Not everyone, but most of the runners at the finish line
If you read the title of this post, you may have noticed that I used the word "Success." Well my friends, success is actually an understatement. Our original and seemingly overwhelming goal of raising $10,000 dollars for the street children in Rwanda has been reached, surpassed, and still counting! Along with that, Our matching donor will soon be staying true to their word and donating another $10,000 as well. As I write this, I am still in disbelief.
I remember last year during our walking fundraiser how shocked and humbled I was by the way so many people came together for the cause and helped. This year, those same people and so many more put even more on the line. And just like last year, I could not stop saying "words can't express" the gratitude I feel for everyone. The same goes for this year and then some.
Please allow me to summarize the actual running event for those who are interested in how it went. I think you will find all of the runners' efforts admirable and inspiring.
I will break up the run into 10 marathons to try and be organized in my storytelling.
Made the morning news
Me, Ben, Dano
Pretending I was fine
Day 1- Marathon 1- Team 1
Runners- Ben Holmes, Shaun Sullivan, Dano
San Luis Obispo through Cayucos
We began around 5AM that morning. Claire, Hall, Niko, and Schmitty were there to send us off and support us for the leg. The weather was not too bad yet and Holmes and I knew where we were going because it was our backyard. It was probably the most relaxing marathon you could ever run. Along the way Ben's dad, Dan Holmes, came to support as well and take amazing photos. Most of the photos you see on this blog are from him.
. Dano is another one of our friends who works for the forest Service. He had ran a 50 mile race the weekend before the run began but he decided to join us for the last few miles anyways. His support was great fuel for me at the end because I was beginning to hurt. Another great thing about the first leg was that someone had taken a starting photo shot of us and then sent it to KSBY which is the local news station for the central coast. We made the news and people in Morro Bay and Cayucos would honk for us and one guy yelled out "It's a loonnggg way to San Francisco boys!" Ben and I finished around 9AM. There to greet our finish was everyone mentioned thus far and a good friend of Schmitty's named Carter. The run had begun and everyone was already doing more than they were asked for.
Niko, Schmitty, Carter
Meanwhile, trying not to make a fool of myself
Schmitty, Mingo, and Hall
Schmitty in front, Jimmy closest to the street with Dustin behind and Rudy in white
Schmitty glad to be done
Day 1 - Marathon 2 - Team 2
Runners - Joshua Blacksmith, Carter, Jason Hall, Joshua Dominguez, Dustin Grise, Jimmy, Rudy Uribe
Cayucos into Big Sur, south of Ragged Point
Our original intentions for this run, was that each marathon would start exactly 5 hours after the other in order to minimize complications given the fact that some would run faster/slower than others. However with the impending horrible weather coming, we sent Schmitty on his way as soon as we could because there was a window of sunshine at the moment. Schmitty never ran alone and this was because so many friends came out to run even though they were not going to be part of the whole event. Hall and Carter took off with Schmitty first. Carter was there for the first few miles, and Niko and Hall wanted to support and to warm up for their half marathon they would run the next day. Mingo showed up soon after Schmitty began and we drove him up to them so he could run the first half marathon. Mingo was a huge and humbling surprise for me. His random support jump started my motivation even more so. I waited at the starting line though because I was to be
there. It went well I guess. I was definitely happy for the support, though I felt like an idiot on camera! Thank you to them though and to Bart for connecting us with them. I knew Dustin and Jimmy were going to join for the 2nd half of the marathon, and then Rudy Uribe showed up unbeknownst to me as well. Humbling again. Schmitty was hurting but he did it, and he had plenty of support from so many good friends of ours. At this point, tons of other runners were beginning to join us to support and get ready for their own runs. I was really overjoyed for this leg, because of the support shown by so many guys who weren't part of the whole event but wanted to participate regardless.
Rudy and Claire running hard
Knepp getting a great view
The rest of us chilling out
Day 1 - Marathon 3 - Team 3
Runners- Rudy Gaytan, Jeff Knepp, Claire Mellein
South of Ragged Point to Kirk Creek Campground
Again we had the next marathon begin ASAP as the weather was now getting bad. There wasn't too much rain yet but it was getting windy and darker. We were now getting into the windy, narrow cliffs of Big Sur. My biggest fear was the falling rocks that can come down into the highway. Though Claire was slated to run a full marathon the next day, she chose to run the first half with Rudy. Rudy and Claire pushed it pretty hard as seen by all accounts. In the meanwhile, it was still light out and Big Sur looked amazing. I had expected many people to go to the campsites we had farther ahead and hang out but instead everyone just stayed together supporting the runners. It meant alot to them. I have fond memories of stopping at the view points that we typically take for granted and actually enjoying them for a time with everyone. There isn't too much to report on the first half because Rudy killed it minus some minor "Cramping" issues he had at the very end which kept us laughing through the whole event and will continue for years to come I bet. The rain began when Knepp began the 2nd half of the marathon. We had no runners to spare on this one but I think Knepp wanted it that way. It was getting darker and more windy as well so his team stayed close to him as did some of the rest of us. Some runners made their way to the end point at Kirk Creek Campground and made a fire and enjoyed the beautiful place it is. Knepp was a trooper. I had miscalculated a bit and his stopping point was sooner than the campground but he ran the extra half mile none-the-less. It was great to spend time with Knepp during this time as I had never gotten to work with him and barely knew him going into this. Knepp is a solid guy. I was really happy about how smoothly this leg went, but I was now extremely nervous here on out because the weather was about to become really bad and would barely let up for the rest of the event.
Bart getting ready
Web all done for the night
Rain and such
Day 1 - Marathon 4- Team 4
Runners- David Weber, Bart Powers
Kirk Creek Campground - Big Sur Post Office
A lot of things began to get complicated at this point because of the weather. We sent Web running the first half before Knepp had finished his half marathon because the weather was getting awful . I had to abandon the fact that I had previously stated that we would run this relay continuously through the night. We decided that it was not worth the risk and danger at night to run in this weather. Web began running just as the last light was fading. At this point, we were getting flash flood watches and road closure notices. Everyone stayed really cool about it all and no one ever quit. Safety did become first priority though. We decided we would finish the 4th marathon and then sleep until the morning so we could hopefully bypass the road closure ahead of the 4th marathon. As the weather got worse, I began to forgive myself for not following through with the old plan of running continuously through the night. Web ran great in good spirit as well. It was a very surreal feeling stepping outside in the wind and rain and hearing the huge waves crashing a hundred feet below the edge of the cliffs. When Web finished, Bart geared up and kept his humor rolling while thinking about the run ahead. I ended up freaking Bart out a few times during his half marathon because I was so nervous about his situation that I would drive back and forth around him a lot. However, it had become so foggy, rainy, windy, and dark now that I was very stressed about his safety. I am happy to report that he finished fine and in good spirits as well. I was relieved to be done for the night but very nervous about the next day. Thankfully my old captain working in Big Sur opened up his engine bay for us to sleep in so we wouldn't have to try to camp in the horrendous conditions. We slept dry. Many stayed up late having a good time by a fire and BBQing. It was a very bittersweet moment for me because I was so happy to have such great friends, but so nervous and tired thinking of the next day and the weather.
Enjoying the night
The morning runners
Mueller, Todd, and Sky
Sophie came to support as well before her run the next day
Day 2 - Marathon 5 - Team 5
Runners - Eric Mueller, Dylan Todd, Sky Reeves
Big Sur Fire Station to Carmel
I awoke around 5AM and quietly began to get ready so as not to wake others. At that moment, I had three headlamps peering at me outside in the storm. Mueller, Todd, and Sky had decided that rather than breakup their marathon into manageable chunks, they wanted to run a full marathon altogether. They had made this decision when the storm was at its worst, the course was steepest, and it was still dark. Well thats one way to get amped up again first thing in the morning! I kept reminding myself "this was their choice, you didn't make them do this, let them." They headed out and I got in my truck to support them. Again, I was very neurotic about it given the risks. I was cold and wet all morning, getting out of my truck to run with them see how they were doing, encourage, and give them water and whatnot. Though it was nothing compared to what they were dealing with. When they had finished, their first half, I reminded them that they had done what they had committed to do but they still didn't want to stop. I remember Dylan hurting pretty bad around mile 20, but telling me that he had to beat his previous record of 22 miles. After he had done that, he still wasn't satisfied and finished the whole thing. I love/hated those 4 hours so much. I was so proud of those guys but so stressed for them too. They ran the same marathon that is ran officially throughout the year by thousands. But they decided to do this last minute and in the worst of conditions. I kept thinking about how if those conditions would have been present during the official marathon, they would have cancelled it. This gave me a huge sense of pride for the guys, but scared me too. They made it safely though, and you could tell how happy they were to have accomplished it. They challenged themselves and saw it through.
Hall getting ready
Planning the rest of Day 2
My well organized truck. (Thank you to Lagunitas for the donated keg at our launch party. It was empty and had to be returned.)
Hall doin' it
Aunt Tudie and Uncle Dave supporting Niko at his finish with their aid station
Day 2 - Marathon 6 - Team 1
Runners - Jason Hall, Nic Elmquist
Carmel- Moss Landing
At this point, the weather wasn't better and the flood warnings were still there but at least it was light out, and there were no more cliffs with huge rocks above them waiting to fall. Also, most people were running half marathons on Day 2 which was easier to watch then someone running for 4 hours in the wind and rain. Hall took off and was running pretty hard. His team composed of Ben Holmes and Nic Elmquist had quite a hard time following him through the scattered streets of Monterey but they did it. At the same time, we had decided that the other teams needed to go ahead and stagger their starting times so that everyone would be finished before the night. Because the streets were so confusing, I let Team 1 follow Hall while I posted up at the half way point. Hall finished just fine having ran 20 plus miles in 24 hours. Niko was stoked to begin, and had a less confusing leg to run. It was at this point, Ben's Aunt and Uncle showed up north of us. They had a tent, hot soup, grilled cheese, fruit, water, and other goodies to help us out. More humbling support. Ben and Hall made their way to the hot soup while I followed Niko. The rain slowed down a bit for Niko, and made for a gorgeous landscape as he ran through the farm lands north of Monterey. I can't lie, typically on fires, Niko being one of our captains, is typically watching over me, so it was funny to be watching over Niko for once. Not to say, he really needed it, because he ran just fine, knew where he was going, and got to the aid station like a champ. The hot soup and grilled cheese was amazing. Claire had already begun her full marathon for the day but not before she and her team got the same helpings as us.
Claire and Doc almost done
Day 2 - Marathon 7 - Team 2
Runners- Claire Mellein, Richard Murdock
Moss Landing - Santa Cruz
Truth be told, I wasn't as nervous about Claire's full marathon because I knew even if she wasn't doing the fundraiser, she would probably run a full marathon in the rain anyways! Of course we still watched over her. Schmitty who usually plays a big hand in helping us find our ways to remote fires, did a great job directing Claire and then Doc through the random streets in Santa Cruz. It was hard for Ben and his family to meet up with the runners though because the checkpoints weren't as simple as some of the other legs. Doc joined Claire for the 2nd half and we caught up to them as they were getting to the northern side of Santa Cruz. Teams 1 and 2, me, and Ben's family met at the end point for more hot soup and such. Claire came in and she looked like she wanted to keep going. Doc came in and though tired, his adrenaline was continuing to flow. Doc doesn't run half marathons everyday but he did awesome. Again it was great to have so many people supporting one another and the help from Ben's family.
Schwarmy and Knepp
Team 3 shot: Knepp, Schwarmy, and Rudy
Day 2 - Marathon 8 - Team 3
Runners- Curt Schwarm, Jeff Knepp, Rudy Gaytan, Lou in spirit
Santa Cruz - North of Santa Cruz
At this point, sadly, many of the us were not able to join Teams 3 and 4 for their legs because they opted to start earlier as to finish before dark. This made for great companionship between the teams because they had to support themselves only. I wish myself and others could have been their to root them on though. Team 3's original plan had been to have Schwarmy run the first half while Knepp and Rudy who had ran the day before would break up the 2nd half. We lost our good friend Lou, who was supposed to be on Team 3 because he got ridiculously sick the day before the run. He
with us in spirit though and texted words of encouragement. Anyways, Schwarmy decided to keep running after he finished his half and ended up running a full marathon. Knepp and Rudy took turns running with him and driving. Basically Team 3 ran 20 plus miles each in 24 hours. The self proclaimed "Old Man Group" kicked some major ass. I wish I could have been there to watch them.
Jerry and Hildie weren't sure what to make of this so they kept going
Jerry getting some relief from the weather
Hildie getting some rays of sunshine before a dog chased him
Day 2 - Marathon 9 - Team 4
Runners - Brett Hildebrand, Jerry Green
North of Santa Cruz - Half Moon Bay Airport
Team 4 ran early as well when they got a pocket of sunshine north of the mess in Monterey. They got to enjoy relatively nice weather on a beautiful piece of coastline. I was happy for them. Hildie and Jerry deserve a lot of credit. They were a two man team during their leg so while one ran their half marathon, the other would drive and support them. None of us could get to them by the time they started. I did get pictures from them though while it was going on. I felt bad that I couldn't have rooted them on. I am glad though that they got to enjoy their run in some nice weather. After they were done, they found a place where we could all shack up for the night too. They also sent me a great picture of a huge electronic road sign warning of flooding ahead of them. Hildie also has a great story about how a pit bull got loose from someone's yard in Half Moon Bay and began chasing him down the street. I'm just happy we can laugh about it now. We all met in Half Moon Bay that night and had a nice dinner and relaxed more. The final push would be in the morning.
Day 2 did not go at all as planned, however I can't say thank you enough to the teams for how well they took the initiative and got their distances covered mostly on their own. A lot of things did not cooperate in this event and every team just rolled with it and looked after each other. Day 2 could have been hell, but rather, it was impressive to see how it all pieced together with everyone working together. My apologies again to Teams 3 and 4 again for the lack of numbers rooting everyone on. I think I speak for everyone that, the more checkpoints with people cheering really helped and I am sorry we couldn't have done the same for you guys on the 2nd day. You guys did awesome.
Santana and John ready to go, just waiting for the word
The lot of us finishing on the bridge
Day 3 - Marathon 10 - Team 5
Runners- Mark Santana, John Weber, Laura Therese, Sophie Moran, Ben Holmes, Claire Mellein, Shaun Sullivan.........And almost everyone on the Golden Gate Bridge!
Half Moon Bay Airport- Golden Gate Bridge
We were greeted in the morning with more rain but we waited until it was light out to begin. We found the rain to be more pleasant than anything. It was only cold when you stopped. The plan was for Lil' John to run the first half and Santana to run the 2nd. Ben, because he is crazy, wanted to run another full marathon. I was to do the same because I felt it was only right that I begin and finish this event. Claire, because she is crazy as well, wanted to run for the third day in a row, so she chose to run the last half. Laura and Sophie are friends of ours and ran the last 10 miles of the run with us. It was the longest either of them had ever run. Tons of people supported us along the way. My hats go off to Jerry and Hildie for being there at the nick of time to drive us a mile over "Devil's Slide," and navigating us through San Francisco. Devil's Slide is a portion much like Big Sur with huge cliffs to your right, and a hundred foot drop to the ocean on the left. Big Sur is runnable however because there is a shoulder to run on. Devil's Slide does not have a shoulder because there is major construction going on right now. Safety first; we bypassed it. John did great finishing at the top of the hill in Pacifica. Santana pushed himself and ran for his life during his half marathon. I was pretty beaten up so I didn't see him for long. Sophie and Laura were very determined, but really enjoyed themselves. I held my phone as I ran to keep in touch with people. As we neared the bridge, people were calling to meet up. When we got to the bridge, the sun poked out and made it stunning.The majority of the runners came out to finish the bridge with us. It was an awesome moment. It was the best 2 miles I have ever run. At the end, we had tons of friends and other runners meeting us to celebrate. I have to admit, it was pretty epic I think. Within a couple of minutes, Lil' John came running in panting heavily. He had called me just before the bridge and told me he was lost and might be late. He was late, however, he parked on the other side, and ran as fast as he could across the bridge to catch up to us! It was really funny and also extremely nice of him to do that. He didn't miss much, and still got in one of my favorite photos I have ever seen of us at the the bridge. Even Ben's family met us there to feed us hot soup again. The support was endless.
One of my favorite photos ever
Now with the run finished, one of my best friends from Merrimack, NH flew into San Francisco that day to celebrate with us, and from there he supported me to drive back home to NH that next day. I am able to rest now and collect my thoughts on the whole thing.
I can't help but think back to The Walk for Porridge in 2011. Looking back, it amazes me to think of how far we have come in just a year. A special moment for me was during the last marathon, I was running with just Ben and Claire, and we were passing the sign for San Francisco like we had a year before when we were walking. It was just the three of us like it was when we walked. It was very nostalgic for me doing that again with them. But then I flipped those thoughts of the past back to the present and really blew my mind. It was Ben, Claire, and me again yes, but it was now soooo many more. We had so many friends supporting from all over the place. I was blown away about how people came together last year and now it was even more overwhelming. And all I could keep thinking was that "NONE OF YOU HAD TO DO THIS." You reading this, did not have to do whatever seemingly little thing you did in support of this event. There were countless deeds done in support of this event by hundreds of people.
Some people would say that the runners or donors did this for me because they were my friend. I believe there is truth to that because I have some amazing friends, and I know I would do the same for them as well. But there was something different about this. You see everybody supporting each other, but I can't tell you how many times people would reply when I thanked them for their efforts, "It's for the kids." Most of us who ran, are not runners, and we did not train for this ( Stupid, I know). They might have agreed to do it because of friendship, but I honestly think a lot of them followed through and finished because the event became bigger than each of us, and the cause took on a deeper meaning because we all have a part in helping it now in such a way we didn't think we could.
Whatever I have typed here, and whatever I continue to type will still not suffice to show my gratitude to everyone. I will return to Rwanda in January 2013. I will work harder than ever to make sure all of this hard work goes as far as it can go. I will do my best to show you what the efforts of so many can accomplish. I am not going to tell you that we will change the world and all that stuff, but we have made it possible to change some one's life, and we will for the better. And when you really think about how powerful that statement is, we have truely done something good. WE did it.
Stay tuned, and to all of you, I hope the best will come.
Keep running for something.