Runnin’ Not Walken was born in early January of 2015 with just the idea that if we could run a Ragnar Relay, that we might be happy with our new and improved fitness level. Along the way, and a ton of credit needs to go to my cousin Joel for encouraging this, the thought that a 200 mile relay style race could be a heck of a banner to fly for someone and we could do some genuine good with this as a fundraiser. It wasn’t long till I was reminded of a local charity here in town, Kate’s Kart, Inc., who gives books to hospitalized children. My daughter received a book after a bout of croup and it really helped calm her down and make the doctors and nurses’ jobs easier since she was so much calmer by reading her book. They were small enough that we thought that if we could raise $1,000, that could be a big deal. So we set out on that goal with the idea that since we’d never run a fundraiser before that if we fell short, there were enough of us to cover the costs and call it a one time deal. The race itself was remarkable and we all had a blast.
Our supporters came out and donated $2,250 that first year, more than doubling our goal. I honestly wasn’t sure if we aimed too low or just got so much support that we’d be doing ourselves and the charity a disservice by not trying again in 2016 so we committed to doing it another year to benefit them. We reloaded with a few of the runners from 2015 and the rest all newbies.
Ragnar Relay Chicago 2016 would go on to be one about survival. Since I’d run the last leg in ’15, I decided everyone who’d run a particular leg the year before had to have a new assignment so I took Runner 1. I had a nice 10k to start the race and it was gorgeous. I had a cool 60 degree starting temp that wove through some beautiful Madison, WI neighborhoods, one home even being the childhood home of Chris Farley if I’m not mistaken. I got to run past a few parks and even a couple lakes. It really was the perfect start to the race. I knew it was going to be warm by all indications so I felt lucky to have picked that assignment. By the time Van 1 was handing off to Van 2, it was into the 80’s. Van 2 had a runner who got sick partially through his first run and had to sit out the rest of the race. We had to figure out how to replace his miles. Fortunately, Mother Nature helped us a bit on this hot and steamy day.
Around 9 p.m. that evening with Van 1’s 5th runner coming in and Ryan, our fastest chomping at the bit to sprint his 3 miler, the sky got really dark. It was ominously dark and the radar looked like a hurricane was about to sweep across Milwaukee, except we didn’t see or feel any rain nor hear any thunder but lightning was in the distance. Race officials cancelled the next 2 legs, Ryan’s and Greg’s. We essentially knew how to replace those 2 runs that we had to make up. Greg would run the next one that we’d start and Ryan would plug in on Van 2’s last legs. It was brutal in the 80-90 degree heat but we made sure that finishing was more important than how fast and got the job done.
We also eclipsed our goal by nearly $1,000 and finished at $3,610 in 2016. In 2 years, we’d raised more than $5,000 for Kate’s Kart and our processes were being refined more and more. We had to keep going so we set a goal for 2017 of more than $4,200 because if we could hit that, then we’d cross the $10,000 total raised.
2017 ended up being the last year for all of the ’16 crew in Van 2. They were a great group of guys but they got hit with heat again and I think their enthusiasm for the event melted as they did throughout the race. One thing that was on fire though was our fundraising machine. We raised more than $4500 that year! A team in 2018 had to happen but this year would bring even more change.
Not only did we have replace a whole van of runners but after 3 years of running Ragnar Relay Chicago, we were headed to Michigan. A twice annual buying convention for my work is always in May and October and guess what? That June Chicago race, after 2 very hot years, was bumped to a certain weekend in May. Chicago wasn’t going to work but Michigan in September had to be cooler than what we’d been through so we aimed towards Ragnar Relay Michigan with a $4750 goal.
We replaced that van with a new direction on the team. I decided that we needed to get into the mixed division. I thought it’d be great to have more ladies involved and besides they’d be better fundraisers, especially through social media as it’s pretty well proven that their social circles are more interactive. Boy was I right about that but more importantly, our team was more fun with more viewpoints and styles and they were particularly strong runners too.
Michigan proved to be a whale of a challenge. A couple days prior, we had a runner cancel due to a family emergency so we were at 11 and no chance of getting another runner but we felt we could pull it off so we went with just the 11. Van 1 set out and those girls just chewed up the road. It was really awesome to hear how much fun they were having. Afterall, a van largely comprised of moms, they deserved the time away so for them to have that much fun, it was fantastic.
Van 2, the guys’ van, headed out and I ran leg one of our departed runner and crushed it running below my projected pace. Two runners later and I was up again. The only mistake I made the whole race was not changing shirts. I thought that I’d be running my original leg so soon that I’d be fine. HUGE mistake. I caught a chill in between because the temp was cooling off and the breeze was picking up. My next run was 3.5 miles, largely uphill, and I don’t think I finally warmed up till 2.5 in. I handed off to Kelly, one of our new runners who was a dynamite fundraiser, and she took off. We headed off for some food and to warm up, which the food was great but I was still chilled to the bone.
Part way through our rest time, I got a picture from the girls at an ice cream stand that looked an awful lot like one we’d seen. I wondered why they’d be there to myself but didn’t think much more till I got a text from race command that our runner was at the next exchange and the van wasn’t. Next I know, the girls are saying that they went backwards 2 exchanges instead of to the next one. We had been running a good bit ahead of a desired pace which was much faster than originally projected. Our desire to be the fastest RNW team was at that point. I had a terrible run in the middle of the night but finished as our anchor feeling the best I’d ever felt on a last leg considering I had run nearly 4 miles more than I was originally supposed to run. In all, it was a fantastic race and the team really did well by each other and celebrated more at the finish line than any other team I’ve had. A few beers and a couple toasts later and we were done.
The effort overall was just awesome. Across the board, especially for a lot of first timers, it really was a team effort and we ended up raising more than $6500 which brought our 4 year total to nearly $17,000 raised for Kate’s Kart.
So what does 2019 hold for us? No surprise, more change. For a team that has had more than 2 dozen runners participate over the years, I’m expecting a few new runners. I works out that timing works out for some and not for others and that’s ok. This team has been blessed with a crew that is largely at its core, very generous with its time and talents and we find individuals who are like minded in that regard so I don’t worry like I used to do about filling spots.
We’re also changing who our cause of choice. Kate’s Kart has been a wonderful partner and we will always hold them in a special place in our hearts and minds but the time was right to go another direction and I’m excited to announce which charity it will be for 2019. That should come by the approaching New Year so please stay tuned for an update!