Its hard to describe the excitement that swells up when the day to meet up with my fellow hood to coast team captains finally arrives.
This was the third year that Team World Vision (TWV) participated in Hood to Coast while pursuing the vision that was cast by Lopez Lomong in 2012 when he established 4SouthSudan–to change a generation by creating long term solutions at the local level by focusing on 4 critical needs: (1) Clean Water, (2) Education, (3) Health Care, and (4) Nutrition. This vision has the potential to change the course of a small nation, the youngest nation in the world, South Sudan. The thing about this vision is that once you hear it, it becomes impossible to ignore.
This is what excites me about running HTC each year, it’s the one source of funding for World Vision’s water and hygiene projects in South Sudan, all of it. There is no other source of funding.
Wednesday: August 26, 2015
Wednesday afternoon and evening were primarily dedicated to finalizing the plans for Thursday’s pre-race events and getting to know each other better.
Thursday: August 27, 2015
Thursday was a working day, team members began arriving, groceries were purchased, vans were packed, and vans were decorated.
Our elite runners and Team World Vision leaders were amazing with their encouragement during our dinner. One by one, Michael Chitwood, Lopez Lomong, Josh Cox, Alan Webb, Steve Spear and Anthony Halpin each took a moment to encourage our teams while they shared stories from their training or challenging moments in life. Lopez’s story is unfathomable. You can read about it in his book “Running for My Life, One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games”
Friday: August 28, 2015 — RACE DAY!!
And the runners are off! Friday morning started out as it always does for the TWV HTC teams. We had a simple breakfast with bagels, toast, peanut butter and other toppings followed by a time of prayer before we climbed into the van for the 90 minute drive up Mt. Hood. While driving up to the start line our van began discussing if we would keep track of kills (defined as the number of runners that you pass when you are running your 3 legs of the race minus the number of times that you were killed by other runners) during the race.
Kids not Kills!
It was sometime during this discussion that our favorite phrase was announced through the van “I just go another donation! !! That’s 1 more kid who will have clean water that lasts”. In rejoicing we resolved to track “Kids” instead of “Kills” as we ran the race… and it changed everything. Each time that one of us would receive a donation we would add another tally mark to the outside window of our van. We all became laser focused on getting to 100 “Kids” before losing cell phone coverage just outside of Portland. By Friday night as we were having a pancake dinner on the edge of Portland our van had tallied up just over 90 Kids in donations. We were stoked. Each of us had run 2 of our 3 legs by that time and were ready for a few minutes of quite and rest while the other van ran it’s 2nd of 3 legs.
My first of three legs came for me around 2:15 PM on Friday afternoon, or almost 10 hours after getting pumped up to start the race during breakfast, and I was so very ready for it. I was the 6th runner in my van and that meant that my legs would always end with a handoff to the second van. “Don’t keep me waiting” was the phrase that I remembered while running that first leg. Michael Forsberg, Runner 7 or the first runner in Van 2, had jokingly poked me before we started the race at 10:30 AM that day and I didn’t want to disappoint him :). Last year I ran hard during my first leg and then petered out due to mental defeat during my second leg. I was really concerned with that happening again this year.
A couple of things helped me fight off mental defeat. First, I ridiculed my mind and reminded it that it didn’t know what it was talking about 🙂 Yes, I did. It went something like this, “Mind, you keep telling me that I need a little break, that I should walk for a moment. Here is my answer… No, my body can go 20 times more than you think.” Second, I prayed. I prayed for the children who didn’t have access to clean water, I prayed for Michael Chitwood, the director for national events with World Vision, and I prayed for World Vision. My prayer was that God would move on the hearts of people to provide clean water for the child without it, that he would make Michael the man that I believed him to be, and that he would protect the hearts of World Vision’s leaders that they would not lose their way and that it would continue to be the organization that I believe it to be.
My first run resulted in a 7:30 pace and I was absolutely thrilled to hand off the baton to Mike well ahead of schedule 🙂 we, and specifically I, had not kept Mike waiting!
After finishing our first 6 legs the van headed to the next major van exchange in the heart of Portland were we had a fun lunch and ran into one of the other Team World Vision teams in a small restaurant. By 8:00 PM the second van was finishing its 6 legs and Mike’s son, Michael Forsberg, was ready to hand the baton back off to our van so that we could each run our second leg. I felt super anxious coming into this leg as it’s the leg last year where I wound up walking a couple of times. By 11:50 PM I was back on the road, running my 2nd leg and it was wild! The streets were dark and the run was almost entirely uphill, only gradually; so, it didn’t feel as bad as it sounds. I prayed from the start of that run to the finish. The ultimate gift occurred as I ran past one of the race volunteers and they told me that I was only an eighth of a mile away from the exchange… I thought that I had another mile; but, nope, I was done with leg 2 and I felt great! Our team was still 30 minutes ahead of schedule and we were now half way through the race.
Saturday: August 29, 2015
After handing off the baton to Van 2 so that each of them could run their second of three legs, we (van 1) grabbed a quick pancake dinner and then headed to the next major exchange (exchange 24). This exchange is very large as it is setup for van members to setup tents and rest while they wait overnight for the second van to finish its 6 segments. We reached the exchange around 2:45 AM and found a place to park the van for a couple of hours so that we could rest.
Each year there is a story, one that becomes the story for team members to share each time they talk about hood to coast in the years to come. At 4:45 AM my alarm went off so that we could start preparing for our next set of runs. We were scheduled to receive the baton back from Van 2 around 5:20 AM and I knew that our first runner would need a few minutes to prepare before jumping out of the van to run. The summer soaker was back in full effect and it was raining outside. By 5:00 AM we had started driving the van so that we could get our runner closer to the exchange point without walking through the rain. And then came the question…
A Family Crisis
“Where could she be?” That is the question that overtook our van as we realized that one of our runners had unexplainably disappeared rom our van sometime in the middle of the night. After we started driving the rest of the van began to wake up. As people woke up they started to take note of who was and who wasn’t around and we suddenly realized that one of our runners was no longer in the van!!! As the realization of this set in we stopped the van, we stopped and looked and talked and tried to figure out when and where we lost the runner. Stopping a van in the middle of Exchange 24’s parking lot would be similar to stopping your car in the middle of traffic on a Monday afternoon. The race volunteers walked towards the van as the gap between us and the van in front of us grew larger and larger. Our driver, Colette, rolled down the window and aptly answered the race volunteers question of “Is everything alright, you need to keep moving” with “We are having a bit of a family crisis!”
We found our lost runner shortly afterwards, she had slipped out of the van just before everyone woke up so that she could quietly go to the restrooms. We found her near the exchange point; we were thrilled and amazed at the luck of quickly locating our runner and were back on the course in no time.
Not obligated to finish
This last run was amazing! It was almost like a roller coaster as I had no idea what I would encounter. I jumped out of the van about a half mile before we reached Exchange 29, where I would grab the baton from Jansen Hein–our 5th runner–and take off on the 30th leg of the race.
I was about a mile into my last 5 miles when the 45 – 65 mph wind gusts and rain started hammering the course. It was wild! The wind gusts were amazing and forceful, hitting me head-on and from the left. Periodically I had to jump over large branches that had been ripped by the wind from the forest that I was running through and tossed into the road.
As I made my way down the list hill and into Exchange 30 I was surprised to learn that the race officials had announced that none of the teams were obligated to finish. Weather conditions were so fierce that the race officials had invited all teams to simply drive to to the finish line… a modified finish line. The race’s official finish had to be moved from the beach to the streets of Seaside due to dangerous conditions with the wind as it blew the finish stage and structures down. As a team we determined that we would finish the race we started. It was our race to run, and so we ran, and we finished well. Our team was relentless.
Sunday: August 30, 2015
Runmotion starts to set it. While all of the other runners with HTC reach the finish line on Saturday on the Seaside beach, I didn’t reach it until I sat down at airport gate where my plane would take me back to Atlanta. It came on out of nowhere.
Sitting at the gate and waiting for my flight on Sunday I became suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. I was deeply aware of the finish line that was crossed when I walked out of the hotel and into the airport, deeply aware of the impact that your donations are making and will continue to make for the women and children in South Sudan. Providing a stable and sustainable foundation for communities in South Sudan. Teaching children, teaching women, providing for their most basic needs and helping them to grow a community that will thrive.
I was overwhelmed by the race, the race that began three years earlier and has resulted in $1.5 million of funds to be gathered for the water and hygiene projects in South Sudan. $1.5 million! And I was overwhelmed by all of those who supported me this year. Your donations and prayers enabled me to raise over $13,000–enough to provide sustainable,life giving, clean water to 267 women and children in South Sudan. And the race continues.