As we keep rolling with our fundraiser to support the Dees. I’ve been overcome with “stuff” getting in the way and when I think of how to continue to promote this in the middle of the holidays, the “stuff” of the season keeps bogging me down.
It’s a beautiful time of the year lends itself to work holiday parties and get togethers as well as family Christmas reunions and that doesn’t even count obligations within your own families. With children, as many of you know, there are winter sports, Christmas plays, and the expectations, fancies, and wants of Christmas.
It can be magical, but it also can be exhausting. I’ve had a few weeks here now where half the week, I’m not sure that I’ve seen the sun but for an hour each day. It’s felt like a blur. So when I hear something that’s inspirational, it shines brightly and outshines the darkness of the season.
For me, this past Sunday, the pastor at my church talked a lot about “caring.” It focused on how caring is far more than just being nice. Being nice is being nice but we are called to care deeply for others because caring is an act. It is an act of acknowledging someone’s struggle and working to make it better. It is looking at someone and seeing their pain and their struggle and doing something tangible to take away whatever may be making them miserable. And when whatever is burdening them is gone, we rejoice not just in our accomplishment in helping but because that burden, that weight, and those struggles are taken from them.
It got me thinking alot about what Runners Doing Good has tried to do in the past and what we’re attempting to do in a more direct manner this year with Tony and Jayme Dee and the adoption they’re pursuing.
For a long time now, we’ve worked to raise money for causes that were amazing organizations within our community but for us, the involvement was little more than running a crazy race and because of that effort, we’ve been able to raise a lot of money. That’s not insignificant, however, where that money when, how it was applied, and who, specifically, it impacted…those decisions were made by the wonderful organizations we partnered with.
With our campaign 2022 campaign to benefit Tony & Jayme Dee, the impact we’re attempting to make is one that has exponential positive repercussions. They have a mountain to climb, or more appropriately, raise, to make this dream come true but it’s more than just a dream, it’s an answer to a call.
If you read about them in our previous article: Dee Family Adoption: In Their Own Words, you know that this isn’t just something that they decided to do one day. It was something that came to them, that they’ve prayed about, that they’ve discerned if this was right for their family on multiple levels, and despite all of the challenges that an International Adoption presents, they’ve said yes. It hasn’t been easy either but then again, nothing worthwhile generally ever is but they’ve been steadfast in their faith that this is the right path for their family as well as for this young lady that they’re looking to adopt.
For us, what we’re attempting to do is an act of care that helps them raise that mountain of money so that they can pay for all of this. That is a monumental challenge in itself and with the abilities that this team has shown over the last 7 years, we’re confident that we’ll produce. But it’s more than just raising money.
When we talk about an act of care acknowledging someone’s struggles and working to lighten their burden, it’s so much more than just throwing money at the problem. Yes, the end game is to help them hit that goal but in a more big picture way, this is about taking something or things off of their list of things to do.
Over the last several months, I’ve seen and heard of them absolutely hustling and grinding to make this happen. They’ve organized multiple garage sales, sold goods at a couple craft bazaars, poured hot chocolate at a holiday parade, partnered with a local popcorn company for a sale, and most recently took orders for nearly 250 apple dumplings that they made and are delivering themselves.
As you can see, the burden isn’t just monetary but in the work and effort to make it all happen. When they hit their goal, it certainly won’t be for a lack of effort. There will be no “lucking” into this. They will have put blood, sweat, and I’m sure some tears into making this happen.
It’s why CARING, in this case, means seeing that effort and supporting them through trying to raise money, as we’ve done so successfully in the past, so that the burden of operating another garage sale, another round of cooking dumplings, sitting at a craft show for a weekend, and every other thing that they’ve had to do already, is lifted. The hope is that whatever we can raise for them can eliminate a few of the things they’d have to do without our help.
Caring for, supporting them, and helping to lift some of the burdens upon them also has other repercussions because it brings caring, hope, and love to a girl that’s aging out of her country’s foster system.
Think of yourself as a teen. Now think of yourself feeling unwanted during this sensitive, confusing, and complex time of your life? How many of us would have gone down a darker path if we didn’t have the support of a great family? Have many of us have benefited because we had a warm home, clothes to wear, a good education, and a family that loves us? Many of us have and it’s something that no child should go without.
Supporting and caring for the Dees means that we’re supporting their caring of this girl too. It means they’re lifting her burdens by bringing her home and providing her with a life that that only the love and care of a family can give. It means she’s is lifted up and put on a path that is tremendously more positive than if she were emancipated and left out on her own someday soon.
By supporting this campaign, you will support both a family and impact a girl’s trajectory in life. Join us.
We’re a day late posting this but so far, the fundraiser to benefit the Dee’s is off to a great start. In fact, we couldn’t be happier with how it’s going. Our best month that we’ve ever had was a shade over $3,000 and that was with a match included in that so really it was a $1,500 month, approximately.
Our first week between our Facebook and GoFundMe pages? $1,240!!!!
We are most definitely well on our way. We received a couple of donations last night that gave us a pretty good boost too and covered a couple of states.
Counting those states, our map looks like this:
As we mentioned, we’re well on our way. I won’t tell you what our total is right now but my expectation is that we’ll be pushing $2,000 or more by the time we give our 2 week update.
If you would like to support the effort, please visit our GoFundMe page below:
“We, (Jayme and Tony) have been married for almost 17 years. In 2018, God laid it on our hearts to pursue adoption while we were serving on a mission trip in Belize. We travel 1-2 times per year with Jayme’s nursing students serving in mountain/jungle regions of Belize. On this particular trip, our team stayed on the grounds of a girls’ home. All the girls in the home were removed from their families for various reasons. We spent our time connecting and building relationships with the girls while we stayed there. Each child we met held a special place in our hearts and as we were excited as we returned in subsequent years to continue to interact with the same group of girls.
On a specific trip in April of 2019, Jayme had a deep emotional conversation with one young woman in particular. The children’s home was closing per government regulations and the girls had all been told that their immediate future was unknown. It was at that moment when God confirmed in our hearts that adoption was a path he wanted us to take. We jumped in with both feet and were so excited at the potential of adding another sweet girl into our lives (one who we already knew and loved!).
Not many adoption agencies work with Belize so we found an attorney in Georgia who had facilitated multiple Belizean adoptions in the past. We started our adoption process on this child’s 15th birthday, knowing we were in a time crunch to have the pieces in place that we needed prior to her 16th birthday.
God was so faithful, taught us to trust Him deeply and showed us we could lean into Him more closely than we had ever experienced. Throughout the process, we heard Him speak in many very intimate ways, which confirmed that we were stepping forward in faith on a path he had laid. However, we know that His ways are not our ways and His path for us doesn’t always lead where we expect it to, but we are comforted in the fact that He is in control!
When we learned our adoption journey was halted, we were heartbroken. We were told from our attorney in Belize that the child was being pursued for adoption through a domestic Belizean adoption, therefore the door for us to adopt her had closed. Through our grief, we knew that God opened up that space in our hearts because He intended to fill it!
In September of 2019 we had asked a question in an adoption group that came to mind as we wrestled with our grief. Through that Facebook group, we met a wonderful friend who shared with us about her orphan hosting journey with Project 143. As we researched this organization and the idea of orphan hosting, we knew that this is the next step in God’s plan for us.
Project 143 provides an avenue that orphans can come to the US for 5 weeks and experience the love of a family and have the opportunity to be “seen”. After hosting, these children have a higher probability of being adopted- most of these children are between the ages of 9-15. This age group of children are generally less likely to be adopted and that broke our hearts, knowing the desire we had to give an older child a family.
We had the amazing opportunity to host our new daughter in the Spring of 2021. Hosting was originally supposed to happen in Summer of 2020 but due to COVID, our hosting was cancelled twice. The time came and we were so thankful to have her here for 3 weeks in March/April 2021. “M” acclimated well into our family, interacting well with each of our children. “M” enjoyed riding bikes, playing in the yard, dancing, going to the zoo and aquarium, swimming in a hotel pool, bowling, cooking, sharing family meals, meeting extended family, sitting in the hot tub, going to a trampoline park, playing games at an arcade, going to church, and watching movies.
In conversations with our children after hosting, each child indicated that they are excited to add “M” to our family and will accept her as a sister. Our girls are elated to learn more about her and get to know her more when she joins our family. We have shared our adoption plans with extended family and they are fully supportive of her joining our family. While “M” was in our home for hosting, she was able to meet both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Tony’s sister has adopted multiple times from Bulgaria, including a child with significant special needs so adoption is not foreign to our family. Over the years that have followed the heartbreak from our first adoption attempt, God has shown us that He had a purpose for our experience. He softened our hearts to adoption for a child that we already loved and gave us many signs and experiences to deepen our trust in Him. He laid the foundation of that deep trust to use as a building block throughout our current adoption process and we are so thankful for His sovereignty.
We hope and pray that God will work miracles throughout our adoption process, making it smooth, fast and in alignment with His plan for our family.”
Today’s announcement is all about choices. It’s about choosing to step out and do this on our own, standing on our own 2 feet for the first time. It’s a bit risky. It’s a bit scary. It’s definitely exciting, though, because for us, it allows us to come out, be clearer and bolder in our mission than we ever have and that allows us to, hopefully, make an impact in a way that we’ve not in any year up to this point.
With that, we are excited to introduce the Dee Family to you: Tony & Jayme Dee and their 3 daughters. I have had the great fortune of knowing these two for the better part of 20 years. They are a wonderful family and it’s been a blessing to know them.
Tony was actually a runner of ours in 2016 & endured the blast furnace that Ragnar Relay Chicago was that year. He was a major contributor to our campaign to benefit Kate’s Kart. That’s just another reason why we’re excited to support them as he’s one of our own.
As a family, they’ve felt a call for awhile, to adopt internationally. They discerned that call and CHOSE to accept it but they’re not just adopting a little baby. The impact they’ll have for their family and their new daughter goes beyond a child’s infancy. They plan on adopting a young girl from Colombia who is aging out of the foster system. To be a young teen who could be emancipated, at some point, because she wasn’t wanted because she’s too “old”, and left to the world is scary and dangerous for that matter.
It could be devastating to such a young person. With them, her life’s trajectory will be altered beyond measure but to get there, it doesn’t come without a considerable cost.
The Dees are attempting to raise more than $35,000 to cover the cost and are about half way there but it’s also come with a ton of stress, as you’d imagine, in how to accomplish such a large goal.
As always, we’re going to take on another Ragnar Relay. We are firm believers that we’d not have had the success by just running a 5k. A team relay where we all can share in the suffering of the run as well as the fundraising effort is so much bigger and effective. When you have a great cause and family like this to support, we couldn’t be more excited about what we can accomplish.
That’s where RDG comes in. Our last 3 campaigns have netted more than $5,000 a piece. If we can do that again, then we can provide them with a great boost that, while it might not get them the rest of the way to their goal, maybe it helps speeds up the process of bring their world and hers together a bit quicker.
So with that, this #GivingTuesday, we’re officially kicking off our running and fundraising campaign, both on Facebook and through GoFundMe so that those that aren’t on Facebook can donate as well.
Please consider this your invitation to support this wonderful family and their dream to add a new daughter to their family and by doing so, set this girl on a lifepath that is drastically altered for the positive.
Thank you all for your past support. We’d certainly not have been able to accomplish all that we have without you all.
“It is our choices, gentlemen, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Ted Lasso quoting John Wooden.
First off, I love Ted Lasso. Period. Moving on… 🙂
Secondly, choices come with consequences. I can want or have a desire to run a half marathon but if I don’t CHOOSE to train for it, I won’t have the ability to run it. My ability at the beginning is far less important than the ACTIVE CHOICE to train for it.
Headed into 2020, Runners Doing Good had some choices to make and we did. The idea was to eventually strive towards formalizing the team as a nonprofit so that we could contribute more directly to causes, people, and charities however we wanted.
We scaled the team back to start anew with some core members so that our baseline expenses could be as minimized as possible with the hope that if things went as swimmingly as we hoped, that we could expand again someday soon.
In many ways, I think we became a leaner and better team because of that choice. Because of the pandemic, it certainly made what we did far easier. It’s why we’re choosing to run the same strategy back out in 2022 but with a few select choices:
#1 – We’re choosing to do this without a net. If we want to move towards operational independence. Now is the time. Our hope is to receive some help from past sponsors but if they can’t support us because we’re not a nonprofit yet, it’s understandable. We’ll work to earn their support when we’re set up.
#2 – We’re choosing to promote us on our terms. Since our inception, we’ve always operated within the confines of the cause of choice that we were working to benefit and oftentimes didn’t receive a ton of support in that effort. If we are going to have to work hard to promote what we’re doing anyways, it’ll be nice to be doing it our way this year.
#3 – We’re choosing exactly where the money is going this year and it will be clear. We have no doubt that the organizations we’ve fundraised for have been good stewards of the money that our efforts produced. That said, when we worked on behalf of Kate’s Kart, they never told us how many books our money purchased and only in one year did NeighborLink tell us what project our fundraisers covered. This won’t be just supporting a good organization this year. When you give to our 2022 campaign, it will be abundantly clear where those dollars are going. That’s extremely important and a choice that we’ll be making every year going forward.
#4 – Our choice of cause this year will be unique and emotional because we’ve never approached anything like this before. This is will not be us helping an organization. It will directly impact 2 worlds by helping bring them together and both will, for certain, be better for it.
Finally, the last choice, #4, is very much an intentional choice. In the past, we’ve sought to reach for the stars with our fundraising and it’s always felt like whatever we raised was pure gravy for the organizations we’ve worked to benefit. Beyond that, it’s always felt like because we were something “extra” for them, if it didn’t work, they weren’t out anything.
With #4, if it goes like every other year has, the upside to this is that 2022 is a stepping off point for Runners Doing Good as a group. There will be proof of concept that we can take this plan together, which has always been aided by past organizations help, and bring it to fruition on our own.
Good Lord willing, it’ll be the official start of something amazing and we’ll be able to spread that love in a thousand directions before we ever call it quits.
So, to follow along, please come back on Sunday at 6 pm when our official announcement is made!
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.