Top 11 Runners – #1 Gabe


And topping off the mileage list, Me. I’m not going to lie, it feels really anticlimactic announcing myself since I’m the only one who’s run every single one of these races, 5 in total for 82.66 miles but I thought I’d share some thoughts and memories from years past.

Some things I remember the most in the last 5 years

From Ragnar Chicago ’15 – The night run was exhilarating, kinda scary, and SO much fun. Also running the last leg of the race…having a runner come up and run with me for about a mile and a half when I was spent and encouraging me along the way to stay running with her to keep me going. I let her go and then about 10 minutes later saw my team and then my family. It was an incredible feeling. We pulled it off!

Ragnar Chicago 16 – My first run was awesome. It was high 60’s/Low 70’s and it felt great and I got to, I believe, run through Chris Farley’s childhood neighborhood, see a few lakes…just awesome. That’s where this pic is from. My 2nd run was crazy hot. A marine passed me like I was standing still. It was awe inspiring. My 3rd run, I cramped up and couldn’t finish. Most amazing was our team battling through the heat. They rocked it.

Ragnar Chicago 17 – I probably ran as strong in this race as any we’ve run. It was also the first year that Jenn ran which was a great highlight. I also had probably my best run which was 6+ and had a runner get a 100+ yard headstart on me and I caught him around mile 4. It was a great feeling.

Ragnar Michigan 18 – The cold. I remember the cold during my night run almost broken me. In fact, I actually called my Artie to come pick me up. I’d been recovering from a hip issue and my leg was stiffening up from the cold and I was in a TERRIBLE mood and add to it that it was 3:30 in the morning and I was practically in tears so I called. What did I hear when I told him I was 2 miles out? “Hey buddy! You’re rocking it (I wasn’t. I was way over my projected pace), we believe in you and can’t wait to see you in a bit!!!” Click.

That’s all I needed to get my butt moving and I saw them in 20 minutes, stumbled to the van, sat in the front seat, and passed out for about a half hour until I woke up to him blinking out as we got within 10 minutes of where were stopping to sleep that night and wait for Van 1 to meet us for our last set of legs.

Ragnar Michigan 19 – I sought revenge on my night run. I was 3 minutes/mile faster which was awesome but I rolled my ankle halfway through, tweaking my groin in the process so it still sucked and I vowed to never run that leg of the race ever again. Beyond that, I had to flip my last run to a shorter run, which had a ton of downhill which should have been a blast but because of the groin, I just couldn’t let it rip like I hoped. It was still kind of fun. This year also was the first time we tried something different from any other race. We rented a house in a placed that was positioned midrace. It was big enough to hold us all but it worked out perfectly so that Van 1 could hand off after their 2nd set of runs to Van 2, who would take the baton and run. Van 1 would drive about an hour north, catch about 4 hours of solid sleep in an actual bed vs the back of a van, and then only have a 20 minute drive to the next major exchange. The process was repeated when Van 2 handed off to Van 1 for their last set of legs and Van 2 only had a 20 minute drive to the house, caught 4-5 hours of sleep, and then had a 40 minute drive to the next exchange. In theory it was set up to be a pretty good idea. It could have been a huge waste of time and money if the timing of everything didn’t work out. What it was though was absolutely perfect. Van 1 coming in for the last last legs looked refreshed, if not giddy and when we grabbed a shower and hit the sack at around 5:30 knowing we’d not have to hit the trail till 11, it was a thing of beauty. If we ever do a road relay again, I’m not sure if it’ll be a possibility, however, we’ll make every attempt to do that again. It was a gamechanger.


Having done this now for 5 races, each year has brought a host of challenges related to running, fundraising, and even personnel. It’s not always easy getting enough runners. It’s not always easy getting the fundraising steadily flowing. It’s not always easy getting the right mix of runners or beyond that, runners to do this more than a year or two. It’s been uncommon to get runners beyond 2 years. It’s all hard but we’ve been able to accomplish a lot and that’s a great feeling.

2020 has been our hardest year yet because it’s led to a dead-end which is such a gut punch because of how well it started. We had our best month ever followed but not much of anything really and it all fell apart.

But 2021 looms and there’s a tremendous amount of hope that it’ll be a year that’s filled with health, hope, inspiration, with even more running and generosity. To those that have supported us over the last 5 years, the expectation is to aim higher than our normally lofty goals.

Please stay in touch because those announcements will be coming soon!



Top 11 Runners – #2 Ryan


I say this in the most lovingly way but if Michael and Nerk are something to marvel at when they run because of their size, #2 on our list, Ryan, might make you sick at how easily he pulls this off.

Young legs certainly help as does being a naturally gifted athlete but he seriously has gone out and run almost 75 miles across 4 races. The last 2 races he’s run about 16 miles a piece and you might have been able to count the number of times he trained for it on your two hands.

If you look at that video above, it’s a whole lot of that easy striding when he runs for us and at 6’6″, he covers a lot of ground without looking like he’s trying too hard. It’s amazing to watch.

In all seriousness, it’s been awesome having him with us and right now he’s crushing it at each volleyball tourney he’s playing in and I’m not sure when we’ll get him with us again but it has been so much fun sharing this adventure with him. Hopefully it’ll work out to do this with him again, but in case it doesn’t happen, I can’t thank him enough for joining us all of these years.


Top 11 Runners – #3 Michael


Michael cracks our Top 3 runners in total mileage as he’s the first of the 3 who have participated at least 4 of the 5 years, and the first on the list to have topped 50 in total miles.

He could have been #1 on this list though had he checked his email in ’15. It would only take him 13 miles and 1 more race to tie our lead but such is life.

In all, though, if you want to see something impressive on a trail, this is your guy. At 6’5″ and down to 230-240 from his peak football weight of 295, he doesn’t fit the stereotype of what the typical runner looks like but he has a motor that once you start it, it won’t stop until he hands off. Someone his size shouldn’t be running low 8 minute miles but he does that and faster. It’s an incredible thing to behold.

In total, Michael has given us 69.8 miles of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan trails, roads, and highway dealing with the first two years of heat and then the clean cool air of northern Michigan the last two years and so far, is committed to our next adventure in Michigan in 2021 which will put him, most likely, over 85 miles of RNW and RDG running.


Top 11 Runners – #4 Andrew


Andrew joined the team in 2016 and battled through the “blast furnace” and somehow despite still claiming that he’s “not a runner” and that he doesn’t even really “enjoy” running, has been back 2 more times and it would have been 3 if it hadn’t been for a family emergency.

When we added him, we added a steadying force. His consistency is something incredibly valuable to me, as much for my spot as a captain but even more so as someone I consider a great friend. It has been special to have him on the team and people have gravitated towards him during the races.

He’s as good of a guy as there is out there and his contributions both on the course, to the tune of 49.66 miles run, and off through his constant support and willingness to join this craziness. They day he’s done might be the day we’re all done. I can’t imagine doing this without him anymore.


Top 11 Runners – #5 Nerk


Coming in at #5 on our mileage leader board of top runners, Nerk! It’s amazing. He hasn’t run since 2017, our last year at Ragnar Relay Chicago and he still ranks this high in total mileage.

One of our originals, Nerk was in Van 2 with Brandon, Joel, Ruso, Ryan, our two drivers, Artie and Adam, and myself. That van was easily one of the most fun ones and I’m sure part of it is that it was our first race but that van was special. So many in that van were close from childhood and hadn’t had the opportunity to get together in one place in years. It just worked out perfectly that we all had the chance to spend 2 1/2 days straight together. It was an absolute blast.

The best part of having Nerk on the team are the other teams. They assume because he’s 6’2″ish and north of 200 that he’s going to be slower but then he passes them and it just makes me laugh. I remember one group of high school kids that they’re coach told them to stay out of his way or they’d get run over!

He’s another reason why this would be what it is today as he went on to captain 1/2 of the team for 2 years and brought a good group of guys to the team. Without him and his group being a part of this and helping grow it, we don’t get from that first year to ’16. If the guys didn’t come back, despite how terribly hot it was their first year in 2016, it would have been a stretch to get to 2017. And while we didn’t have them with us in ’18, the team was pretty well functional by that point and able to exist.

So for his mileage contributions as well as being a part of something special in those first few years, a huge THANK YOU and a dose of gratitude go Nerk’s way for all he did to support the team!


Top 11 Runners – #6 Jenn


Easily my favorite runner, she breaks the tie with Cherri at 45 miles and 3 races run mainly due to her being our support in Van 1 for the blast furnace that Ragnar Chicago 2016.

Jenn from the beginning of her time as a part of Runnin’ Not Walken has taken on the challenge of supporting the team unlike any other member. The first year I ran, she allowed me to train for all of this while juggling a newborn, a 2 year old, and a 4 year old.

The second year, she did the same but joined us and made sure we were hydrated, etc. throughout the race. I’m still convinced that our van wouldn’t have been in the good shape we were without her insistence to drink and eat despite losing the desire to because of the heat.

Her 3rd year, she joined us with 4 weeks to train, having not run in 10 years and did an amazing job. In fact, since she’s joined as an active runner, the one thing I’m amazed at is her consistency. She admits she’s not the fastest runner but far better than I, she gets locked into a pace and can maintain that no matter the terrain.

She has become an integral part of the team and as she is with everything else, my right hand person to bounce ideas off of and no matter how crazy I might be at times, she is the constant and consistent support I need to make this happen.


Top 11 Runners – #7 Cherri


Coming in with 45 miles run for us over 3 relays, Cherri has a lot of experience and miles with us. She was a great addition to the team and become a good friend to many. She is able to fit into any scenario and do a great job.

While she may not be the fastest runner we have, she may be our toughest and I knew we had a good one the very first leg of her very first race with us back in 2016. The forecast was calling for some pretty good heat that day and other runners took on the same heat or worse but I’m not sure anyone took it on with so much direct heat.

Cherri’s first run took off from a school and headed out into the country and I’m not sure she ran a second of that run with as little as a leafs-worth of shade as she ventured out into the country side going down a paved road in the middle of fields with nary a tree in sight ANYWHERE. It was nuts but she plowed through it and conquered it. I can’t think of conditions quite like that in any of our races. We’ve battled cold in Michigan but you could put more layers on. With this, it was an insufferable heat that you couldn’t do anything about and she ground it out. It was awesome and we’re glad to have her a part of our team.

Top 11 Runners – #8 Matt


According to a definition of hardcore it is: “the most active, committed, or strict members of a group or movement.” That sums up what I think of Matt. He is a hardcore runner and proud of it. He should be because he’s come a long way over the last several years.

After deciding a change in lifestyle was necessary, he’s dedicated himself to running and living a more active life. What started off as a movement to run a mile has snowballed into checking one challenge off only to look towards what the next challenge to conquer could be and currently he’s up to Olympic style triathlons. It’s incredible.

Matt started off by letting me know a couple years before he joined the team that he was available if I needed a runner. When it finally worked out, I knew I had someone who would take on any challenge, anywhere, and his stats show it.

In only 2 years of running with the team, Matt is the first runner on our list over 40 miles with 42.65 miles run during our races. He’s also the owner of the highest average mileage per race at just over 21 miles. There simply hasn’t been an assignment that he’s turned down or approached with less than 110% effort or enthusiasm and I’ve seen some of the hills that he’s had to run in Michigan. They were daunting but he crushed them. Just like he has all of his other goals.


Top 11 Runners – #9 Greg


At 37.8 Miles, the 2nd highest average per race mileage, and one of the very fastest runners we’ve ever had, Greg comes in at 9th in our Top 11 runners of Runnin’ Not Walken.

Greg was awesome to have on the team, along with his brothers that joined us for 2 years, ’16-’17. The Schortgen boys took the relay by storm and although he might have been quieter than the others, he was one of our workhorses we hitched our wagon to during that time. He just ran effortlessly and it was fun to watch.

Fun fact, in 2017, in a pinch for a runner with a guy dropping out 3 days before the race, Greg convinced his then girlfriend Tayler, to join our adventure and a van of 5 guys to take on the Ragnar Chicago course from Madison to Chicago in some decent heat that year, although not like 2016’s race, and they survived! Fast forward a couple years and they’re married and just had their first child! How awesome is that?!?

Top 11 Runners – #10 Kelly


Kelly, a newer runner to the team in 2018, she’s run with us twice and left a mark, did a ton of good, and cracked our Top 10, just eeking out Courtney’s 36.5 with her own 36.8 miles between her two races in ’18 & ’19.

When she joined the team, she brought and exuberance and energy to the team that was infectious and brought that to not only the team, the race, but to the fundraising part of the equation as she got coworkers, clients, family, and friends of hers donating and following along.

In 2019, she also conquered what will probably always be the longest run of anyone on our team. With us down a runner due to a family emergency, we were scrambling. Along the way, she volunteered to jump out and take a portion of one of that team member’s runs, which would have preceded her run and add it to hers.

So she took off, came into the exchange and back out to run hers, totaling a Ragnar Leg medal-worthy 11+ miles in one stretch, battling some wind and rain as well. It was an amazing effort and one that won’t be duplicated any time soon. She should be truly proud of her efforts.


%d bloggers like this: