Every year we have a newbie and this year, Kati is it and we couldn’t be happier to have her join us. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Kati for a long time. She’s been married to one of my best friends, Andrew, another one of our runners – more on him later, for nearly as long as Jenn and I have been married. She’s truly one of the nicest people I know.
On top of it though, she’s a former collegiate track athlete. Yes, college might a few days ago for us on Runners Doing Good, however, if it’s been a part of you in the past, there’s always a part of you that’s there. This is something she’s wanted to do for awhile to get back into running a bit and I know she’s going to do well for us and enjoy the experience.
Interestingly enough, because everyone runs the same distances in a Ragnar Trail Race, Kati will jump up the leaderboard pretty quickly. She is the 33rd person to lace ’em up for Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good but with 16.1 miles under her belt once Trail Michigan is over, she’ll be our 23rd most mileage.
Make no mistake about this. There is absolute joy in thinking about next week but it’s really hard to imagine getting to this point. 2020, as mentioned a hundred times now was so hard but so was the ramping up to get here.
I didn’t know how easily people would support our efforts. I believed $5,000 was something we could do and it was a throttling back of a completely audacious goal. Originally, I wanted to hit $10,000. I’m glad we readjusted our outlook. For one, it was more realistic. I just couldn’t anticipated how slow sponsorships would come in.
In fact, it’s just now happened where gifts to help cover costs go beyond our expenses. That’s the latest we’ve ever gotten to this point. I believe that’s 3 consecutive campaigns where we’ve covered our expenses and 100% of remaining gifts will go directly to NeighborLink. With so little time, I’m not sure how much business support will actually come in at this point but I’m holding out hope.
Either way, it’s a great time to tell our story again. Please watch the below video to see what we’re all about, why Neighborlink, and why Ragnar Relay!
Courtney is one of our originals! It is amazing to have her back with us. She actually ran the very first miles for Runnin’ Not Walken back at Ragnar Relay Chicago in 2015 as she was our lead-off runner. The weather for that first leg of the race wasn’t the greatest but she battled through it and the rest is history.
She then ran again in 2017 and tackled the Deep Dish Ragnar Leg for us! She ran so fast that our next runner was caught putting her shoes on because we thought we had a little bit of time left before Courtney would show up!
Combined with what she’ll run here in ’21, Courtney will hit a milestone at Ragnar Trail Michigan: 50 miles run for Team Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good! That also places her 6th on our mileage leader board.
This guy is an animal. He’s maybe one of the few people on the team that actually looks like a natural runner. For so long, we’ve probably been, at first glance, a much better charity softball, basketball, or football team than we looked the part of a running team. That’s not a dig at anyone that’s run on the team in the past, however, there’s been a lot of guys who were say, 6’1 and 200+ on the team.
Chris doesn’t exactly fit that profile. He’s probably not been heavier than 180 in his life but he’s a runner and watching him go is something to behold. He also, because of his vast accomplishments within the running arena, brings a relaxed feeling to our efforts because he was willing to tackle literally any leg we needed of a traditional road race. As Captain, having someone like Chris who I could just plug in to any assignment was a godsend because that wasn’t the case with everyone on the team.
Chris, for us, after Ragnar Trail Michigan, will rank #7 all time on our career mileage leader board with nearly 50 miles of roads and now trails run for Runners Doing Good. We truly are lucky and blessed to have him back for the 3rd race in a row. He’s a great runner but an even better guy and we are, no doubt, a better team in a host of different ways, because he’s with us.
When 2020 began, I was convinced it was going to be the best year. Not in some corny “best year eva!” way that you see some “influencers” throw things out so easily and frequently but truly. We’d just finished a nearly $7500 fundraising campaign for NeighborLink Fort Wayne in 2019. Momentum was hitting in all sorts of ways. To say we felt empowered was an understatement. Things were really feeling like we were going to hit another gear.
I didn’t realize we were downshifting.
Ragnar – CANCELED. Fundraiser – Started (BEST STARTING MONTH EVER!!!)….then CANCELED. Motivation – CRUSHED. Mental Health – CHALLENGED and APPRECIATED. Momentum – STOP DEAD IN ITS TRACKS.
There was so much about everything that happened in ’20 that was just a complete and total grind. And honestly, it was all running completely counter to what any of our expectations would be.
The team was supposed to break both fundraising and sponsorship records to bring in a net $10,000 in funds given to charity. This expectation has had to be throttled back considerably as both businesses and individuals have been more careful with where their money goes than at any time in our team’s history.
We were, despite slightly downsizing and changing races, going to field a team that may have been our fastest in years while also representing what Runners Doing Good aspires to be, as we always do. We got part of this goal right as we have great people. The running part? I’m only going to speak for myself but I’ve had to lose 15 lbs to finally get under the number that I usually start at when I begin Ragnar Training.
We were also going to sell wristbands to help fund future operations and costs. We’ve sold enough to cover the costs of the wristbands themselves but beyond that…not so much.
For me personally, the worst part of 2020 was that the flow and cycle of all of this was interrupted. We really had it running like a well oiled machine for years and the point of the trail relay was to simplify the process while still increasing the quality of what we do for our runners. Having everyone together for the entirety of the race and being able to get better amounts of sleep would be huge plusses. We’d always gotten such solid support from our sponsors that paying the extra for the Glamping wouldn’t be an issue. All of it would add up to be less stressful for me and enable this thing that snowballed in ways I’d never imagined to keep rolling, keep growing, and keep improving.
Much of that concept for the prepwork and workload for me has rung true. I’ve not run the race yet but the simplicity of the preparation has been much appreciated. The last couple years have been an escalation of negotiations to get better pricing from van rental agencies, renting condos for after races that some folks didn’t stay for (ugh), and then ultimately getting one for during the race so that we could get better sleep, etc., etc. , etc. It was increasingly harder to overcome but we did. The idea to go this route has made this part infinitely better. I can see a return to road racing someday but we’ll approach it differently I’m sure.
The biggest casualty of the the cycle being broken was that as a runner, I lost motivation. I had all of this time and ability to run. I’d never been a high mileage runner. We’d never fully considered ourselves “runners” like you know, good ones who are out every day.
We really started off as a running team that did so to have fun and raise a bit of money for charity and are now at a place where we’re more of a fundraising team who uses an epic event like a Ragnar Relay as a tool or carrot to entice people to support us and the fun we have as a team is the cherry on top.
So I went from being a low annual mileage runner to a nearly no mileage runner in 2020. My weight tends to fluctuate and I’m blessed with a bit of a typical male metabolism where once I get the thing revved up, the weight will come off. If my metabolism was an vehicle, I put it in storage last year. I usually finish a Ragnar somewhere around 200 lbs and normally start at around 210-215. I realize that’s not exactly svelte for a runner but the last time I was around 200, I was running easily in the mid 9 minute mile range with the ability to string together some 8’s with quarter mile splits in the 7’s when I was really rolling.
At the beginning of my training this year, the only rolling going on was me as you’d have to roll me down the street. I was at my heaviest ever and pushing 230 before I finally got that vehicle out of storage and revving it up in my training this year. I’m finally down about 15 lbs and my runs are better but some nights, it’s a struggle to keep it under a 10 minute mile. I feel like I’ve started from scratch.
So here we are:
In 2 weeks, we’ll hit Ragnar Trail Michigan. It will be our first trail Ragnar ever. We’re not sure if we’re completely ready. I’m confident that half of the team will be rock stars while the other half that includes me is going to have to get by a bit on guts.
The fundraiser? We’re sitting on nearly $3700. That’s not quite the $5,000 I was planning on but I have reasons to believe we’ll get there somehow. We’ve had so many new donors that have given and quite a few past donors that haven’t yet so there’s a good chance we boost this quickly by the time we draw it to a close.
Yes, this has been hard and we’ll overcome it because we’re not going to give up. Whether it gets easier in the next 2 weeks or we get tougher, two things are certain:
We’re not done yet and we sure as heck are not giving up.
I know we’ll appreciate this cycle when it’s over.
I say that about number 2 because it’s been so hard to get to this point and while it’s difficult not to find some angst in the struggle, it truly is wonderful that the ability to take part in events like this is possible but for many, the pandemic weighed so heavily that it has made getting here more difficult than normal. When it’s over though, I’m sure we’ll raise a beer and smile but for now….
Runner #2 in our introductions of teammates is Michael and we couldn’t be happier to have him join us once again. He has, simply put, been an anchor on our team since he first laced ’em up with us his first year in 2016. Over that that time, he has climbed our all-time mileage list and gotten stronger and stronger as a runner, which is remarkable to see.
We often joked the first couple of years that we had a better team suited to play football or basketball than to run long distance. Michael was the epitome of that as he was a former starter at center on Ohio Domincan’s offensive line. At 6’5″ and maxing out at nearly 295 lbs, that’s not the prototypical running physique but once his playing days were over, the transformation has been incredible.
Now more than 60 lbs less, he looks amazing and is clocking sub 9 minute miles regularly and those miles are more on the high side for him. He’s become such a stalwart of the team that when we were running road races, he’d typically get some of the harder assignments. I truly felt that I could give him anything and he could tackle it. Part of that was the fact that he’s young and his stamina was great but the other part is that he was always accountable and driven.
That drive is what led him to take on The Flying Pig MARATHON a couple of years ago and his running journey has only continued as a part of our team. In total, Michael’s run with us this year will be his 5th straight Ragnar that he’s run with us, totaling more than 85 miles when Ragnar Trail Michigan is complete. That’s enough to put him in 2nd place all time and if he joins us again in 2022, he will no doubt cross the 100 mile mark for our team which is pretty exciting too.
Overall, Michael brings a big personality that’s a lot of fun to have on the team and we’re just really lucky to have someone like him, both as a runner and as a person, on the team.
On a personal note, as his godfather, it’s pretty awesome, too, that at 27, he’s still game to hang out and go on this adventure with me. I feel really luck to be able to share that experience with him and am proud to see how he’s taken this challenge on year after year. It’s been an absolute blast and I hope we can continue this running adventure together for a long time.
If you’d like to support him, our team, and NeighborLink Fort Wayne, through our running adventure at Ragnar Relay Trail Michigan, please visit our NeighborLink Fundraising site here: https://www.nlfw.org/project/21928
It’s time to kick off our Runners Doing Good Introductions! And let’s do that with none other than the lady that has made this all happen: Jenn!
Before we describe why she has been so vitally important to the RDG efforts throughout the years, let’s look at her running cred: She has run the Indianapolis 500 Festival Indy-Mini twice and run the Sunburst Races in South Bend and the Fort 4 Fitness multiple times as well but what is most impressive about what she’s done with Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good?
It all started with just wanting to help out. In 2016, she came along to support Van 1 at Ragnar Relay Chicago in what turned out to be the most brutally hot and humid run we’ve ever experienced. Gabe and Andrew are the only two runners still active on the team that ran that year. It was so tough but without Jenn, we would have been in awful shape and you could argue that if we didn’t have her that year, that 2017 may not have happened.
As the team captain, it’s tough to tackle all of this and admittedly, my own well being, some races, wasn’t always the best. I’ve been dehydrated and feeling bad. I’ve had the late night Chick-Fil-A that didn’t sit in my stomach but with her there making, dare I say, forcing us to drink something after another 85+ degree run, it could have been much more serious. We had one runner go down in Van 2. Without her, we might have had many more in Van 1 and what has come post 2016, I’m a firm believer that we wouldn’t have gotten here without her.
In 2017, she jumped aboard as a runner in a pinch. We’d had a runner get sick with 4-6 weeks to go and we knew that he’d not be able to take it on. I’d not recommend taking on a Ragnar if you’ve not run in 10 years but Jenn is easily one of our more determined runners.
She would admit that she’s not the fastest runner we have but I have rarely, if ever, seen her breakdown and lose her pace. She finds her sweet spot and just keeps running and dictates the pace. It’s something that I’ve always always admired about her. Her consistency is awesome.
Throw in the fact that as a teammate, what’s not to like? She brings a big, fun, and lovable personality to any room she enters and regardless of the conditions, when you’re grinding out a couple hundred miles, you need someone like that who can bring a smile to the group around you.
2021 will mark her 4th straight year of running, compiling 61 miles of total mileage when Ragnar Trail Michigan is in the books. On our All-Time Mileage list, that puts her solidly in 5th place out of more than 30 runners and her consecutive year streak is only eclipsed by me. I bet if you asked her 5 years ago if she’d run one Ragnar, she might say yes but if you asked if she’d keep doing this, I’m not sure what her answer would be but I’m thrilled that she is. Our adventures together only got crazier and even more memorable once she officially joined the team and I look forward to having her by myself for many more of these.
When we started this running and fundraising adventure back in 2015, our hope was to raise $1,000. It really felt like a pipe dream, if I’m being honest. We really felt we could raise something but $1,000? No way. There was a whole lot of “None of Us” that was happening with that first Ragnar and fundraising campaign:
“None of Us” had ever run a Ragnar. We had no clue what we were getting into.
“None of Us” had ever operated a true fundraising operation. Outside of asking for money from immediate family, we really didn’t know how to drum up interest and market that effort.
And in the end, “None of Us” expected the response we received as we raised $2,250 that first year. It was such an odd feeling to be so successful in something when we literally were so green at it. We felt grateful, for certain, but also curious because it very much became something that captured our interest. “What could this become if we improved upon what we know?”
Six years later and we have a pretty good idea of what we have because it has worked and grown in every year, or at least the non-pandemic ones. That all said, 2021’s beginning to our campaign for NeighborLink has tossed back into “None of Us” territory once more.
After having our best fundraising month ever in March of ’20 and having Ragnar Trail be cancelled for the year and every subsequent event thereafter as well, “None of Us” knew what to expect as we tip toed back into the waters of our fundraising and running adventure. Would we do ok? Would we raise less? Is setting the goal for $5,000, something we’d eclipsed the two previous campaigns, too lofty? Are we crazy for still doing this?
Those questions were legit. I seriously contemplated putting a good effort out there and calling it quits. The pandemic broke a lot of momentum for us. I truly felt in ’19, heading into ’20 that we were a freight train running downhill. It nearly felt overwhelming, both in appreciation of all of the generosity we were getting and for how big it all was getting, especially the expectations.
We don’t have all of the answers to those questions yet but the response is something that “None of Us” would have expected but being that we’re just a week out from completing our first month of fundraising for our campaign, I thought I’d share where we’re at and I can’t repeat this enough, “None of Us” could have predicted this.
In ’20 before everything shut down, we raised approximately $1400, which was matched through a very generous donor. When you put that all together, we ended up raising $2900 in March of ’20 from private donors. That was, by a huge margin, the most we’d ever raised from individual donors in a month.
I had every plan to really push our efforts hard within this first month and received the commitment from our long-time donor to do a match and due to a hunch, I push him to commit to a cap. I just didn’t feel right leaving it open ended because I didn’t want him to feel like we were taking advantage of him or if it went really big that he’d be expected to make a donation that he wasn’t comfortable with. This person’s generosity is immense, amazing, and inspiring. We certainly don’t take that for granted and that’s why I pushed for the cap. I’m glad I did because we’ve surpassed that cap.
The match’s cap was set at $1500. It’s how quickly we passed it that still blows me away. Again, “None of Us” could have guessed that what used to take us a month, took us 3 days. Since that point we’ve raised a total of $1830 so it’s been an accumulation of $10 – $20 donations, from that point forward, which is very typical for us but those first 3 days were crazy! We’re looking at nearly $3400 of our $5,000 covered in the first month!
Additionally, it looks like we’ll be able to announce a new sponsor within the coming week or two that will allow us to finish off our expenses and give the fundraiser a nice boost.
Our goal is coming into focus and it’s hard to believe but maybe we should. Our supporters are absolutely the amazing and we’re to the point where “None of Us” are going to bet against you guys.
You all rock! Thank you all for your continued support and we’ll update you as we have more!
That’s right! Donation Scavenger Hunt is back!!! If you’re from Florida, make a donation. If you’re from California, make a donation! If you’re from the great state of Alaska….make a donation!
If you donate $10, we’ll color your state green! If you make a donation, please send a screen shot of your donation with your state to email@example.com and we’ll make sure to update the map as we go.
Thanks for playing and we can’t wait to make the map turn GREEN!
NeighborLink Fort Wayne truly is an incredibly unique and caring organization in Fort Wayne. There really is a servants’ heart that permeates their organization. Please watch this video that they put together for us. It’ll tell a bit about us but you’ll hear it from me why NeighborLink has been such a great fit for our little band of runners.