every year he openly talks about and admits that he doesn’t like running. He’d much rather be on a bike but again, he keeps coming back.
In fact, he’s run with us so much that not only is he passing 50 miles run for us, not only is he passing 60 miles for us, but he’ll run his 65th mile for the team and put himself firmly in a Top 5 runners all-time for most mileage. If not for the one year he had to pull out not long before the race and he’d be Top 3 with more than 80 miles run for us.
One of the best stories about him was that first year he ran with us, 2016. He was jamming out to a song with his earbuds in and ready to go. Someone made the mistake in asking him if he was ready to go which prompted him to respond. I’m sorry. Respond might be too light of a term for what he did. The music was so loud and he shouted back in kind, “YEAH, I’M DOING GREAT. GOOD TO GO!” We all busted out laughing and funny enough, it wasn’t the only time it happened on that trip.
In all, he truly is one of the best people and friends I know. He might not like running. He might not be particularly fast. Lord knows I’m not! But in all, he has a heart for helping others and at the core of what Team Runners Doing Good is, that’s what it’s all about for us. We might be marginally faster than a pack of turtles but we just want to help others through our running and Andrew not doubt epitomizes that sentiment. As has always been the case, we are lucky to have him with us.