Runners Doing Good: By the Numbers Post Ragnar Michigan ’19

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3 & 2 – Number of Ragnar Relays run in Chicago and Michigan respectively

10 – Number of Vans rented

32 – Number of different runners that have run on behalf of Runnin’ Not Walken Runners Doing Good since 2015

969 – Miles run, in total, by Runnin’ Not Walken  Runners Doing Good

5.8 – Fewest total miles run by one runner since 2015

82.66 – Most total miles run by one runner since 2015

11 – Longest consecutive miles run during a Ragnar – Kelly Kreischer running part of runner 1’s 2nd leg and her whole 2nd leg as well.

9 – Percentage of RNW’s RDG’s total miles that the runner with the most total miles has run

15 – Runners who have run at least twice with RNW RDG

7 – Runners who have run at least 3 times

188.4 – Mileage of the shortest course we ran (2017)

201.1 – Mileage of the longest course we ran (2018)

31 – Fewest hours on the course (2015)

33.75 – Most hours on the course (2018)

32.50 – Most current course time (Ragnar Michigan ’19)

94 – High Temp when we finished in Chicago in 2016, the hottest temperature we’ve competed in.

43 – Low Temp during the night run in Michigan in 2018, the coldest temperature we’ve competed in

27,000+ – Dollars raised for Fort Wayne area charities

Runnin’ Not Walken is now….Runners Doing Good!!!

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We’ve been on this trajectory for some time so the beginning of December seems like a great time to kick this off!  We have eluded to it for awhile and the name change has been in plain sight as this blog has existed for awhile now.

In the recent past, this site floated back and forth from a blog highlighting the goodness and inspiration that different runners were bringing to the world to more plainly being a longer form blog discussing my other passion project, Team Runnin’ Not Walken.

Going forward, a couple of things will be taking place here:

  1.   First, Runnin’ Not Walken is now Runners Doing Good.  The team’s fundraising efforts have continued to grow at a surprising and humbling pace.  It can simply no longer keep doing what it’s doing with another person’s likeness and name as part of our efforts.  RNW was super fun while it lasted BUT this offers up a chance to be far more impactful than anything we’ve done before.  The feeling truly is that there is “MORE” to do here.
  2. In the vein of “MORE” to be done, the team is going to do something it has never done before: sell something! With its own name, the hope is to sell these wristbands, to start, as a way of drumming up funds to formally kick this off as a formalized entity.  If all 400 of these wristbands, that I’ve purchased, were sold at the Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday price, enough seed money would be raised, to fund the start-up costs.

    Runners Doing Good Wristband

    Join the movement! All purchases help cover the costs of team operations. Do some good and look good on the trail with your new Runners Doing Good wristband!

    $10.00

  3. The concept is to start a new non-profit, leveraging the amazing running community, so that the team can be more flexible, targeted, and self-sufficient in how we conduct the business of making an impact within our community and beyond.

You might ask, so why mess with a good thing?  The truth is that an increasing amount of work has gone into this over the last couple of years.  With some runners coming and going throughout that time, the team has found increased fundraising success despite the turnover that has occurred.  There has to be some sort of steadying factor there because if a really good fundraiser or a runner with great connections drops and the sponsor that was also their place of employment goes with them, the funding for the team and/or funds raised for the charity are negatively affected.  On a small budget, that can have some major repercussions if new sources aren’t drummed up.

The ability, through something like these wristbands, to raise a stream of revenue should help cover some costs along the way so that the team’s fundraising and funding doesn’t fluctuate so wildly from year to year. On a bad sponsorship year, it could keep funding where it needs to be and a good year could have a lot of folks smiling.

I know that to the outside observer, all you’ve seen are fundraising totals that have gone from a $1,000 goal in year 1 to nearly $7,500 last year and the difference from year to year, I promise you, is remarkable and it’s not just because the total has gotten higher.  Many of those years, we’ve lost a major donor or sponsor, or multiples of each or just had a runner raise significantly less than in the previous year, to only have another couple members of the team go big and not only cover those losses but take us well beyond them.  It’s been a pretty amazing thing to witness, but that roller coaster doesn’t come without its fair share of stress and worry.

You may also ask, so if the wristband sales work, what does the future look like for Runners Doing Good? We’re going to look outward to see where we can be of most help.  More on that in a bit.

First and foremost, the inspiration for looking outward is two-fold.  It started with Tim Green years ago.  Tim has been a rock for us.  His support has come financially, which can’t be understated, but more importantly and meaningfully, at least to me personally, through his belief in us.  Here’s a guy that never had to get behind us but did believe in what the team and I were doing, encouraged us to continually reach higher and inspired me greatly.  I’m truly grateful for Tim and I look forward to the day I can shake his hand.

Secondly, Andrew Hoffman and NeighborLink Fort Wayne has been a major inspiration to this vision.  They consistently look for where they can help in the Fort Wayne community so that they can help affect even the smallest positive change in a neighborhood.  They are steadfast in their mission and it was a true priviledge to run and fundraise on their behalf in 2019.

So lastly, who are we running to benefit in 2020?  If I can get this organized, then NeighborLink Fort Wayne is first in line.  They’ve been such an amazing partner and while the team going independant disconnects our business effort a bit, I’m fully committed to supporting them before anyone else in 2020. They bring so much love and goodness to Fort Wayne, I can’t not support them.

Beyond them, I see us supporting two other types of things.  First, a charity outside of Fort Wayne.  I have a few in mind and if you read some of the previous blogs postings, especially Inspiration for Change III, I think you can figure it out.  If we’re going to continue to grow, then helping a charity outside of the area is important.

And lastly, support something completely independently of what any other group is doing.  The thing that comes to mind to me immediately is that we’re a running group.  I’m a dad so I have a softspot for children and my own love the Fort 4 Fitness.  Why not, encourage healthier habits in area children by working out something with the F4F where we can cover the cost of 50 children to run in the children’s marathon?  Doing something like that would be awesome.

Thanks for reading so far.  Please consider buying a wristband and I’ll make sure to get you one promptly.

I look forward to sharing more with you in coming days but for now, as Thanksgiving Weekend is winding down, know that I’m truly grateful for all of you whom have supported Runnin’ Not Walken and in the past and I hope to continue to earn your backing as we go forward with this crazy running adventure.

Sincerely,

Gabe

 

 

 

 

 

 

My List of Thanks

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It’s never a bad time to reflect on what makes us thankful.  A year of progress, new friends, accomplishments, struggles, failures, and lessons learned all fit within that but it can be especially powerful as we approach the end of the year to focus on what makes us thankful.  We can focus on things we would do differently, things that upset us, struggles and the things we learned through them, another time.

Now is a time to be thankful.  Here’s what I’m giving thanks for this Thanksgiving:

My Family — When you are putting together a fundraiser that lasted the majority of the year, which was the longest we’d ever run one, and still trained and operated the running team, it doesn’t come without some level of sacrifice.  To have a spouse that’s a rockstar, who’s fully invested in this and making it as success, that’s a gift.  To have children and extended family who are super supportive of all we do, it’s a blessing and I can say unequivocally that I am a blessed man.

NeighborLink Fort Wayne and Andrew Hoffman — What they do for our community needs to be shouted from the mountain tops!  They are such a witness to what “doing the right thing” is all about.  I’ve mentioned it before but I just see how they look outwardly towards others to see where their help can be needed next and I find that truly inspiring.  More than once during this whole process I’ve had moments where I’ve had doubts about where this goes next and I don’t believe coincidentally enough, Andrew would post something, either personally, or through the NLFW social media channels that provided perspective and comfort to the thoughts I was having and I’m truly grateful to him for that on a personal level.

Runnin’ Not Walken — It’s been a great run, pun intended, and there have been so many good times, good runs, and good people involved.  How the team looks next year from the event to the runners to the cause(s) we’re hoping to benefit, could all look a good bit different but what remains from this wonderful time are a lot of great memories.

Running — This isn’t for just this past year but it is something that after dealing with pain from it in late 2018 and into the spring of this year, I have a greater appreciation for now than before.  Admittedly, I’m not as consistent with it as I should be and my waistline shows it but it’s something that 20 years ago I could never have foresaw enjoying, much less using as the base activity for a fundraising effort.  It’s become something that’s brought our family together since Jenn and I do this together and the kids enjoy the local events.  It’s something that when I do eat well and show some consistency in it that I find myself feeling better both physically but mentally and emotionally too.  It’s something that’s brought me into contact with great people and organizations.  It’s a blessing and I look forward to finding more consistency in 2020 than ever before.  There will be a time when I can’t do it any longer but today and as far as I’m concerned the foreseeable tomorrows are not those days.

This is a smaller list of thanks than last year but it’s a much more personal list too.  I hope this Thanksgiving is a day of continued joy for you.  If you have something or someone you’re thankful for, please share them or it with us all in the comments.

Sincerely,

Gabe

Inspiration for Change, Part III

A year ago at this time, I was really unsure of what the next step for Runnin’ Not Walken would end up being.  I had made the devastating decision to walk away from Kate’s Kart, the board there, and all that the team and I had built that had revolved around them.  I felt then that it was the right decision to make and still do.  There were things as they were growing that just didn’t line up any longer with what we were doing.  I felt like the runway there was pretty lengthy but it all came to a head so suddenly that in many ways, it was heart breaking to step away from something that the team and I cared about so much.

It was also really scary.  Change can be that way.  It also presented a great opportunity to regroup.  Kate’s Kart is an amazing story and I’d suggest anyone take a look at them because their mission and impact with the community is great.  Part of that hesitation on my part was because I was concerned that because they benefit children in the hospital, something people can really get behind, was the success we had a direct result of them or did we really have something?

Enter Andrew Hoffman and NeighborLink Fort Wayne.  I’ve told the story before but I met with 3 different people prior to making my decision on who the running team would work to benefit next.  One had reached out to meet me to learn more about the team and I and I felt it was a good networking opportunity to learn more about a group he represented.  Another was an Executive Director of another great local charity.  Both asked about who else I was looking at.  I mentioned NeighborLink and they gushed about how great of a person that Andrew is and what they’re doing there.  You could tell they felt we were better off going with NeighborLink and then I met Andrew and felt the same.

Andrew has been nothing but supportive of our group.  We tried to hook up in the spring to do a video but timing of things just didn’t work out.  Everything that he promised to do, he did.  He provided opportunities for us to leverage their social media presence like during the race when we took over their Instagram Stories.  It really helped aid us in doing what we had always been successful doing, but more and the results where there as we had our best year ever, continuing the growth pattern that was evolving for our team.

The team and I also attended a Night Moves race and were blown away by the NeighborLink community.  Everyone was so genuine and nice.  It was truly a testament to the culture, not just of the organization, but of everyone that supported them, that they have fostered.  At their soul, they are an outward looking group of loving, generous, and caring people who seek those who need a hand.  “Work Hard.  Do Good.  Love Wins.”  It is a simple yet deeply meaningful approach.

So as I look at 2020, it is with an outward looking approach.  NeighborLink Fort Wayne will ALWAYS be a charity that we look to benefit annually.  I just have too much belief in what they do that there’s no way I can turn my back on them but my hope is to ultimately do more for more charities both locally and beyond.

There’s just so many that are amazing that when this feeling of needing to dare greatly to do “more” it’s difficult to discern who we should help and how many besides NeighborLink should be included but here’s a list of groups, and their missions, that are great places to start.  If you have any you believe we should add to the list, leave them in the comments below!

Locally:

Erin’s House for Grieving Children – to provide support for children, teens, and their families who have suffered the death of a loved one.

Community Harvest Foodbank – Founded in 1983, now serving 9 counties, with the mission to alleviate hunger through the full use of donated food and other resources.

Healthier Moms and Babies – to reduce infant mortality and improve the outcome of pregnancy in Allen County by offering health education and case management services to low-income, high-risk pregnant women and their families.

Ray of Hope Medical Missions – Founded in 2012, with a mission of securing medical services in the US for international children in need of medical intervention.

Passages – Based in Columbia City, IN, Passages has been dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities or other challenges thrive in the community at work, at home, and at play since 1954.

Mad Anthony’s Children’s Hope House – Their mission is to offer temporary, minimal-cost lodging to parents and families of children receiving medical care away from home.

Cass Housing -The mission of CASS Housing is to create and maintain Customizable, Affordable, Sustainable, and Safe living arrangements for individuals with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities that promote independent living skills.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Fort Wayne –Founded in 1972, the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana is to create and support one to one mentoring relationships that ignte the power and promise of youth.

Beyond:

Brave Like Gabe -Support rare cancer research and empower all cancer survivors through physical activity.

Team Red, White, and Blue – Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – LLS’s mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital – The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.

Run Freely -Run Freely was founded with the mission to provide financial support for veterans with limb salvage conditions and in need of a solution to avoid amputation.

So as we dare greatly and look outwardly towards where we can help, inspiration is not something the team is short on.   While this isn’t announcing anything concrete, I hope it provides a bit of insight into the thought process that the changes aren’t just being made to take more control of the team.

These things are happening so that going forward, we can be as flexible as possible so that we can ultimately make a greater impact than what we’ve already done.  There’s a lot of work to do but this is truly exciting.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

 

 

The Inspiration For Change, Part II

I had a short conversation with my dad this weekend about the team and it only backed up another one of those hunches that I’ve had been having for some time.  For all of the success we’d had, there was something that, I felt, that was ultimately always going to hold us back.  It’s also the thing that has made us unique and it’s something that I can’t believe I’m going to announce.

So during this conversation with my dad, I’m going over some of the changes to streamline what I’m wanting to do to make the team easier to handle from my side, more efficient from a sponsorship and fundraising standpoint, and hopefully all of it adds up to the team become more impactful than ever and my dad says something to the effect of, “What about the name?  Can you get in trouble over the name, etc.?”

It was at that moment that I smiled because this is something I’ve thought about for awhile.  If we’ve been running since 2015, I’ve been thinking about it for probably 3 campaigns.  I looked back at him and said, “The team can only do so much using someone else’s name and face as part of our name and logo.”

He asked if I thought if I could get in trouble if we went forward with Runnin’ Not Walken.  I told him I didn’t think so because I’m not making money off of it but I also said, “We’ve largely had one of the most popular magnets and t-shirts at our Ragnar Relay races, but I’m almost certain that I could sell a lot of those shirts if I wanted, but I can’t.  It’d catch up to us at some point, I’d imagine.”

So with that, it’s crazy to think about but the running team will not be known as Runnin’ Not Walken in 2019!  It’s a big decision but it’s one that I think can give us some flexibility and potentially, the ability to appeal to other groups within Fort Wayne that might otherwise not be gung-ho about associating themselves with a team with such a crazy looking logo.

I think it’ll be a very positive thing.  Tune in on Giving Tuesday, December 3rd, to learn more about the next step for this crazy running group.

Thanks,

 

Gabe

The Inspiration For Change, Part I

If you can dream it, you can do it.  Always remember that this whole thing started off with a dream and a mouse. — Walt Disney

Through the rest of the year, I will occasionally write about what has inspired me to change course and aim for something bigger with the running team.  We have done a lot and could very well easily continue to do what we’ve always done but that’s not always the thing that allows you to grow.

I will also announce the ways that some of that change will occur.  It’s really important that this is shared.  So many people have been a part of this that I feel obligated, not that anyone has made me feel that way, to share the vision and from my end, hopefully, continue to share the course with all of you.

So the first inspiration for making this change….see below:

This is very much a family change.  Jenn and I have put a lot of time, over the soon to be 5 years, into this crazy running adventure.  As I’ve mentioned before, that first year, if she wasn’t on board, this wouldn’t have happened.  Nearly as important as her support though are these guys.

These pictures only show 2 of the 3 but the reality is the first three years, our kids got to feel that they were a part of the process.  They ran the Fort 4 Fitness the night before we ran our bigger races and they LOVED IT.  The last two years, as we’d roll out of town to Ragnar Michigan, we did so knowing how disappointed the kids were that they weren’t running in the Fort 4 Fitness.

It’s tough enough to leave them for a few days.  It’s a sacrifice for us but having our decision’s taking them out of something they love so much, we don’t want to do that anymore.

The Fort 4 Fitness is a great event and a blessing to our community.  It gives the kids a sense of accomplishment, a path to better health – not just now but in the future, and shows them what can happen when a community comes together.  Those are all things that, if we’re going to promote our running group as a great community group that I feel we certainly shouldn’t hold our kids back from being a part of either.

So the change for 2020 is, we and our littles, will be running the Fort 4 Fitness, which means that Runnin’ Not Walken will not be back at Ragnar Relay Michigan.

A bit of a teaser:

I see two things for 2020, both a scaling back of the bigger running event but also a broadening, hopefully, of our network of runners.  I hope that more folks want to be a part of making their miles count for something.  I think it’d be cool to approach this as a “season” with the end of our fundraising efforts being the Fort 4 Fitness in the Fall of 2020.  I’m still working out the details of the idea but when the time is right, I will certainly share it with you.

Have a great Monday everyone!

— Gabe

Race Recap – Fort Wayne’s Hot Cider Hustle – 11/10

2 months ago, I was gung-ho about running this race but my how times and things change.  This was a race that we had heard could be fun and both Jenn and I had been motivated to keep running after the Ragnar so we thought if we were still running in November, that’d be a good thing.  It was a good thought then and it still was but when the forecast on Tuesday or Wednesday was forecasting a 38 degree high for the day, I wasn’t too excited.  Jenn on the other hand, was excited about the cup and the pullover.  Once we got closer to the weekend, the forecast looked better and it was only 38 in the morning when we went to run.  I still wasn’t super excited about running in those kind of temperatures but it was better than what I had originally dreaded.

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So that’s where my  brain was as I hopped in the car…how was the race?  Honestly?  It was an incredibly pleasant surprise.  I’d highly recommend one of these.  The vibe around it was really neat.  Despite the cool temps, everyone was in a great mood.  The course itself, for the location, ended up being better than I thought it would be being that it was started in the parking lot of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for you Fort Wayne natives.

As mentioned, we were in the parking lot and really, the only downside to this race was that there wasn’t any organization to how the start of the race began.  There weren’t any staging, etc. for walkers versus runners versus really good runners.  That all said, this was more for fun than anything and the mob of people that showed up for this race was really impressive.  I think the people more than anything shocked me.  I bet there were between 1000-1500 runners in the race and when you consider it was a 38 degrees, 9 a.m. on a near mid-November Sunday morning, that’s amazing.

So the race kicked off without hearing any announcement but more the crowd moving forward.  You could notice some of the young bucks at the front just blazing away from the start.  We had to wait about 7 minutes or so to get to the start line.  The course took you along the south part of the Coliseum’s parking lot on the Johnny Appleseed Park side and then west till we hit Parnell Avenue where we turned south.  This section of the race had a slight upward slant to it but being that the south bound lane was blocked, it was really nice because the slower joggers and walkers kept to the side and I was able to zig zag my way around a bunch of them till we got to Spy Run Ave Extended and hung a right to eventually go southwest from there.

I liked this part of the course.  While we had the road to ourselves, it was quiet down this stretch of the course.  There was a treeline to the left and the St. Joe River beyond that so it was very peaceful all things considered.  Once we reached the area of Tom Steel Tires and Clinton St., we made a sharp hairpin turn and headed back in the direction we came but mostly up on the Saint Joseph Bike Pathway, which was very nice.  The treeline and river were to the right.  The neat part was running back the direction we came, there were a ton of people still coming so you saw lots of smiling faces and you could really tell that people were enjoying themselves.

Once we got a minute or so from being back to Parnell, we followed the Saint Joe Path to the right and through the woods and I had never been on this part of town.  It was really serene down by the river.  It was leave covered in spots but for running on a tree covered path in the middle of the fall, what else would you expect?  It was really nice.  We ran under the bridge, made another hard hairpin turn and popped back up on the east side of Parnell Avenue, ran it back to the light, hung the right and onto the finish line.

While the finish line was just the parking lot, again, the sheer number of people hanging out was really quite shocking for the time of the year, the temps despite their warming, and the day of the week.  I completely underestimated this race.

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I was able to get some video or Jenn, my wife, and our friend Cherri from our running team as they came into the finish line.

 

After we went and put a sweatshirt on and got a sip of water, we went over and got our complimentary taffy apples, and then took our shiny new Hot Cider Hustle mug over to get it filled with hot cider.  In full disclosure, I hate the hot and spiced up cider and the organization must be in the same boat as they just warmed it up.  As Goldie Locks would say, it was just right.

In the end, we had a great time and I munched on the taffy apple on our way home which was delicious.  We will no doubt be back if they’re going to put this on 2020.  If you didn’t check it out, you definitely should.

Ragnar Relay Michigan ’19 Recap

 

51362393_10156296301139403_7883723161152258048_nI’m about 2 weeks overdue on this but I wanted to still do this.  I’ve had time to think about it and take it all in and it was a pretty incredible experience once again.  So without further adieu, here goes:

For Jenn and I, Ragnar prep starts well in advance.  Being that this was the fifth time that I’ve captained a team, there are some things that I’ve learned along the way.  I’m sure first time teams don’t have a bag full of reflective vests, blinkers, and headlamps.  I do.  It’s all part of the gig so about the week before, I double checked to make sure I had enough of everything so we were covered in case we were short anything.

This year we started earlier so we were all set to go on Thursday but that wasn’t without the usual midnight or later packing that takes place when you’re trying to figure out what the weather might actually look like.  Michigan in late September is a total crap shoot and this year was much better than last year’s race but we were probably a short bit from it being pretty bad.  More on that later.

Thursday the 26th arrived and all of our stuff was ready to go.  We took our 3 littles off to school, hugged them, and reminded them that Mimi would be picking them up.  We rushed home, texting one of our runners, Kelly, that she was good to come pick us up and she was there within 20 minutes.  In what was one of the 2 best moves of the race that was done months in advance, I was able to get my passenger rental vans reserved at a much more convenient location that honestly saved us an hour of transit as well as the inkling to pick people up which only took more time.  Special thanks to the folks at Enterprise, other than leaving the vans with less than a quarter of a tank, you guys rocked it.

On the way to Krogers to pick up our gas and gift cards that we’d use to pay for more gas while on the trip, the first true speed bump in the trip occurred.  I got a call from a returning runner, Matt, that another of our runners, Amy-Jo, had a family emergency and wouldn’t be joining us.  She was devastated and we were equally bummed out for her.  She was one of our strongest runners and was also our lead-off runner so while we had time to figure it out, the ramifications of filling her mileage would have a chain reaction from the beginning of our race.

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Since I was the captain and had been through similar scenarios before, I wanted to have time to figure out how to get through this so I decided that no decision would be made till we got together that evening with the majority of the team present.  We did miss her tremendously though.  About 11:30 we had most of the Fort Wayne folks that would be coming so we headed off.

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We arrived in Holland and picked up Chris and headed off for Montague, getting stuck in a little bit of traffic but nonetheless, got checked in, and headed off to dinner not long after.  Artie got himself a brew or two.  We got back to Grand Haven at a decent time to be able to hang out a bit, get some van decorating done, and rest up for the next day.  Along the way, I decided that I’d take Amy-Jo’s first leg of the race.  I was definitely good for 4.8 miles and didn’t anticipate any issues later on in the race with tacking this one, afterall, I had the rest of the day to fuel back up for a 3.5-er.

After what may have been my best pre Ragnar night of sleep, I was good to go.  I got all ready that morning getting hydrated and psyched up for the race.  After 4 of these, with this being my 5th, I was actually pretty confident and carefree which was a really weird feeling.  I know that I was really happy with how the team had come together and having that crew behind us, I knew we’d be good.

We started off in the 7 a.m. flight and the sun was due to come up within the next 35 minutes so I knew the headlamp would be needed but it really wasn’t that long. At a Ragnar, any person you pass, you get to count as a “kill” and at most of these races, I’ve not had that many.  If I got 2 or 3 per leg, I was lucky but this time, I hit the motherlode.  I will take it on a technicality but you can’t take it away from me.  🙂

So we took off out of the chute and literally 8 people ahead of me missed the turn right side as it guided you onto the sand covered sidewalk.  I technically passed 8 people in that first 100 yards and I counted every one of them!  Ha!  That part of the run was particularly difficult even though it was flat as a pancake.  Running in what amounted to 6″ or more of sand wasn’t good and I felt like I was blowing out my legs in a very short amount of time.  The sand was choppy from other runners so I actually veered farther to the right into sand that hadn’t been run on yet and that was actually pretty good.  It actually worked well enough that this little strategy got me all the way till we crossed the road.  The path was winding us partly around the little harbor and it was pretty cool.  There were some beautiful little spots where we popped out near the lake/harbor, others that took us past some marinas with some pretty big sailboats, and then what might have been the third creepiest part of a Ragnar leg I’ve experienced.

I cut hard right through a path they carved out and onto a gravel-ish path that was to the side of a rail road track that looked to be out of service.  We were running in this area that was well below the houses above and to our right and next to a fence that had overgrown bushes, etc. there.  I’m 6’1 and 205 and I was thinking, this wasn’t exactly the safest place to run.  Luckily, it was 7 a.m. and not 10 p.m. so it wasn’t too bad.  Making a turn out of that part of the course, I curved back towards the water and then another right turn and I could see the exchange off in the distance.  It was time to kick it in and finish strong.  I handed off to Kelly and the rest of Van 1 and we were off to breakfast, which was the same restaurant/bar that we went to the night before in the Muskegon area and it was great again!

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After breakfast, we had to stop at a store for a couple of supplies and Artie, ahem, Batman wanted to make a point that he got justice*…cough….”just ice” for us all.

And then we waited as you do during a Ragnar.  It is definitely the hardest part of the race.  Whether it’s trying to get food, water, or rest…all of the downtime and what to do with it, that’s the hard part.  While we waited:

 

Van 1 was at it and crushing it.  They all did a great job.  We were getting antsy and getting their updates, we started to get pumped up.  It wasn’t long and we were catching some rest in Montague and it was our time.  Michael was ready:

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He took off and it’s pretty amazing how fast a guy his size can move.  He was out the door and just tearing up his run.  He brought it in, and Jenn took off.  She had a couple of MASSIVE hills she had to climb but she tore them up.

As you can tell, she finished really strong.  That girl that was just behind her was really closing the gap but when Jenn heard the cheers of them trying to will that girl on, as well as ours too, she took off.  After those hills, I would have been spent!

Andrew then started our sprint to the next exchange.  We had 4 straight runs of 3.5 or less.  He had a really nice run.  Ryan and Chris were expectedly fast and I ran an ok run.  I personally thought I should have been better on that run.  I ran my first leg in a happy time for me but my legs just felt tired from the 7 miler a few days before and that 4.8 was looming larger than I anticipate.  It was a fun run but I slowed more than I thought I would and I was more glad to be done than really anything.  Then it hit me, I had run twice and still had 2 more to go, both 6.2 or longer.  I wasn’t happy about it honestly.

I was happy to be done for that stretch, get some food in my belly, and get some rest.  We found the same great smokehouse we found in Ludington last year and I had some brisket that hit the spot.  It was AWESOME.  If I’m ever up there again, I’ll definitely be searching that place out.  After dinner, it was time for a nap.

I tried to get some rest but rain started and that’s when things got interesting.  Kelly had added on Amy-Jo’s 2nd leg so she was running that tagged onto her 2nd leg for a total of 11 miles.  It was beastmode-gritty type of stuff, with much of it rainy.  Van 1 really got hit pretty good on their 2nd leg but it wasn’t until poor Cherri was out running that lightning started to hit in the distance and they eventually called a hold.  We had been solidly in the middle of the pack at that point but that didn’t last long.

Cherri finished her run and we were to skip Amanda’s next run, a 4 miler and wait an hour.  So Van got the luxury of trying out the very best decision of the race and that was our house we rented for Saturday night AFTER the race that I rented for Friday night as well for during the race.  We on the other hand got way off kilter.

We had to wait that hour for a 4 mile run, which may have taken us less than 40 minutes so we essentially lost 20 minutes on the deal.  A lot of the teams that had been in at the High School waiting to go, had pulled their runner from the 4 miler and got to skip the next run, an 8.1 miler, which in theory, could have taken close to 90 minutes in the rain.  So they got to jump 8 miles and 20-30 minutes ahead.  We lost track of a lot of folks that we’d seen throughout the day.  Michael, Jenn, who battled an IT issue in the rain, Andrew, and Chris battled through the night.  As Ryan waited on me to take off, the volunteer checking people off told us that we were in the last 10 that he was waiting on.  I had a hard time believing we were that far behind but when Chris came in, he said he hardly saw anyone out there and he passed them.  I only saw 5 runners.  4 of them passed me and I passed the other.

That night run was my nemesis from the previous year when it was low 40’s with a 15 mph headwind that just beat me into submission.  I had almost quit on that run in ’18 and almost did again this year.  I took off and was doing well.  It was freaking early in the morning as we had lost that hour and it was nearly 5 a.m. by the time I took off.  We had gone from ahead of pace to nearly 2 hours behind.  I was pretty well shot from the get-go and was only beaten down more by an elevation chart that said the hill I would climb for the first 1.5 was really a 2.5 mile once I got out there.  I didn’t remember how much climbing it was other than alot and when I got to the 1.5 mark and I could tell it was still a battle uphill, I was starting to feel like this was a mistake.  The hills and fatigue were hitting me and I was power hiking the worst of the hills, occasionally looking back to see if anyone was coming.  Two girls that were machine line churned their way past me and I could see a faint blinker in the distance that they eventually passed.  I thought it was a marker but it was another runner who was walking.  If he were walking that run, it was a pretty lonely walk.  He looked 100% healthy on it though so good for him for soldiering through!

This is where things took a slight downward turn for me.  I had a car pass me and I looked over my shoulder as it took me by surprise and I sidestepped wrong with my left foot and caught the edge of the road.  I landed awkwardly on it, rolling my ankle.  Immediately, my ankle hurt and I was thinking, this isn’t good.  I slowed down to a walk and tried to see how I was and thought, maybe I should make a phone call.  I figured out I was 2 miles out at that point and that’s about when I did call last year and Artie gave me a quick pep talk and I was on my way again.  I had been running about a 10 minute pace though which was so much better than the year before when I was running 12 1/2’s into the freezing wind with an aching hip.  If my ankle would be ok, I’d give it a try.  The only issue though was that it felt like because I was compensating for the left ankle, my right groin muscle was tightening and it wasn’t a fun feeling.  I ran/walked the rest of the way and even finished pretty strong.  I had “conquered” my nemesis leg but I knew deep down that I lost my last leg.  At that point, I had run 14.7 miles with the last 2 on a balky knee/groin combo.  The tank was pretty low then but there was some serious sleep on the way.  Talking with Jenn, she pushed me to make a decision on lessening my mileage.  I told her I’d sleep on it and we’d go from there.

Once we got to the house, it was just before 6.  We knew we’d have about 5 hours or so till our last run so we hit a quick shower so we’d not dirty the beds and got some much needed sleep.  I can not tell you how nice it was.  After 4 other Ragnars and having slept in the front and backs of vans and on a chase lounge in the summer warmth before, this was by far, the best.  The team left the king bed for Jenn and I.  I got 3 1/2 solid house of sleep in a bed and woke up feeling great.  The ankle/groin issue wasn’t gone so I talked to my guys.  We weren’t going to win anything so I flipped the script for the final legs.  Andrew would take Michael’s 3 miler.  I would take Jenn’s 2.3 while Michael would take on an additional 3 than planned by taking Ryan’s 6, then Jenn ran Andrew’s original 3.5.  She handed off to Ryan who took Chris’ 7.5, who ultimately took my 6.6 to finish up.

We had a short 10 minute drive up to St. Ambrose Cellars and waited for Amanda to come in.  She finished strong and Van 1 was off for some rest before the finish line festivities!

Everyone in that last van was dead.  Despite feeling refreshed from the sleep in bed, the legs just weren’t there.  The hills of Michigan had chewed us up and we had one more to go to finish up.  The revised line-up worked pretty well.  I had a huge downhill that worked out pretty well in that short 2+ miler.  It wasn’t a pretty run as I struggled with the groin a bit but it was sunny and beautiful out.  Never forget, every run is a privilege and despite the discomfort, this was no doubt a privilege.

The only thing we had to avoid to finish up really was anyone getting hurt further and the waves!  Oh the waves!  Right by the seawall a the finish line, the wind had turned awhile back and were coming from the north and the lake was super choppy and just crashing waves against that wall.  It looked like something out of the west coast with the water spraying 10 feet high above it, soaking everything near it.  We avoided the drenching for the most part and finished as a team.

It really was wonderful how the team came together to overcome the obstacles before us.  I’m truly grateful for their willingness to tackle the extra miles and doing so looking out for each other so that no one got hurt further.  It truly was a team effort and they have a lot to be proud of.

 

Never Forget

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Different generations have different moments that are stuck in time.  For my parents, it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  For my grandparents, Pearl Harbor has to be the date in their lives that changed everything.  I was a bit too young for the Challenger disaster.  I remember it happening and seeing it on the TV’s in the store windows as my family and I walked down the sidewalk in a small town square but nothing for me defines life-changing as September 11th, 2001.

It truly is difficult to comprehend that it was 18 years ago now.  I’m writing this in the wee hours of September 10th and realizing that people born tomorrow, the Senior Class of ’19, are considered adults now and able to buy their own lotto tickets and smokes.  All of them and this isn’t to disrespect them at all, have no clue to the true impact of what it was.  It’s a story in a grade school social studies class or a lesson in U.S. History for some High School Junior. It’s a date, that as FDR referred to December 7, 1941, “that shall live in infamy.” 

So what does this running blog have to do with 9/11?  I could have just said nothing but I think that’s a gross mistake.  It’s a date that should be rehashed in memory and feeling.  It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come and some days I’m not sure it’s forward or backward but it needs to remain that reminder because for most us, while it was a day that changed us forever, most of us didn’t experience the pain and loss directly.  

So I want to share a story that begins on 9/11, fast forwards to 9/25, and I still think of today, multiple times a year.  I live in Fort Wayne, IN, far away and that day was like many that fall.  It was a pleasantly sunny day and I headed off to Lowes where I worked in the Lumber Department during my college days.  I was really looking forward to the day.

My best friend was a HUGE Parrothead aka Jimmy Buffett fan and I had somehow won 2 tickets with primo parking passes to watch Mr. Buffett play Verizon Wireless Music Center, which became Klipsch Music Center, and now is Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, but was formerly Deer Creek to many of us back in the pre-sponsored music venue days.  I won those tickets through a raffled after giving blood during a drive for the American Red Cross.  I knew Margaritaville when I won those tickets and that was it.

When 9/11 happened, everything was cancelled.  The uncertainty of the time was frightening in it’s own.  We were at war, but with whom?  The skies were clear as there weren’t any planes flying.  When would that begin?  For some of us younger guys, would the draft begin again?  There was a lot up in the air and none of it was good and worst of it all was we waited to see if it happened again in another city.  As I mentioned, everything was cancelled and we just waited.  And that’s what we did.  We waited in front of our TV’s stunned, for whatever was next.

Two weeks later, life was getting back to some semblance of normalcy here in the Midwest and the concert had been rescheduled to September 25th.  The weather was no where near as nice as it would have been on 9/11.  It wasn’t rainy but for a hula and beach themed concert, heavy coats were necessary as it was so cold that evening but something stuck with me that I’d like to share and it’s something that Jimmy said.

I am paraphrasing here but he said to “dance tonight. If we don’t sing and dance and get back to life, the terrorists will have won.”  That’s what we did that night and it was one of the most memorable concerts I’d ever been to in my life.  I was a fan instantly and for 9 years, I never missed a show in Noblesville.  I would love to get back to a show sometime soon but those first time all those years ago were awesome and my appreciation for him and his music started that night.

I think the point is that I’ve never forgotten that.  It’s why I run.  It’s why I con my friends into joining me in adventure races.  It’s I hold my kids closer and am more cautious with strangers than what my parents probably had to.  Those that work to strike fear into us must never win and they only do when we allow it.  Through the horror of that day, there has been beauty that grew out of it.  There’s now a generation of us, many parents now, that were told to dance and sing and not let the bad guys win.  Hopefully that can lead to the next generation that has that ingrained in them because life is a true privilege.

If we didn’t realize it then, we did immediately, and we must never forget that.

Race Review – NeighborLink Fort Wayne’s Night Moves 8/23

Ok so this is my first foray into writing a race review but I thought it’d be a great opportunity to start AND highlight an event that I found to be (spoiler alert) a great time.

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From the beginning, since NeighborLink Fort Wayne has been our charity of choice, we wanted to make sure to be involved in and support some of the events that they put on throughout the year.  Night Moves is a natural fit for what we do as part of running a Ragnar involves running a night so we’ve got the necessary gear to run at night and in fact, I really liked the idea of getting some of the team together that maybe hadn’t participated in a night run before, out there and somewhat comfortable.

It has always been a goal to get the team, as many as possible at least, together prior to our annual Ragnar Relay for a fun run to just catch up, talk about what’s to come, and answer any questions that some of the newer runners may have so participating in an event like this achieved something that we’ve tried to do for a couple years and it definitely paid off.

Lastly, it was also a great opportunity take in Fort Wayne.  If you’ve never been to our city, Fort Wayne has gone through a transformation over the last dozen years or so.  It started with a new ballpark downtown for our Single A baseball team and the area has absolutely blossomed.  From improvements in amenities to new restaurants and pubs, new hotels, and now the just finished Promenade Park that’s part of Phase 1 of our riverfront development, a lot has been going on in the downtown sector of Fort Wayne and this race gave us the opportunity to enjoy the city in a way that we’ve not done before.  Again, it delivered in a big way.

The concept behind their Night Moves racing series is a simple one.  They’ve removed the barriers of cost and just asked for or encouraged a $10 donation per runner.  You’re not going to find any race in the area that you can participate in that’s this affordable, nor maybe this fun either.   NeighborLink really did a fantastic job of having a volunteer at 95% of the corners or intersections that you came to and required guidance.

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We started off at Fort Wayne Outfitters, who essentially hosted the race as it was the start and finish for the race.  We took off from their location and headed down a quick path to our left and onto the Tree Canopy Trail that’s part of the riverfront development.  It was a really need path with the only downside to it that it was a Friday night in downtown, part of a new park, and a festival had been going on in downtown so there were a good number of folks checking out the new Promenade Park and this trail.  As we curved around the trail, dodging local pedestrians, we came to the end of it and turned left onto the pedestrian bridge that was lit up that night and carried us over the river and to the other side of the park.

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This was a really need way to get a quick glimpse of Promenade Park as we ran through it.  It was a beautiful night and the steps down to the river were lit up and reflected off of it.  As we exited the Promenade Park we turned right onto Harrison Street and cut left down an alley past a mural of a buffalo, at least from my memory, I believe it was a buffalo.  The idea of the race was to take us past as many of them as we could.  It was a neat concept.  The only thing I’d say is that starting earlier in the evening would allow us to see them better.  That said, once we turned onto Calhoun Street, we got to see downtown lit up in all of its splendor.  From the some of the shops to restaurants with outdoor seating, it was really need to be in the middle of it all with so many people around.  It was a great vibe down there that evening.

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We proceeded down Calhoun and cut into another alley that was painted on both sides in a colorful manor and it had Edison style lights overhead.  It was really cool.  We raced through that alley and crossed paths with some of our runners ahead of us that were directed them and eventually us to circle around the building.  It created a fun little intersection of runners and when we came back through the area from the other direction, I was sure to be paying attention in case anyone else was coming through.

By this point, I was running far too fast for me.  I had broken a part from my pack a bit.  I had started the race with my wife Jennifer who told me that if I was feeling good to go ahead.  I caught up to Kelly and Amanda a short while later and honestly, my legs were feeling fantastic.  Earlier in the week it had been nearly 80 degree with equally as high humidity.  It was around 65 degrees and while the humidity was similar, due to the cooler weather, it didn’t feel anywhere near as oppressive as it had just a couple days prior.

After doubling back through those allies, we headed back up Calhoun and took a right onto Main Street and through part of the Taste of the Arts Festival which was winding down.  Shortly thereafter, we turned left onto Lafayette heading north and crossed the St. Mary’s River and headed towards the Old Fort.  By this point, myself along with a girl, that may have been in her mid-teens, pulled away from our portion of the pack.  Due to the nature of the race, you had to stop at crosswalks depending on traffic and we were running at a pace that was pretty good and we got some separation from the group we’d reached and then eventually passed about 10 minutes before.

Around that time, I turned my headlamp on as it was getting into some areas that weren’t lit as well as the previous segments of the race.  I was glad I had it on me as well.  The young girl only seemed to have her cell phone for light.  That’s nothing I’d ever recommend and the dad in me was coming out as I felt like I had to try to keep up that pace so she wasn’t running with just the faintness of that phone.

When we turned onto the River Greenway path that cut through the Old Fort, it was pitch black!  I had gotten ahead of her a little ways but my 38 year old lungs weren’t enjoying running at that pace and I started to slow a bit.  My first mile was around a 9:15 and my second chimed in my ear at an 8:51 while I was plugging away in the darkness there.

Eventually she passed me and I did my best dad mode try to keep my headlamp on her so she could see where she was running.  I kept pace with her as we turned onto 4th Street and till about the time we got near the skate park at Lawton Park.  The lights of the skatepark were pretty bright and I turned the headlamp off at that point.

It wasn’t long before we made another turn left onto Clinton and onto the path onto and over the colorfully lit Martin Luther King Jr bridge and into the eastern side of Headwaters Park, making a hard left turn once in the park which doubled me back under the bridge and then looping back up onto it heading in the opposite direction from where I originally came across, all the while the bridge lights changed colors from a rainbow pattern to blue and then white.  It really is something to see a night.

So I headed back west down 4th street again until I passed the fox murals by the Big Eyed Fish and hung a left onto Wells Street.  The 4th street section was the only area of the race that could have used a few more volunteers for comfort as the sidewalks weren’t the greatest and it was fairly dark there around the neighborhood.   Once on Wells, I ran all the way back to Fort Wayne Outfitters and ran into Matt and Chris, two members of Runnin’ Not Walken that were a good bit quicker than I am and had already finished.

Upon crossing the finish line I was told to meet up with a nice lady who was checking off names of those that finished, not for times, but for safety so that they could ensure that everyone that went out, made it back.  This was afterall, a fun run, and we weren’t out for time but to run for the joy of running and to support this wonderful organization.  After checking my name off of the list, Matt and Chris pointed out a cooler to the side that was for runners to partake of, if they were interested, and I did.  It was a great Mad Anthony’s wheat beer that had my name on it and it tasted fantastic.

Within a couple of minutes, Art and Amanda, 2 more members of the team who couldn’t run that night arrived just as the last of our team was finishing up.  We all were happy to see each other and all seemed to enjoy the race and the route.

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Kudos and hats off to Andrew Hoffman and his team for putting on a great time.  Every volunteer out there had a smile on their face and was more than encouraging as they greeting us during the race.  They really did a fantastic job of supporting the runners and directing them where to go.  Other than a couple spots that were a bit on the darker side, there wasn’t anything to really worry about despite running through the city at 9:30 at night!

Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again soon as they have a race in a couple of weeks but for a first go of it, we had a great time.  If you’re in the Fort Wayne area, love running, and appreciate those that are doing good and want to support them, this is the race for you.

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Oh and I’d be making a big mistake if I didn’t offer it out there but if you’d like to support NeighborLink, they are Runnin’ Not Walken’s Charity of Choice this year.  To date, we’ve raised $4,620 on a $5,000 goal so we’re getting close.  If you’d have an interest in contributing, please click the following link to give.

Thanks for reading and as opportunity allows, I’ll definitely do more of this.  Oh and here’s a picture of Promenade Park during the day.  Isn’t it beautiful?!?

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