Running can be a selfish sport. Training for a marathon takes several hours away from your family each week. Long runs typically take place on a weekend when you could be doing something else fun with your loved ones. Sometimes it requires your spouse to watch your children (or in my case border collie puppies) while you run for hours on end. Then you get home and all you want to do is kick your feet up in your recliner and relax. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy running. The time I spend on the trail or road is my church, time to reflect on life. I’ve always ran for my own benefit, until this year.
I decided to sign up for the Destin Beach 50K Ultra Run. It takes place in Florida in February. My original plan was just to sign up and run on the beach in Florida and get away from the cold and snow of Michigan.
I knew that the race benefitted a charity, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. As an Army Reserve veteran, I felt this charity fundraiser was something I might want be a part of. I looked into the organization and saw it rated very high on CharityNavigator.org, it scored higher than nearly 98% of all other charities in the United States. That was important to me know know that almost all of the money raised whet to the cause.
In this case, the funds go to provide scholarships to the children of special operations personnel that have died in operation or training missions. It also provides assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.
There was no requirement to take part in the fundraising. You could raise as little or as much money as you wanted. You could just sign up for the race and not fundraise, even most of your entry fee benefitted the charity.
I have always been reluctant to fundraise because I didn’t want to ask all my family and friends for donations. I had read about other running events and that you had to raise so much in donations to participate. Some events require you to provide your own credit card and whatever you don’t raise will be charged to your card. I was not comfortable with signing a contract and securing an amount upwards of
$4,000 on my credit card for a race such as the Boston Marathon. Don’t get me wrong, they have great charities involved, but I just wasn’t in a position to pay that amount if I was only able to raise $1,000 or so.
A few months prior to the race I set up a fundraising page through the charity and the race websites. I made a post on my Facebook page and informed everyone that I was going to be doing a fundraiser for the next few months. I gave a brief explanation of the charity and let my friends and family know that any donation was appreciated and no donation was too small. The donations trickled in at first but closer to the event they came flooding in.
There were 152 finishers in this event. Forty-five people in the group took part in the fundraising. The previous year the event raised over $34,000. This year the race director set a goal of $55,000. I set a personal goal of $1,000. There was no penalty if I didn’t reach my goal, so I set it higher than the amount I expected to raise. As incentives, the race director said he would refund half of your race entry fee if you reached $1,000 and all of your entry fee if you reached $2,000. If you were able to reach $5,000 he would refund 100% of your entry fee and give you a free entry to the event next year.
The event was amazing. The entire race took place on the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was close to perfect. The waves rushed in and splashed on my shoes. I felt a part of something bigger, something better. When I crossed the finish line, the race director handed me my medal and a lady approached me. She said her husband was killed in the line of duty and she thanked me for my participation in the event. She told me that her children had benefitted from the college scholarship provided by the charity. The look on her face was enough for me to know that I made the right decision to fundraise for this charity. She more than willingly accepted a hug from this sweaty runner.
At the awards ceremony, the race director announced that as a group we raised $55,000. Due to the generosity of my family, friends, coworkers, employers and a few total strangers, I was able to raise $2,330 to help this amazing cause. I cannot believe that I achieved more than double of my goal and at the time of the event I was the third highest fundraiser for this year.
I was afraid to try something different. I was alway running for myself. It felt really good to raise money for fallen brothers and sisters.
That day we all ran together. We were runners, military and civilian and part of the special operations family.